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International arrest warrant issued for Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos

Sources say Interpol's "Red Notice" for dos Santos relates to allegedly corrupt dealings exposed in ICIJ’s Luanda Leaks investigation.

The international police organization Interpol has issued a “Red Notice” calling for the provisional arrest of Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos, according to sources.

Dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s former authoritarian president José Eduardo dos Santos, was the subject of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ 2020 Luanda Leaks investigation.

Luanda Leaks reporting showed how insider deals, political connections and an army of Western enablers helped dos Santos amass a fortune.

The exposé revealed how the billionaire and her allies benefited from lucrative deals in oil, diamonds, telecommunications, banking and real estate.

According to Portugal’s press Lusa news agency, Interpol issued the Red Notice following a request from Angolan prosecutors.

Polícia Judiciária sources in Lisbon said the Interpol Red Notice alleges dos Santos created corrupt financial mechanisms between 2015 and 2017.

The mechanisms, it alleges, were created “with the intention of obtaining illicit financial gains and whitewashing suspicious criminal operations.”

The sources said the Red Notice further alleges that dos Santos acted upon information she had obtained as then-head of Angola’s state oil company, Sonangol.

Lusa said dos Santos, 49, was wanted for alleged embezzlement, fraud, influence peddling and money laundering.

Interpol declined to comment when asked to confirm that it had made an international request for dos Santos’s arrest on receipt of a “Red Notice” from Angola, saying it did not comment on specific cases except in special circumstances.

Interpol said a “Red Notice” request was a call to law enforcement worldwide “to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.”

Dos Santos has previously denied benefiting unfairly from her father’s position as Angolan president or any other wrongdoing.

The Luanda Leaks investigation, which had a profound impact on Africa’s then richest woman and her family, uncovered dos Santos’ dealings in a network of companies, including Sonangol.

Angolan and Portuguese authorities froze dos Santos’ assets and bank accounts and launched criminal investigations. The business empire was largely dismantled.

Last year, ICIJ’s Pandora Papers investigation tied dos Santos and other powerful Angolan figures accused of embezzling billions of dollars to financial hideaways.

Subsequently, the United States froze dos Santos’s assets and bank accounts and launched criminal investigations into her business.

Dos Santos has homes in Dubai and London and is believed to visit Portugal often.

Her father, José Eduardo dos Santos, an autocrat who ruled over Angola for decades, died in Barcelona last year following a long illness.

Her husband, Sindika Dokolo, died the previous year in a free diving accident off an island near Dubai.

A tribunal in the Netherlands ruled after his death that he and his wife had obtained a stake in the Portuguese oil company Galp in a way that was “tainted by illegality.”

The tribunal found the share agreement and transfer of the stake – elsewhere estimated to be worth $500 million – null and void.

ICIJ revealed that dos Santos and Dokolo had obtained the Galp stake for just a $15 million initial deposit, in the deal overseen at the time by dos Santos’ father.

The Luanda Leaks investigation was based on a trove of 715,000 documents including emails, charts, contracts, audits, and accounts that help explain how dos Santos built a business empire worth an estimated $2 billion.

The Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa, an organization based in Paris, France, obtained the files and shared them with ICIJ.

In a statement sent to Reuters today, dos Santos’ representatives said she had not been made aware of the arrest warrant.

Dos Santos’ business dealings also featured in ICIJ’s FinCEN Files investigation.

This story has been updated since original publication with comment from Interpol and to reflect details of the “Red Notice” request. 

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