A professional soccer whistleblower has been named as the source behind a global exposé of the siphoning of Angolan wealth by Africa’s richest woman and her family.
Led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Luanda Leaks reveals how Isabel dos Santos, amassed a fortune of more than $2 billion.
The investigation was based on a trove of more than 715,000 documents provided by the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF), a Paris-based advocacy group.
Following the investigation’s publication, Angolan authorities charged dos Santos with fraud. They accuse her of embezzlement of public funds during her 18 month-stint as head of Sonangol, the state oil company.
Dos Santos denies the allegations.
On Monday, lawyer and PPLAAF chief William Bourdon revealed that Rui Pinto, the author of a whistleblower website called Football Leaks, had provided his organization with the Luanda Leaks documents.
In a statement Bourdon, who also represents Pinto, said:
“PPLAAF is pleased that once again a whistleblower is revealing to the world actions that go against international public interest.
“Like in the case of the Football Leaks, these revelations should allow for new investigations to be launched and thus help in the fight against impunity for financial crimes in Angola and in the world.”
Bourdon said Pinto wanted to expose activities that were illegal or contrary to the public interest, and to help the world to understand the complicity of western enablers in dos Santos’ enrichment at the expense of impoverished Angolans.
He added that the disclosure of the documents to PPLAAF was not politically motivated.
ICIJ director Gerard Ryle said: “The leaking of this material to PPLAAF, and in turn to ICIJ’s media partners, provided indisputable evidence of unnecessary misery that was inflicted on the ordinary people of Angola, and the role of enablers who got rich by helping.
“The documents came from a concerned citizen – someone doing the right thing by the public.”
Pinto, who is in jail, is an alleged Portuguese computer hacker who published hundreds of internal football industry documents, and shared several terabytes more with German journalists, that cast light upon some of the darkest aspects of the global soccer industry, including tax evasion, match-fixing, ethnic profiling and extortionate agents’ fees.
His revelations led to the criminal tax prosecutions of several top players.
The Luanda Leaks investigation revealed a remarkable story of self-dealing and profiteering by a businesswoman whose vast fortune bought access to prestigious institutions and the celebrity circuit.
Angolan prosecutors have accused dos Santos of “money laundering, influence peddling, harmful management” and “forgery of documents, among other economic crimes” while she held the top job at the state oil company Sonangol.
Central to the charges are payments of at least $38 million to a consulting firm in Dubai, owned by a friend and business associate, that were made on the same day that she was sacked from the job.
Documents show that the transfers, processed by Portuguese bank EuroBic, in which she holds a 42.5% stake, occurred hours after she was fired from Sonangol by the current Angolan president.
Portugal’s market regulator, the Portuguese Securities Market Commission, has announced inquiries into two companies in which dos Santos holds significant shareholdings, oil & gas giant Galp Energia and telecommunications firm, NOS.
Separately, EuroBic and Efacec, a listed Portuguese engineering conglomerate where she is the majority shareholder, issued statements confirming that dos Santos would sell off her shares.
In statements to ICIJ and in recent interviews dos Santos has said she has “always operated within the law” and acted with the approval of lawyers, banks, auditors and regulators.
Bourdon, a veteran French human rights lawyer who has represented Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Hervé Falciani (Swiss Leaks) and Antoine Deltour (Lux Leaks) pledged to defend Pinto in the event of any future legal action over Luanda Leaks.
Bourdon told an ICIJ gathering in Paris last year that protecting whistleblowers should be a duty for every government and society.
Pinto faces 90 criminal charges in his native Portugal, after being extradited from Hungary, over the 2015 publication of Football Leaks, which named some of the world game’s biggest stars.
Pinto is expected to stand trial this year, accused of computer fraud, attempted extortion and other offenses.
He could not be reached for comment.