The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), made up of reporters from the Guardian and publications in 20 other countries, recently revealed the findings of their investigation into Isabel dos Santos, known as the ‘Luanda Leaks’.
The results of the seven-month forensic investigation suggest that Ms dos Santos, otherwise known as ‘The Princess’ amassed her £1.7 billion fortune, as the result of nepotism and corruption.
The ICIJ said: “Ms dos Santos benefitted from insider deals, public contracts and handouts from her father, Jose Eduardo do Santos, when he ruled Angola between 1979 and 2002.”
The group have come to this conclusion after trawling through more than 715,000 emails, charts, contracts, audits and accounts.
There is a mountain of paperwork because Ms dos Santos and her husband, art collector Sindika Dokolo, have a business empire that reaches from Angola, across Africa into Europe and the Middle East.
They have invested in banks, oil, cement, media, telecoms, diamonds, a brewery and a chain of supermarkets. As a result of this, Ms dos Santos has become the richest woman in Africa.
The investigation uncovered a network of around 400 companies spread across 41 countries, many of them offshore, connected to Dos Santos, Dokolo and their associates.
They have set up shell companies in many tax havens but their preferred location was Malta, whose prime minister recently stood down following the deepening scandal of the murder of the investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, which forced a change in the country’s political leadership.
The work of the journalists, in this case, is likely to mirror the work of forensic investigators as they find documents relevant to the alleged corruption, malpractice or fraud and examine them in great detail.
They also conduct interviews with parties close to the suspect and put together a picture of how assets have been acquired, whether by lawful or unlawful means.
Prosecutors in Angola have already frozen Ms dos Santos’ assets and are now looking to bring charges for money laundering by prosecutors in Angola, in particular for her time as chairwoman of state oil firm Sonangol.
She has been asked to return to Angola where she faces potential criminal charges and claims for the recovery of £760 million, which prosecutors allege she stole from the state.
Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “This case involves a vast amount of money and some very serious allegations that have been made against Africa’s richest woman.
“It is interesting that the investigation has been spearheaded by journalists at the ICIJ rather than by prosecutors who are likely now to call in forensic accountants to help build what they hope will be a successful prosecution of Ms dos Santos..”