By Olive Mukahirwa
Interpol has released a statement confirming that an arrest warrant has been issued for billionaire Isabel dos Santos, the eldest daughter of José Eduardo dos Santos, the former president of Angola, who ruled from 1979 to 2017.
The Attorney General of Angola, Helder Pitta Gros, told Reuters that the Angolan justice system has submitted a file containing the alleged crimes to the Interpol – which triggers a call for all international law enforcement agencies to arrest her.
The 49-year-old Isabel dos Santos is accused of the misappropriation of national wealth during her tenure at the head of the Sonangol oil company between June 2016 and November 2017. Her father had appointed her to the position.
She was accused in 2020 of crimes of corruption, embezzlement, fraud, influence peddling, money laundering, and the forgery of documents – crimes that allegedly defrauded the country of up to $5 billion. Her husband is also accused of the same crimes.
Isabel dos Santos has continued to deny all allegations related to corruption and misappropriation of the country’s resources. She insists that she is the victim of political persecution.
Angolan authorities requested assistance from Interpol after they said dos Santos had failed repeatedly to appear for summonses from the justice system. She is known to move frequently between Portugal, Britain, Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, and London.
Talking to CNN at the end of November, Isabel Dos Santos said she will not participate in a trial by the Angolan justice system because she does not believe in its independence, and believes the accusations are acting out a political agenda.
Dos Santos told the New York Times that Angolan authorities have never called her to appear in court, and that neither she nor her lawyers have received any documents relating to the charges. She also declared that they have not received any documents from the Interpol database. She added that her address is not a secret – she lives in London, and does not live in hiding.
When asked if she is ready to stand trial for the crimes of which she is accused, she replied that whenever she is summoned, she has no problem attending court and presenting evidence that will convince the justice system she did not steal the country’s wealth. She went on to say that the charges against her are politically motivated and that the regime in Angola considers her a threat because she may stand in future presidential elections.
“I have intelligence services against me, a public prosecutor against me, a president against me, a state against me – in an unjust attack,” dos Santos told Deutsche Welle on November 24.
José Filomeno dos Santos, Isabel dos Santos’ brother, was found guilty in 2020 of the embezzlement of $500 million from Angola’s sovereign fund. He remains free while the case is being appealed.
In 2013, Forbes declared Isabel dos Santos the richest woman in Africa, with an estimated net worth of $3.5 billion. She was dropped from the list in 2020, with Forbes estimating that $1.6 billion in assets are frozen in Angola and Portugal. However, she was still believed to be worth over $2 billion in January 2020.
In 2021, the U.S. State Department announced that Isabel dos Santos is not allowed to travel to the United States because of the accusations of corruption and the misuse of the resources of the Angolan state for herself.