Press release 20th Jan 2020

‘Luanda Leaks’ highlight UK role in hiding massive wealth of Angolan political elite

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20 January, London – A global investigation into how Isabel dos Santos became Africa’s richest woman adds further pressure on the UK to bring an end to secrecy offered by its offshore jurisdictions and crackdown on professionals facilitating suspicious activity.

The trove of documents known as the “Luanda Leaks” – and subsequent investigation by journalists from 20 countries around the world – contain details on a number of suspicious deals which benefitted the daughter of the Angolan President, Isabel dos Santos, at the cost to the people of Angola. Leaked emails, contracts, audits and accounts reveal how secretive companies – including those from the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies – were used by lawyers, accountants and global consultancy firms to help Dos Santos amass her £1.7 billion fortune. This fortune was then invested in high value assets including a London mansion worth £24m and artwork by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The UK Government has already committed to a number of measures which – if enacted – would address some of the issues raised in the investigation. Alongside the Queen’s Speech in December, the Government stated its commitment to deliver a register showing the beneficial owners of overseas companies which hold UK property to address the threat of illicit wealth being invested in UK property. Prior to this in July, the Economic Crime Plan set out actions to tighten up the UK’s defences against suspicious wealth.

Angolan prosecutors – with the assistance of counterparts in the UK, Portugal, Switzerland, the US and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – have now launched a criminal investigation into her tenure as head of the state oil company, Sonangol. Isabel dos Santos has denied her fortune is a result of corruption.

Daniel Bruce, Chief Executive of Transparency International UK said:

“This investigation reveals the devastating impact of a single family wielding political and industrial power, resulting in their own private gain. Whilst the harm is felt most by the people of Angola, this is a transnational problem, with offshore secrecy offered by countries including the UK’s offshore jurisdictions and a global network of professionals who have unwittingly or knowingly facilitated a litany of suspicious deals.”

“These leaks add further pressure on the UK Government to address the problems highlighted by the investigation. The continued use of opaque companies to acquire luxury property and hide suspicious wealth would be addressed by the introduction of a register revealing the ownership of overseas companies owning UK property. The Government has committed to this and we urge them to implement it at the earliest opportunity. Questions should also be asked of those in the financial, legal and accountancy sectors as to whether they fulfilled their role as the first line of defence against suspicious activity. Until these issues are fixed the UK’s name will continue to appear in these scandals, tarnishing our reputation as a clean and safe place to do business.”

Note to editors:

Our recent At Your Service report analysed data from 400 cases of high-end corruption and associated money laundering in which UK service providers (such as lawyers and accountants) were involved.

Angola was the nexus for seven of these cases, which involved more than £2billion.


Harvey Gavin

+ 44 (0)20 3096 7695