Isabel dos Santos, Her Father, George Soros and Me

rafael marquesSo desperate are pro-regime PR consultants to find a way of attacking Angolan civil society activist Rafael Marques de Morais that they have tried to find impropriety in his former links to the NY-based Open Society Institute (OSI), funded by the billionaire philanthropist George Soros. Their machinations offer an opportunity to consider the ways in which the Dos Santos regime has tried to neutralizing dissent, he writes.

The question of George Soros is simple. The regime led by Isabel dos Santos’s father has been the main beneficiary of his involvement. Subsequent events bore out what Marques, founder of the anti-corruption website Maka Angola, calls his “disillusionment with the modus operandi of international organisations and the superficial nature of their programs supporting democracy and the struggle for human rights.”

Marques is an award-winning journalist and human rights activist, specializing in political economy, the diamond industry, and government corruption. A former Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, his writings have helped set the agenda for political debate in Angola by exposing abuses of power and endemic corruption through his journalism and his work with Maka Angola, an Angolan platform, supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.

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‘No space for opposition’ in corrupt MPLA’s Angola

rafael marquesAngolan journalists like Rafael Marques (left), who reports on high-level corruption by government officials, are facing the cudgel of criminal defamation, according to the International Press Institute.

Members of Angola’s ruling MPLA elite are conspicuous beneficiaries of lucrative government contracts and sinecures, the FT’s Lionel Barber notes.

Elias Isaac, a burly activist for the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, an NGO funded by George Soros, sums up Angola’s postwar challenge, he writes:

“We have a multi-party democracy but we don’t have a pluralist society. There is no space for the opposition.”

Over lunch, Isaac describes how MPLA cells have infiltrated the private sector, while big business is dominated by former generals and the party. “It’s just like Russia – nothing has changed.”

Asked about the new sovereign wealth fund, Isaac says: “The president missed a great opportunity. He could have risked not appointing someone close to him. Instead he confirmed our suspicions of elitism and nepotism.”

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Marques is an award-winning journalist and human rights activist, specializing in political economy, the diamond industry, and government corruption. A former Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, his writings have helped set the agenda for political debate in Angola by exposing abuses of power and endemic corruption.

Isabel dos Santos and Angola’s Blood Diamonds

Credit: MakaAngola

Credit: MakaAngola

After surpassing Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko model as Africa’s most corrupt and venal regime, Angola’s Dos Santos model will come to be seen as the most advanced of its kind, says a leading anti-corruption campaigner.

Isabel dos Santos (above, center), the billionaire daughter of the Angolan president, is the main beneficiary of the country’s diamond trade. This involves simple arrangements in-country, and more sophisticated ones abroad, writes Rafael Marques de Morais.

Forbes magazine recently published an article in which this author investigates the partnership set up by Isabel dos Santos, through her husband Sindika Dokolo, and the Angolan state for the acquisition of the Swiss jeweller De Grisogono. This brand is known to be the favorite choice of movie stars and fashion celebrities including Sharon Stone and Heidi Klum. Maka Angola expands on this investigation and puts it in context.

On February 27, 2012 a Maltese-registered company, Victoria Limited, acquired 72.5 percent of De Grisogono Holding S.A. The shareholding soon increased to 75 percent. A press statement by De Grisogono founder Fawaz Gruosi at the time when the shares were sold said the deal was worth more than US$100 million.

The same day, a company called Victoria Holding Limited acquired 17.2 percent of Grisogono Holding S.A., in exchange for a 20.87 percent shareholding in its subsidiary, Victoria Limited, granted to Fawaz Gruosi, who at the time was De Grisogono’s major shareholder and president. As part of the deal, Victoria Holding bought the CHF 63 million (Swiss francs) debt with the Swiss banks UBS, Banque Cantonale Vaudoise and Banque Cantonale de Genève. A further 2.5 percent of the shareholding in De Grisogono was transferred to Victoria Holding.

makaangolaSindika Dokolo created Victoria Holding Limited in 2010 through a company registered in Holland, Melbourne Investments B.V., in partnership with the Angolan state-owned diamond marketing company Sodiam. According to documents seen by Maka Angola, Melbourne Investments B.V. does not have a single employee, and therefore pays no salary nor makes any social security contributions.

This shell company, previously named Exem Mining B.V., is in turn 100 percent owned by Exem Holding A.G., based in the Swiss canton of Zug. The actual beneficiary of Exem Holding was recently revealed to be none other than Isabel dos Santos, when she presented a statement of her assets in the course of making another major deal. Exem Holding also controls 50 percent of Esperaza Holding, while the Angolan state oil company Sonangol has the other half. Esperaza Holding owns 45 percent of Amorim Energia B.V., which is the main shareholder in the Portuguese petroleum company Galp.

Sodiam was created by the government as the sole outlet for marketing diamonds in Angola.

The proven partnership between Isabel dos Santos, Sindika Dokolo and Sodiam amounts to a flagrant case of conflict of interest, corruption and nepotism on the part of the President of the Republic. It is the President of the Republic who appoints and can dismiss the board and the chair of Sodiam, at his own convenience. Moreover, the company can make investments and form partnerships only in accordance with policies and strategies defined by the head of the Executive, namely José Eduardo dos Santos.

Read the rest.

Seven Angolan generals and two companies recently laid criminal complaints against Marques for defamation arising from a criminal complaint he had filed against them. The charges arise from his award-winning book, Blood Diamonds, which exposed widespread violence and corruption in Angola’s gem miming fields.

Marques is an award-winning journalist and human rights activist, specializing in political economy, the diamond industry, and government corruption. A former Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, his writings have helped set the agenda for political debate in Angola by exposing abuses of power and endemic corruption through his journalism and his work with Maka Angola, an Angolan platform, supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.

Blood Diamonds: trampling on Angola’s legal system

After about a year of preliminary enquiry, Angolan transparency advocate Rafael Marques de Morais (above) has been formally notified of accusations pending against him.

According to the National Directorate for Investigation and Penal Action (DNIAP), seven generals and two companies laid criminal complaints against the civil society activist for defamation arising from a criminal complaint he had filed against them.

The charges arise from his award-winning book, Blood Diamonds, which exposed widespread violence and corruption in Angola’s gem miming fields.

Marques is an award-winning journalist and human rights activist, specializing in political economy, the diamond industry, and government corruption. A former Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, his writings have helped set the agenda for political debate in Angola by exposing abuses of power and endemic corruption through his journalism and his work with Maka Angola, an Angolan platform, supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.