[Marxism] [SUSPICIOUS MESSAGE] Portugal Dominated Angola for Centuries. Now the Roles Are Reversed.
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Aug 22 07:29:36 MDT 2017
(Even more disgusting than the ANC.)
NY Times, August 22 2017
Portugal Dominated Angola for Centuries. Now the Roles Are Reversed.
By NORIMITSU ONISHI
LISBON — How the roles have reversed: The colonizer, some Portuguese
contend, has been colonized.
On the Portuguese coast of Cascais, where the nation’s royal court used
to summer, a new 14-story condominium building looms confidently by the
sea. So many of its apartments have been bought by Angola’s ruling class
— sometimes a handful at a time — that the development has a nickname:
the “Angolans’ building.”
Along the grandest shopping boulevard in the capital, Lisbon, Angola’s
elite buy designer suits and handbags by the armful. And on one corner,
above Louis Vuitton, sits the local office of Africa’s richest woman,
Isabel dos Santos, a billionaire from Angola who has become one of
Portugal’s most powerful figures by buying large chunks of the country’s
banking, media and energy industries.
The money flowing into Portugal comes from the colony it dominated,
often brutally, for hundreds of years, Angola. Now, the African nation
is a major oil producer that has been led for the last 38 years by Ms.
dos Santos’s father, President José Eduardo dos Santos.
Angola’s ruling class has profited so much during his tenure — and
channeled so much of that money into Portugal — that when Angola
threatened to cut off ties in recent years in response to reports that
Angolan officials were being investigated for corruption in Portugal,
Portugal’s foreign minister promptly apologized, setting off an
intercontinental debate about the changing power dynamics between the
“We had it in our heads that Angola was a poor country that needed to be
helped,” said Celso Felipe, a Portuguese journalist and author of the
book “The Angolan Power in Portugal.”
“And suddenly they were able to help us and to buy things that we cannot
buy,” he said. “It was like a housekeeper buying your house. That is
The conditions in both countries created a perfect match: As Portugal
reeled from a financial crisis a few years ago, Angolans were enjoying
an oil boom that provided enormous opportunities for self-enrichment by
the elite, particularly the president’s family and inner circle.
Angola is often listed as one of the world’s most corrupt nations. And
Portugal has been singled out for its laxness in reining in money
laundering and bribery, particularly in its dealings with Angolans,
according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,
the research and policy organization of the world’s richest countries.
“In Angola, they call Portugal the laundromat,” said Ana Gomes, a
Portuguese lawmaker in the European Parliament and a member of
Portugal’s governing Socialist Party. “It’s because it is.”
But the two nations’ relationship has now slipped into a tense and fluid
period. Oil prices are down and Portugal’s economy is reviving, leading
to a tweaking in the balance of powers between the two countries. And
Mr. dos Santos is due to step down after Angolans elect a new president
on Wednesday, leaving the future of those who have benefited from his
four decades in power — both in Angola and in Portugal — unclear.
In a case that has angered the Angolan government, Angola’s vice
president, Manuel Vicente, was charged in February with paying a
$810,000 bribe to a Portuguese judge to quash a corruption
investigation, the furthest an Angola-related case has moved in
Portugal’s judicial system. The vice president was accused of, among
other things, laundering money by buying apartments in the “Angolans’
building” on the coast of Cascais. He has denied the allegations.
With billions invested in Portugal, including in some of its biggest
public companies, the Angolans have bought Portuguese wineries,
newspapers, sports teams and other trophies of the super rich. With
Portugal giving them access to the rest of Europe and beyond, they have
been catapulted, in a few short years, to the world’s jet set.
Projecting both glamour and gravitas, Ms. dos Santos, worth $3.5 billion
according to Forbes, mingles with Hollywood and European celebrities,
and recently gave a speech at the London School of Economics — all of
which she has documented on her Instagram account.
In the past two years, her family has made a splash at the Cannes Film
Festival: Ms. dos Santos sat in the front row of fashion shows, and Kim
Kardashian cooed over a 404-carat diamond paraded at a party thrown last
year by de Grisogono, the Swiss jeweler now owned by the dos Santos family.
“Thought I’d seen it all, this is the biggest diamond I’ve ever seen,”
Ms. Kardashian tweeted.
Ms. dos Santos was upstaged this year at Cannes only by her younger half
brother, Danilo dos Santos, who was recently granted major shares in a
new Angolan bank, according to the Angolan news media as well as
politicians and businessmen in Luanda, Angola’s capital. At a charity
auction, Mr. dos Santos, who is in his mid-20s, made the winning bid of
500,000 euros, or about $590,000, for a collection of photographs.
In the next few hours, as video of the auction spread on social media,
his spending caused widespread outrage in Angola, where poor health care
contributed to a yellow fever outbreak that killed more than 350 people
But in the moment, basking in the applause, Mr. dos Santos and a
companion walked up to the stage and were hugged by the M.C., the star
Will Smith, who shouted, “500,000 euros! Yes, yes, yes!”
Mr. Smith added, “They look way too young to have 500,000 euros.”
Scrutiny Over Investments
Angola had been at war — fighting for independence, and then locked in a
civil war — for four decades by the time peace arrived in 2002. Peace
coincided with an extended oil boom that eventually propelled Angola,
with only 25 million people, to become one of the top 20 oil producers
in the world.
The boom disproportionately benefited Angola’s governing elite, who
moved enormous sums abroad. Between 2002 and 2015, Angolan companies and
individuals poured $189 billion outside the country into often opaque
investments, according to the Catholic University of Angola’s Center for
Studies and Scientific Research in Luanda.
Inside Angola, one of the world’s most unequal societies, half of the
working population lives on less than $3.10 a day.
Meanwhile, its former colonial ruler, Portugal, suffered from a
financial crisis that forced it to obtain a $111 billion bailout from
international creditors and downgraded its national debt, rated junk to
this day. Portugal was desperate for investment.
António Monteiro, a former foreign minister of Portugal and the chairman
of the country’s largest private bank, Millennium BCP, said that
investments from Angola had helped many Portuguese companies survive,
including his bank.
“It was an investor that was very welcome and, in certain moments, the
only investor in Portugal,” he said.
The problem was how the money was obtained.
Politicians and businesspeople in both countries say that Angola is
dominated by allies of the president with tentacles in every corner of
the economy, allowing them to amass great fortunes in politically
connected deals under mysterious circumstances.
As Angola’s ruling elite sought to safeguard its wealth outside their
country — knowing that Mr. dos Santos’s rule would eventually end —
Portugal’s political and business elite more than obliged.
“If Angola was the front office of corruption, Portugal was the back
office,” said João Batalha, the president of the Portuguese chapter of
In a scathing report, the O.E.C.D.’s working group on bribery said that
Portugal’s “enforcement of the foreign bribery offense has been
extremely low” — pointing out that cases involving Angola accounted for
a third of all such bribery allegations against Portuguese firms. In a
March report on money laundering and financial crimes, the United States
State Department said, “Suspect funds from Angola are used to purchase
Portuguese businesses and real estate.”
Portugal’s foreign minister, Augusto Santos Silva, said that the
Portuguese judicial system investigated illicit investments without
political interference. He said it had been a “mistake” for one of his
predecessors, responding to news media reports that high-ranking
Angolans were being investigated in Portugal, to visit Angola and
apologetically take the Angolans’ side.
Still, Mr. Silva said that Angola’s growing power was a positive
development. Unequal postcolonial relations, he said, would carry “the
flavor of neocolonialism.”
Portuguese business leaders say that Angolan investments unfairly
attract the kind of scrutiny that money from elsewhere, including China,
Luis Míra Amaral — who until last year was chief executive of Banco Bic
Portugal, a bank whose biggest shareholder is Isabel dos Santos — said
that in Angola and some other African states, the same individuals
tended to be both political and business leaders.
“It’s not realistic that a small country like Portugal would be able to
change that,” said Mr. Amaral, a former Portuguese minister of industry
Mr. Amaral said that all Angolans had to “justify the money” they put
into Portuguese banks by showing assets in Angola, to help prevent money
“When I see Isabel dos Santos putting money into Portugal because she
has a number of big companies in Angola,” he said, pointing to her big
stake in Unitel, Angola’s biggest cellphone operator, “it is easy to
“After, you can put another question: how she was able to create this
company,” Mr. Amaral added with a laugh. “It’s another question. It’s
not my problem as a banking manager.”
On her Twitter account, Ms. dos Santos identifies herself with just one
Helped by public relations officials in Lisbon, Ms. dos Santos has put
forward an image of herself as a self-made businesswoman. In a 2013
interview, she told the Financial Times that she had had business sense
from a young age and sold chicken eggs when she was just 6.
In a written reply to emailed questions, Ms. dos Santos told The New
York Times that the egg anecdote was meant “to show that since a young
age I had an entrepreneurial spirit.”
But in Angola, the story about the eggs fueled widespread ridicule and
Asked whether it was possible that Ms. dos Santos’s fortune was
self-made, Marcolino Moco, a former prime minister of Angola, said,
“It’s possible to make us laugh. All her wealth comes from the fact that
her father is the law.”
The oldest child of Angola’s president, Ms. dos Santos, 44, has gained
large or controlling shares in Angola’s diamond, cellphone, banking and
other industries over the years.
In her email, Ms. dos Santos said that, beginning in the early 1990s,
she had started “a small beverage distribution and logistics business,”
as well as a restaurant, an event production company and a walkie-talkie
Ms. dos Santos did not say where she had obtained the capital to invest
in those businesses or in Unitel, which she now controls. She has also
acquired big stakes in Portugal’s banks, the Portuguese energy giant
Galp, the Portuguese telecommunications company NOS, and other businesses.
In 2015, Transparency International included Ms. dos Santos on a list of
15 cases that symbolized “grand corruption.” She responded by saying
that her investments were “transparent.”
Last year, her father appointed her chief executive of Sonangol, the
state oil company that the president has used over the decades to
further political and business interests. A group of lawyers has tried
unsuccessfully to remove Ms. dos Santos from her post, arguing that she,
with no management track record or experience in the oil industry, was
appointed by her father to erase evidence of her father’s embezzlement
at Sonangol before he steps down.
Rui Amendoeira, a partner at Vieira de Almeida, a Lisbon law firm hired
by Ms. dos Santos to help run the oil company, said he had no comment on
the case or on Ms. dos Santos.
Her appointment as head of the state oil company gave Ms. dos Santos
another platform internationally. In March, she was a speaker at the
annual CERAWeek energy conference in Houston. In April, she spoke about
being an entrepreneur at the London Business School.
Ms. dos Santos’s critics say she has tried to gain respectability in the
West by using her ill-gotten gains in Angola and laundering them in
Portugal — an accusation she rejects.
“In my book respectability is not achieved by mingling with the ‘right
people,’” she said in an email. “In my book respectability is something
you gain and achieve through a lifetime of work, and actions worthy of
esteem, coherent positive behavior, attitudes of good social standing
and building a reputation with your friends and peers.”
A Continuing Inquiry
Respectability, some Angolans have found, can be acquired in Portugal —
Álvaro Sobrinho, the former chief executive of Banco Espírito Santo
Angola, was born in Angola and now lives in Portugal, holding dual
citizenship. In Portugal, he became the major shareholder in Sporting
Lisbon, a major soccer team, and also bought two newspapers.
But he was eventually investigated by the Portuguese authorities for his
role in the bank, the Angolan subsidiary of Portugal’s Banco Espírito
Santo, which he headed for a decade until 2012. The bank was accused of
misappropriating $5.7 billion by giving out loans — to the political
elite and to Mr. Sobrinho himself — that were never repaid. Mr. Sobrinho
has denied all accusations and has not been charged despite the long
But he is now regarded as a “thief” in Portugal, he said. He has sold
off his newspapers. He said he had at least recovered his assets, which
the Portuguese authorities had frozen for a few years. A court
reaffirmed in May that the state cannot seize his assets, but
prosecutors say that Mr. Sobrinho is still being investigated.
His assets include six apartments he owns with his family in Estoril Sol
Residence in Cascais, the “Angolans’ building.” Brazilians, Russians and
Portuguese, including some who made money doing business in Angola, also
owned apartments but were never investigated for money laundering, he said.
“Only Angolans,” Mr. Sobrinho said, with bitterness.
The resentment, though, did not detract from his enjoyment of his
apartments (“very beautiful, you can see the sea”) or of Cascais (“an
“The king used to live there,” he added.
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