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Carlos de São Vicente preventive imprisonment extended for two months

The preventive imprisonment of Portuguese-Angolan businessman Carlos de São Vicente, arrested since September in Luanda on suspicions of corruption, has been extended for a further two months, according to a ruling by the Attorney General's Office (PGR) to which Lusa had access this Friday.

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According to the PGR's order of 20 January 2021, the deadline is "exceptionally" extended due to the "need to carry out the missing steps", the complexity of the process, namely the transnational contours.

Carlos de São Vicente is also being investigated in Switzerland for suspected money laundering.

"To that end, I am exceptionally extending the preventive custody of Carlos Manuel de São Vicente (...) for a further two months, due to the need to carry out the missing proceedings, because the case is particularly complex and the particular circumstantial nature of the case, especially the transnational connections, which, if the defendant were released, would be at a high risk of fleeing, which, if it happened, could jeopardize the completion of the investigation and the achievement of sound justice," reads the document.

The preventive imprisonment of Carlos de São Vicente, according to an opinion of the constitutionalist and law professor Jorge Miranda, requested by the businessman's family, to which Lusa had access, "offends basic principles of the democratic rule of law.

The constitutionalist's opinion, dated January 11, also states that the procedures of the PGR violate the Angolan Constitution.

"There are no signs in the process of the crimes charged that could justify preventive custody" and with Carlos de São Vicente's assets already in the hands of the state and given his precarious health "there is no danger of flight in the order of the Public Prosecutor's Office, nor of disturbing the process", the same opinion stresses.

In an interview with Lusa this month, the wife of the businessman and daughter of the first President of the Angolan Republic, Irene Neto, who is in Portugal, said that she had asked some "reputed Portuguese constitutionalists for opinions and that Jorge Miranda's considered the measure unconstitutional.

The order that ordered the preventive imprisonment of businessman Carlos de São Vicente states that he had carried out "an illegal scheme" that damaged the state oil company Sonangol by more than 900 million dollars.

According to the order to which Lusa had access at the time, the businessman, who between 2000 and 2016 simultaneously held the positions of risk management director of Sonangol and chairman of the board of AAA Seguros, a company in which the oil company was initially the sole shareholder, is said to have carried out "a scheme of illegal appropriation of shares" of the insurance company and "income and profits produced by the system" of insurance and reinsurance in the oil sector in Angola, thanks to the company's monopoly.

Thus, Carlos São Vicente became the "majority shareholder in AAA Seguros, with 89.89 percent, to the detriment of Sonangol, which saw its holdings drastically reduced by 10 percent, with an estimated loss of more than USD 900,000,000.00", with the oil company "receiving no benefit", the document says.

The decree states that the defendant said that the participation was made "on the basis of an informal agreement" between him, as representative of AAA Seguros, and the then chairman of Sonangol's board of directors, and later vice-president, Manuel Vicente.

Also according to the transcript, "a large part of the assets of AAA Seguros, SA, which has already ceased activity, now belong to other companies of the same group owned/controlled by the defendant Carlos Manuel de São Vicente," through "a fraudulent process to the detriment of the Angolan State.

In view of the above, the document concludes "there is no doubt, of sufficient evidence of the accused Carlos Manuel de São Vicente, incurring in the practice of the crimes of embezzlement (...), undue receipt of advantages (...), corruption (...), economic participation in business (...) trafficking of influence".

AAA, led by Carlos São Vicente, is one of the largest Angolan business groups, operating in the area of insurance and hospitality.

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