Ver Angola

Defense

João Lourenço and allies investigated by US justice, says consultant

The consultancy firm Pangea Risk, specializing in risk management analysis in Africa and the Middle East, revealed that João Lourenço and his allies, including the first lady, have been under investigation in the United States of America (USA) for about a year. American investigators believe they have evidence that transactions of the President of the Republic and people close to him have violated US laws. The investigation, which may compromise Angola's multilateral financing and debt restructuring.

:

The document to which Lusa had access and quoted by Expresso, dated February 15, indicates that the new US President, Joe Biden, will breathe new life into the investigations, which involve João Lourenço, his wife, Ana Dias Lourenço, and several business partners and companies.

The document advances that investors have been gathering "for almost a year evidence of violation of US laws and regulations by President João Lourenço, his family and business partners."

Since coming to power in 2017, Lourenço has launched an intense anti-corruption campaign that many consider to be aimed essentially at the family of his predecessor, José Eduardo dos Santos, especially his daughter, Isabel dos Santos, who is the target of several lawsuits in Portugal and Angola.

The consulting firm said that this positioning helped Angola to benefit from a reinforcement of the assistance program of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as credit facilities and support from various international partners.

On the other hand, the country became eligible to receive more than US$2.6 billion in debt service relief under the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), which the country negotiated with international creditors, which represents 4.3 percent of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and a third of the "relief" for Africa.

"This goodwill, which has been shown by Angola's international partners the past three years, may fade quickly as new allegations of state corruption and fraud involving the current government come to light," the document states.

Pangea indicates that the US is investigating Lourenço and members of his family for a series of alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), illegal banking transactions, bank fraud for buying property in the United States, and attempting to defraud the US Justice Department.

In the report, the consulting firm says that the alleged fraud, corruption and embezzlement practices "are likely to impact foreign investors in Angola and frustrate the country's relations with donors and creditors in the coming months."

Among the ongoing investigations are allegations of illegal bribes and kickbacks paid by Brazil's Odebrecht to companies owned by João Lourenço, his wife and his closest business partners, as well as alleged suspicious and fraudulent transactions made by other companies controlled by the President, such as Simportex, linked to the Ministry of Defense, banks and construction companies.

Pangea Risk also points to involvement with the lobbying and public relations firm Squire Patton Boggs, to whom $1042 million was allegedly paid, part of which was directed to Malta-based ERME Capital, managed by Pedro Pinto Ferreira and Maria Mergner, friends of former President Manuel Vicente, who the consultancy says is "a close ally of President Lourenço and political and business rival of Isabel dos Santos."

Pangea claims that if these allegations, revealed by the Associated Press, are proven to be true, the government would be violating US rules on hiring 'lobbyists'.

Other alleged violations under investigation involve suspicious travel to the United States, irregular 'lobbying' contracting, and unexplained wealth.

"If the United States has jurisdiction, the implications for President Lourenço, his family members and associates will be broader and more serious, including potential freezing of assets, travel bans, suspension of bank accounts and other sanctions," the report states.

According to Pangea, the network allegedly involved in misappropriating Angolan state funds for the benefit of his private companies, as well as financing the electoral campaign of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) includes companies such as Gefi (Gestão e Participação Financeiras), "long implicated in opaque contracts with the state."

João Lourenço's network includes a close circle of family members, including his wife Ana Dias Lourenço - "who controls the communications agency Orion, which helps finance the party and the enrichment of the family - daughters, nephews and nieces, brothers and sisters," the report says.

A second circle includes prominent businessmen, ministers and public officials, and the "most trusted advisors such as former vice-president Manuel Vicente, implicated in several scandals in Angola and internationally.

The investigations also focus on companies such as the construction company Omatapalo, which Pangea says is linked to João Lourenço and which won in 2019 three contracts with the state, exceeding 450 million dollars.

"The US investigation focuses on award and opaque contracts worth $500 million in 2020, and goes back to the time when João Lourenço was serving as defense minister (2014 -2017), having approved a contract worth $450 million with Privinvest, a company at the center of the hidden debt scandal revealed in Mozambique, through Simportex."

The opaque military contracts also involve ALL2IT, a company controlled by the nephews, in a deal financed by Banco Angolano de Investimentos, which has Lourenço and Vicente among its shareholders.

Also underway in the US courts is a case involving the company Aenergy and the Minister of Energy, João Batista Borges.

The investigations also involve the Brazilian-Japanese businessman Minoru Dondo, who has won contracts worth millions of dollars since 2004 and is also being investigated by the French and Brazilian authorities.

The deals involved other advisors, such as current Chief of Staff Edeltrudes Costa, as well as Manuel Vicente and family members and João Lourenço, who allegedly benefited from the contracts.

The alleged "unexplained fortune" is managed by banks controlled by Lourenço's network, such as BAI and SOL.

Contracts signed with Angoprojetos, Sotal and Engetech, in which the President and the Minister of Construction and Public Works, Manuel Tavares de Almeida, have shares, are also in the sights of the US authorities.

Pangea also warns of the reputational risk to investors of contracts signed with companies it hides its owners, such as JALC - Consultores e Prestação de Serviços Limitada, Comeng - Engenharia e Construção Civil, Azury and associate Atenium - Serviços de Consultoria that will "face greater scrutiny" and will be the focus of investigations.

A central point of the investigations is the property that João Lourenço and family own in Bethesda, in the US state of Maryland bought in 2013. The family will also have houses in Washington DC, Virginia and Texas, according to Pangea, which adds that the source of this income is being investigated.

The consultancy stresses that these investigations may represent a turning point in relations between the US and Angola, which improved in more recent years when the Angolan government sought support from the IMF and multilateral lenders in the face of Chinese disinterest.

Pangea says that for the new Biden administration "it is increasingly clear that the anti-corruption campaign targeting the dos Santos family has only covered up the creation of a new network of patronage and appropriation of public funds."

He also points to the reputational damage of anti-government demonstrations and consequent police repression that also contribute to the loss of popularity.

Related