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Unitel denies government intervention in the lawsuit against Isabel dos Santos

Unitel admits that the decision to sue Isabel dos Santos in the British courts to recover an alleged debt was discussed and approved by the board, but denied, in documents presented in court, that it was by order of the government.

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In a reply to the lawyers of Isabel dos Santos presented in the Commercial Court of London to which Lusa had access, Unitel acknowledged that the lawsuit in the United Kingdom against Unitel International Holdings (UIH), owned by Isabel dos Santos, to recover a debt of over 350 million euros, as well as a request for seizure in Portugal of the assets of the businesswoman in ZOPT and NOS, "were discussed and approved by the Coordination Committee of the Board of Directors of Unitel.

However, faced with the suggestion that the majority of the board members were chosen by the Angolan authorities, Unitel recalled that the two directors appointed by PT Ventures, Miguel Geraldes and Luiz Rosa, were appointed before the sale of PT Ventures to state oil company Sonangol.

"In any case, it is irrelevant that the majority of the members of the Board of Directors have been appointed by entities belonging to the Angolan State," it continues, in the document dated February 5 and consulted by Lusa, emphasizing that "the directors are obliged to act in the interest of Unitel."

The process, underway in the Commercial Court of London, which is part of the High Court, has advanced with the presentation of written arguments of the two parties, but has no hearings scheduled and no date for the beginning of the trial.

At issue is a debt of more than 362 million euros, plus default interest, that Unitel claims from UIH for the loan of funds that financed the purchase of shares in the Portuguese telecom operators Zon and ZOPT, the acquisition of T+ Telecomunicações in Cape Verde, and the investment in Unitel in São Tomé and Príncipe.

In its response to Unitel's initial complaint, initiated last October, Isabel dos Santos claimed to be the target of a campaign by President Lourenço "for political reasons" and that the judicial procedures to seize her assets in Angola were neither fair nor transparent.

According to Isabel dos Santos' lawyers, "the Angolan Attorney General acts under the guidance of the President of the Republic, without any other mechanisms of accountability or transparency," and repeated the accusation that the Attorney General's Office used false documents to substantiate the seizure order filed in the Luanda Provincial Court in 2019.

"This campaign is purely a matter of political persecution to divert attention from Lourenço's own internal political problems, which include numerous allegations of corruption surrounding his own associates," they say in the rejoinder filed in December.

Sonangol, which already held 25 percent of Unitel's shares, bought PT Ventures, which held another 25 percent, from Brazil's Oi in January 2020, becoming the majority shareholder, while the remaining capital was divided equally between Vidatel, owned by Isabel dos Santos, and Geni, owned by General Leopoldino "Dino" Fragoso do Nascimento.

Last December, the Supreme Court of the British Virgin Islands decided to put Vidatel under judicial administration following a ruling by the Paris Court of Appeal in favor of PT Ventures, which claimed an indemnity of around Euro 280 million.

According to the Attorney General's Office, several civil and criminal proceedings are underway against Isabel dos Santos, in which the State claims values in excess of five billion dollars.

Last year, the International Consortium for Investigative Journalism revealed more than 715,000 files called "Luanda Leaks," which detail alleged financial schemes that have allowed Isabel dos Santos and her husband, Sindika Dokolo, who has since died, to take money from the Angolan public purse through tax havens.

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