Ver Angola

Defense

Dutch arbitration court freezes Sindika Dokolo's participation in Exem Energy

An Amsterdam court decided on Thursday to freeze the participation of Sindika Dokolo, husband of businesswoman Isabel dos Santos, in Exem, in a dispute over a deal with Sonangol in 2006.

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According to the decision, consulted this Friday by Lusa, the Dutch commercial arbitration court has frozen the participation of the entrepreneur in Exem and forced the exit of the Esperaza board of directors of the representative of this company, having also ordered that the dividends be returned.

At issue is the sale by Sonangol of the 40 percent stake in the holding Esperaza to Exem, which has as its main beneficiary the Congolese businessman Sindika Dokolo, husband of the businesswoman Isabel dos Santos, daughter of the former President José Eduardo dos Santos.

Sonangol holds 60 percent of Esperaza's shares, with Exem holding the other 40 percent. Exem is a Dutch holding company with Sindika Dokolo as its main beneficiary, according to court documents.

Sonangol argues that Exem acquired the Esperaza share on "extremely advantageous terms" by paying 11.3 million euros upfront and the remaining 63.8 million euros through loans financed by Sonangol.

In a statement to international financial agencies, Exem's representative in Esperaza, Mário Leite Silva, said that "there is no conclusion about any irregularity committed by Exem, or Sindika Dokolo".

Isabel dos Santos's representative, for her part, pointed out that the entrepreneur "does not lead Exem and has no role in Exem or Esperaza and, therefore, has no involvement in these matters".

On Monday, Exem Energy, a company owned by Isabel dos Santos and Sindika Dokolo which holds an indirect stake in Galp, confirmed that it was the subject of an investigation by the Dutch authorities, related to Sonangol, but guarantees nothing due to the Angolan oil company.

In response to Lusa, after the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant reported that the Dutch public prosecutor's office is investigating Isabel dos Santos' husband Sindika Dokolo's company, through which the daughter of the former Angolan president is an indirect shareholder of Galp, an official source of Exem Energy confirmed the information, stressing that the investigation is "welcome" and will be an opportunity to "clarify several falsehoods and unfounded allegations.

According to Exem, the investigation aims to investigate whether there are family relationships that may have influenced the signing of contracts, partnerships or business relations between this or others related to Sindika Dokolo and Sonangol, at the time when Manuel Vicente was chairman of the board of directors of the Angolan oil company.

Esperaza Holding, a joint venture between Exem and Sonangol, holds 45 percent of Amorim Energia, which in turn is a leading shareholder of Galp.

Exem states that it agreed the investment and participation in Galp with Américo Amorim in 2005 that it paid its shares in Esperaza, worth approximately 75 million euros, in two installments: 11.5 million euros paid at the signing of the contract and 64 million euros plus interest paid in October 2017, in kwanzas, at the exchange rate of the day, "nothing owed to Sonangol for the entrance in the capital of Esperaza and of this in Galp".

According to the same source, the payment in kwanzas was made following an agreement between the two shareholders of Esperaza (Exem and Sonangol) to bring forward the payment of the debt to October 2017, since the remaining debt only matured in December 2017.

Isabel dos Santos, who was president of the oil company for about 18 months until she was exonerated by José Eduardo dos Santos' successor, João Lourenço, will have tried to make payment of Exem's debt in kwanzas which was rejected by the new president of Sonangol.

Carlos Saturnino "returned the amounts, indicating not to accept kwanzas, and informing that he intends to receive the amount in euros, a statement contrary to the practice of payments received by Sonangol at the time, from other entities," says Exem.

The Angolan judicial authorities contradict this statement and maintain that Esperaza was financed 100 percent by Sonangol, for a total of over 193 million euros, having lent Exem Energy 75,075,880 euros, amounts not returned to date.

"There was an attempt by the defendants to pay the debt in kwanzas, which was rejected because the debt was contracted in euros and this clause resulted from the contract itself," according to the Attorney General's Office (PGR).

Exem, for its part, argues that having Sonangol agreed to receive payment in kwanzas at the updated exchange rate, "the reason for returning the money was not understood, which generated a dispute between the parties, and an arbitration is taking place in the Netherlands".

The businesswoman, her husband and the manager and former chairman of the board of Banco de Fomento Angola, Mário Leite Silva, saw their bank accounts and holdings in several companies seized in December 2019 by order of the Luanda Provincial Court.

The measure, according to a PGR communiqué released at the time, followed an action filed by the National Asset Recovery Service.

An investigation by an international consortium of investigative journalists (ICIJ), called Luanda Leaks, revealed, through access to over 715,000 files, the alleged financial schemes of Isabel dos Santos and Sindika Dokolo, which allowed the withdrawal of millions of dollars from the Angolan public purse through tax havens.

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