Ver Angola

Defense

Angolan NGOs file a complaint in Portugal over alleged corruption at Sonangol

Three angolan non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have filed a complaint in the portuguese justice, denouncing alleged corruption and money laundering schemes, carried out by former managers of Sonangol, the state oil company, including former vice-president Manuel Vicente.

: Mtcurado
Mtcurado  

In a press conference, representatives of NGOs Associação Mãos Livres, Fórum Regional de Desenvolvimento Universitário (FORDU) and Associação OMUNGA, linked to the defense of human rights and the exercise of citizenship, said that the complaint was filed with the Portuguese Central Criminal Investigation Department (DCIAP).

According to Salvador Freire, from Mãos Livres, spokesman of the group, the facts occurred between 2005 and 2012 and besides the former directors of Sonangol, the Bank Millenium BCP (Banco Comercial Português S.A.) is also involved.

The representative of the three NGOs said that the complaint was filed on the 7th of this month in Portugal, considering that the European country "served as a laundromat" for the money allegedly embezzled from Angola.

The complaints are against Baptista Muhungo Sumbe, José Pedro Benge, Manuel Domingos Vicente, Fernando Osvaldo dos Santos and other people currently unknown, including current or former employees of Millenium BCP.

In response to journalists, Salvador Freire said that the bank where the actions took place is based in Portugal and the organizations have sufficient evidence on this fact, although the funds came from corruption involving angolan actors.

"Portugal was the laundromat, in fact, for several years Portugal has served as a laundromat for illicit funds from corruption in Angola, showing that this type of criminality transcends national borders to the detriment of angolans, so this is an initiative to hold the beneficiaries and facilitators of the corruption scheme accountable," he said.

The lawyer and activist stressed that the lawsuit could have been filed in Angola, but the organizations decided to move forward with the action "in a sphere where it is possible to hold the different actors accountable".

Despite the fact that the complaint was filed in Portugal, the announcement made this Thursday in Luanda aims at the Attorney General's Office of Angola to investigate the denunciations, Salvador Freire pointed out.

In the complaint made, the angolan non-governmental organizations said there were indications of payments in two schemes, carried out between 2005 and 2012, by a multinational oil services and construction company - SBM Offshore N.V. - and paid through the portuguese accounts of two similar 'offshore' companies - Madrill Inc. (Madrill) and Sonangol International, Inc. (SII) - each owned and managed by one or more senior executives of the Angolan parastatal hydrocarbon company Sonangol E.P..

According to the allegations, the payments were received and managed by Banco Comercial Português (BCP) without the exercise of anti-money laundering due diligence.

"The accused Baptista Muhongo Sumbe [Sonangol executive], José Pedro Benge [Sonangol executive] and Fernando Osvaldo dos Santos [oil industry businessman] were directors and responsible for the ghost company in Panama, Madrill Incl. [Madrill] since at least April 2010," Salvador Freire said.

The accused Baptista Sumbe, José Pedro Benge and Manuel Domingos Vicente, Salvador Freire continued, while being senior executives at Sonangol were also directors and/or officers of the shell company in Panama.

"Baptista Sumbe allegedly was president-founder and CEO of SII, incorporated on April 7, 1998, just two months after Madrill. Sumbe was later additionally appointed as secretary and treasurer on January 1, 2010," he stressed.

José Pedro Benge and Manuel Domingos Vicente, then Sonangol's executive director, were appointed as directors of SII on January 1, 2010, and a few days later, on January 4, a shareholders meeting approved the opening of a corporate bank account at Banco Privado Atlântico (BPA-Europa).

Baptista Sumbe was granted exclusive signatory authority, and Jose Benge and Manuel Vicente were granted joint signatory authority.

"The first scheme, Madrill Inc. deal involves 52 payments totaling 17.4 million dollars over six years, paid to the Panamanian shell company Madrill Inc, with no legal basis for receiving it," Salvador Freire indicated.

"SBM's agreement to make these payments appears to have resulted from express threats that SBM's business with Sonangol and other potential business in Angola would be severely affected if the payments were not made," he continued.

Salvador Freire said that the second scheme, involving business from Sonangol International Inc involves $35 million, which is suspected to have been illicitly paid in 2012 by SBM's subsidiary, SBM Holding Inc. S.A. to the second ghost company in Panama, Sonangol International Inc and under very similar circumstances as the Madrill payments.

The Angolan lawyer and activist said he believed in Angolan justice and explained that the complaint comes nine years after the facts, after a "lengthy process [of investigations]."

"We had to work very hard on this process and find enough elements to support the complaint, so it took us time and we had to do investigations here and beyond, that's why it took all this time. We brought enough evidence, both documentary and testimonial evidence," he stressed.