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Unitel opens lawsuit in London to recover debt of more than 350 million to Isabel dos Santos

The telecommunications company Unitel initiated a lawsuit in London against Unitel International Holdings (UIH), held by businesswoman Isabel dos Santos, to recover a debt of more than 350 million euros.


The complaint dated 26 October, consulted by the agency Lusa, claims the repayment of seven loans granted between May 2012 and August 2013 from Unitel to UIH which, he stresses, "despite its name, has no business connection or affiliation with Unitel ".

Unitel claims that UIH owes 325,305,539 euros and 43,937,301 dollars, plus interest on late payments.

According to the document presented at the Commerce Division of the High Court of London [High Court], the loans were intended to finance the purchase of shares in the Portuguese telecommunications operator Zon, the acquisition of T + Telecomunicações in Cape Verde and the investment in Unitel in Sao Tome and Principe.

The last of the loans served for UIH to complete operations in the scope of the merger of Zon with Optimus, of Sonaecom, after which UIH now holds 32.65 percent of the shares of ZOPT, a holding which, in turn, became control 52.15 percent of Zon.

In August, Sonaecom announced that it had reached an agreement with businesswoman Isabel do Santos to dissolve the ZOPT, following the forfeiture of the participation of the daughter of former President José Eduardo dos Santos by the Portuguese justice, triggered by the "Luanda Leaks" case.

Unitel claims that the operation, as well as the diversion of dividend payments by NOS, drained UIH of capital or sources of income.
"The agreement to dissolve the ZOPT renders UIH unable to meet its obligations" in terms of guarantees on loans and "makes it impossible or prevents Unitel from enforcing" those guarantees, the complaint reads.

Isabel dos Santos previously rejected having received unjustified transfers from Unitel, guaranteeing, in turn, to be creditor of the operator who allegedly will not have returned a loan she obtained from Vidatel Ltd.

Unitel denied the existence of this debt, recognizing that Vidatel has dividends to be received, which were not transferred due to the seizure ordered by the Court of Luanda to Isabel dos Santos' holdings in several Angolan companies.

In December 2019, the Luanda Provincial Court ordered the preventive seizure of the assets of Isabel dos Santos and Sindika Dokolo, her husband, including nine companies in which the businesswoman holds stakes, including the brewer Sodiba, Condis, holder of the hypermarket chain Candando, the television operator Zap Media and the cement company Cimangola.

Until January this year, Unitel was controlled by four shareholders, each with 25 percent: PT Ventures (owned by Brazilian Oi), state oil company Sonangol, Vidatel (from Isabel dos Santos) and Geni ( General Leopoldino "Dino" Fragoso do Nascimento).
On January 26, Sonangol bought the position of PT Ventures, for US $ 1 billion, becoming the operator's largest shareholder.

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