Dos Santos slams Portugal over corruption probes

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Jose Eduardo dos Santos

President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has criticised former colonial ruler Portugal over its investigations of top Angolan officials.

President dos Santos described Portugal’s relationship with Angola as “not well” in a state of the nation speech to open Parliament last week in Luanda. A summit meeting between the two countries was moved to February from this month. He expressed anger that Lisbon’s probe into financial impropriety amongst Angolans fed the perception that “a rich African man is corrupt”.

Dos Santos’ comments came after Portugal’s Foreign Minister Rui Machete was called before a parliamentary committee in Lisbon last week after he expressed regret in an interview in Angola about a corruption probe by Portuguese prosecutors that was said to involve top Angolan officials. “There have been some misunderstandings and given the current political environment in this relationship, the construction of a strategic partnership previously announced is not advisable,” the president said in Parliament.

Without giving names, Portugal’s Prosecutor’s office said in a statement on October 4 that there are several proceedings in which Angolan citizens are involved as both suspects and plaintiffs. Dos Santos, Africa’s longest-serving ruler after Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, said US, French and British companies had extracted billions of dollars in resources from Angola while the West criticised Africans for accumulating wealth. Companies such as Chevron Corp. (CVX), Total SA (FP) and BP Plc (BP/) helped the country pump 1.74 million barrels of oil a day in September, second only to Nigeria, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Why is it that they can have private companies of this size and Angolans not?” dos Santos said. “The campaigns of intimidation I have mentioned before are persistently made against Africans because [foreign companies] don’t want to have local competitors and they want to continue to take more and more wealth for their countries.”

Markus Weimer, an analyst at Control Risks, a London-based political risk analysis group, said: “Angola is important for Portugal as a source of investment, export markets and jobs (..) Dos Santos, aware of Portugal’s reliance on Angola, is flexing his muscles.”

Portuguese companies have contracts valued in the billions of dollars to rebuild Angola following a 27-year civil war that ended in 2002. Isabel dos Santos, the president’s daughter, owns stakes in Zon Optimus SGPS, Portugal’s biggest cable TV provider, and Banco BPI SA, its third-largest bank, which is also active in Angola.