Unitel denies intervention by the Angolan Government in the judicial process against Isabel dos Santos
Unitel admits that the decision to sue Isabel dos Santos in British justice to recover an alleged debt was discussed and approved by the administration, but denied, in documents presented in court, that it was by order of the Angolan Government.
In a reply to Isabel dos Santos’ lawyers lodged at the Commercial Court of London to which Lusa had access, Unitel acknowledges that the UK court case against Unitel International Holdings (UIH), held by Isabel dos Santos, to recover a debt of more than 350 million euros, as well as a request for seizure in Portugal of the assets of the Angolan businesswoman in ZOPT and NOS, “were discussed and approved by the Unitel Board of Directors’ Coordination Committee”.
However, given the suggestion that the majority of the members of the board of directors 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 the state oil company Angola’s Sonangol.
“In any case, it is irrelevant that the majority of the members of the Board of Directors were appointed by entities belonging to the Angolan State”, he continues, in the document dated February 5 and consulted by Lusa, emphasizing that “the administrators are obliged to act in the interest of Unitel ”.
The lawsuit, pending at the Commercial Court in London, which forms part of the Superior Court [High Court], has advanced with the presentation of the written arguments of the two parties, but has not yet scheduled hearings or a date for the start of the trial.
At stake is a debt of more than 362 million euros, plus interest on arrears, which Unitel claims to UIH for the loan of funds that financed the purchase of shares in the Portuguese telecommunications operators Zon and ZOPT, the acquisition of T + Telecomunicações in Cape Verde and the investment in Unitel in São Tomé and Príncipe.
In her response to Unitel’s initial complaint, which started last October, Isabel dos Santos claimed to be the target of a campaign by the Angolan President, João Lourenço, “for political reasons”, and that the judicial procedures for the seizure of assets in Angola did not they 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 repeats the accusation that the Attorney General used false documents to substantiate the arrest order presented at 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 state in the reply submitted in December.
Sonangol, which already held 25% of Unitel’s shares, bought PT Ventures, which holds another 25%, from Brazilian Oi in January 2020, becoming the majority shareholder, while the remaining capital was equally divided by Vidatel, Isabel dos Santos, and Geni, General Leopoldino “Dino” Fragoso do Nascimento.
Last December, the Supreme Court of the British Virgin Islands decided to place Vidatel under judicial administration following a decision by the Paris Court of Appeal in favor of PT Ventures, which claimed damages of around 280 million euros.
According to the Attorney General of Angola, several civil and criminal cases are running against Isabel dos Santos, in which the State claims values in excess of five billion dollars (4.6 billion euros).
Last year, the International Investigative Journalism Consortium revealed more than 715 thousand files, called “Luanda Leaks”, which detail alleged financial schemes that will have allowed Isabel dos Santos and her husband, Sindika Dokolo, who has since died, to withdraw money Angolan public purse through tax havens.
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