Angola’s president, João Lourenço, has sacked the head of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, two months after he was named in connection with the Paradise Papers.
José Filomeno Dos Santos, the son of Lourenço’s predecessor, was fired six years after he was made chairman of the board of the Fundo Soberano De Angola (FSDEA) by his father.
Leaked files from the offshore services firm Appleby revealed how Dos Santos appointed a firm belonging to his friend, Jean-Claude Bastos, to manage the fund’s capital – who then invested hundreds of millions of dollars in ventures in which he held a personal interest.
One of the transactions was facilitated by Appleby despite the firm being aware of a serious conflict of interest. Appleby has insisted it did nothing wrong.
The management of the country’s sovereign wealth fund was one focus of the Paradise Papers investigation. It shed new light on the way money has been spent in one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world.
The Guardian revealed how Bastos, a Swiss-Angolan venture capitalist, was paid millions of dollars in fees for managing the FSDEA’s assets. Prior to receiving the management contract he ran an investment bank, where Dos Santos was a director. Dos Santos resigned the position and sold his shares upon becoming FSDEA chairman.
Last week the finance minister said the fund’s investment strategy was undert assessment in response to a question about the revelations in the documents.
Bastos’s asset management firm Quantum Global was appointed to manage the FSDEA’s capital in 2013. The appointment was controversial because of Bastos’s friendship with Dos Santos and the fact that Quantum received the contract without competitive tender.
Quantum Global said it was appointed to manage the FSDEA funds after successfully fulfilling a similar mandate for the Angolan central bank. It denied the relationship between Dos Santos and Bastos had played any role in its appointment.
Appleby set up seven offshore entities in Mauritius through which Quantum Global invested the Angolan funds. The Paradise Papers revealed how, in at least four instances, Quantum Global invested the capital in ventures in which Bastos held an interest.
In one case, $157m was spent on assumption of debt and cash payments to two other companies as part of an investment in a planned luxury five-star hotel in the Angolan capital, Luanda. The beneficial owner of both companies was Bastos.
One of Appleby’s compliance officers warned that a transaction related to the hotel “poses issues of conflict of interest”, but was overruled by an Appleby director on the grounds that Bastos had disclosed the interest and had not participated in a vote on the investment.
Bastos had however attended a meeting on whether to invest in the project and the Appleby director said he should refrain from attending such meetings in future.
Tom Keatinge, director of the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute, told the BBC that Appleby had “provided the client with the answer that he wanted”.
“It’s hard to believe that just because he abstained from the voting, his views were not well understood by the meeting. So it’s a scurrilous approach in my view,” he said.
Bastos told the Guardian: “We do not view these investments as conflicted. We view these investments as having aligned interests. All shareholders’ interests are aligned for the growth and ultimate success of every investment.”
Appleby refused to comment on its conduct or that of its clients. It has sued the BBC and Guardian over their reporting of the Paradise Papers. It argues there was no public interest in any of the reporting.
Dos Santos’s dismissal from the FSDEA is the most recent in a series of sackings by Lourenço directed against family members installed in public positions by his predecessor.
In November last year Dos Santos’s sister and Africa’s richest woman, Isabel Dos Santos, was sacked from her position as head of the state oil company, Sonangol.
Two of the younger Dos Santos’s children have also had contracts to manage state TV cancelled, according to Bloomberg.