Isabel dos Santos

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Isabel dos Santos
©NC IdS.jpg
Isabel dos Santos in 2019
Isabel dos Santos

(1973-04-20) 20 April 1973 (age 48)[1]
CitizenshipRussia[3] and Angola
Alma materKing's College London
(m. 2002; died 2020)

Isabel dos Santos (born 20 April 1973) is an Angolan-Russian businesswoman, the eldest child of Angola's former President José Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled the country from 1979 to 2017. Once considered Africa's richest woman according to Forbes magazine, with a net worth exceeding US$2 billion Forbes, she was dropped from the magazine's list in January 2021: they stated that it was not possible to calculate her wealth, given the freezing of her assets in Angola, Portugal and the Netherlands.[5] Additionally, according to Forbes, she owes $340 million in debt to the Portuguese company PT Ventures.[6]

In 2013 Forbes described how dos Santos acquired her wealth by taking stakes in companies doing business in Angola, suggesting that her wealth came almost entirely from her family's power and connections.[7][8]

The Angolan Government has, since 2018, been trying to prosecute Isabel dos Santos for past corruption crimes that may have led to Angola's ongoing recession crisis. However, she remains in exile in Portugal.[9] On 30 December 2019, the Luanda Provincial Court ordered the freezing of dos Santos's Angolan bank accounts and the seizure of her stake in local companies, including Unitel and Banco de Fomento Angola.[10]

She is under investigation in Portugal and has since assumed the United Arab Emirates as her official country of residence.[11][12][13] Two weeks later, the Angolan Government announced it was preparing the legal battle for the confiscation of dos Santos's assets in Portugal,[14] a process that is already in operation in the form of letters rogatory sent to Portugal to stop the transfer of funds from Portuguese Commercial Bank to a Russian bank.[which?][15]

Family and education[edit]

Isabel dos Santos was born in Baku, Azerbaijan SSR,[16] the eldest daughter of Angola's former President José Eduardo dos Santos and his first wife, the Russian-born Tatiana Kukanova, whom he met while studying in the then Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.[17][18][19] Her father's parents came from São Tomé and Príncipe.[20][21] She attended an all girls boarding school in Kent, Cobham Hall School, and St Paul's Girls' School in London.[22] She studied electrical engineering[23] at King's College in London.[24] There she met her husband from Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), Sindika Dokolo,[25] a son of a millionaire from Kinshasa and his Danish wife.[26]

Isabel dos Santos is a citizen of both Russia and Angola.[27]


Starting in 1997, Isabel dos Santos entered the business world, creating companies and holdings in Angola and mostly abroad, making substantial investments in high-profile enterprises, especially in Portugal.[28][29]

In the early 90s Isabel dos Santos started working as a project manager engineer for Urbana 2000, a subsidiary of Jembas Group, that had won a contract to clean and disinfect the city.[30] Following that, she set up a trucking business. The widespread use of walkie-talkie technology paved the way for a subsequent foray into telecoms.[31] In 1997, she started her first business, opening the Miami Beach Club,[32] one of the first night clubs and beach restaurants on Luanda Island.

In June 2016, she was appointed by her father as chair of Sonangol, the Angolan state oil company.[33] The controversial appointment in the wake of similar appointments of children of the president to key posts was short-lived, as João Lourenço, the new Angolan President, fired her just two months after being sworn into office.[34]

On 30 December 2019, the Luanda Provincial Court ordered the preventive seizure of personal bank accounts of dos Santos, her husband, Sindika Dokolo, and Mário Filipe Moreira Leite da Silva. According to the Attorney General's office, the three businesspeople entered into deals with the Angolan state through the companies Sodiam, a public diamond sales company, and Sonangol, the state oil company. With these deals, the Angolan state suffered a loss of $1.14 billion.[35] The court produced a document showing that the assets and many others owned by dos Santos had been acquired using funds from two state-owned companies.[36] In the meantime, the Portuguese Attorney-General's Office has revealed that an investigation has been opened into a number of operations by Isabel dos Santos, following a charge laid by Ana Gomes, a Portuguese Member of the European Parliament.[11] Following the seizure, she has assumed the UAE as her official country of residence.[12][13]

After freezing Dos Santos assets in Angola and Portugal, Forbes removed her from the list of the richest people in Africa in 2021.[5]

Investments in Portugal[edit]

Since 2008 dos Santos has had interests in key Portuguese sectors, such as telecommunications, media, retail, finance and the energy. In 2012 dos Santos made a series of acquisitions in ZON Multimédia, a telecommunications and media company providing mobile and fixed telephony, cable television, satellite television and internet. From an initial small stake in the company, she became the biggest shareholder, with 28.8%. The acquisitions were made via holding companies Jadeium and Kento (later Netherlands-based Unitel International Holdings BV).[37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46]

Through Santoro Holding she bought a 20% stake at Banco Português de Investimento.[47][48] She has other major stakes with the Angolan state oil company Sonangol through their mutual European Law holding, based in the Netherlands, named Esperanza Holding, in Portuguese Galp Energia.[49] Dos Santos is a founding member and board member of Banco BIC Português,[50] which recently acquired Banco Português de Negócios, a nationalized bank.

In December 2012, dos Santos announced the invitation for a merger of ZON with Sonaecom, proved in March 2013 by the General Assembly.[42] Eight months later, after the green light from the Competition Authority, the merger of the two companies was formalized on 27 August 2013, with the transfer to ZOPT, a special purpose vehicle created to advance the operation which became the owner of more 50% of the capital of the new group, the shares that dos Santos and Sonaecom hold on Zon and Optimus respectively. There was a capital increase of ZOPT through contribution in kind from 50 to 716 million euros, while Sonaecom subscribed 358 million shares of the company, by delivering 81.8% of its stake in Optimus. The Angolan businesswoman, on her turn, subscribed exactly the same number of shares of ZOPT, through her holdings Kento and Unitel International, delivering 28.8% of the stake in ZON.[51][52][53][54] With this transfer of shareholdings in Optimus and Zon, Sonaecom and dos Santos became holders of over 50% stake in the merged company: Zon Optimus SGPS. On this occasion, a new strategy for the company was announced by dos Santos, with a multimarket vision.[55][56] On 1 October 2013, dos Santos attended the first General Assembly of Zon Optimus.[57] Isabel dos Santos' investments in Portugal are in listed companies, which are therefore subject to official supervision of the Portuguese Securities Market Commission (CMVM).[58]

In November 2014, dos Santos launched a takeover bid for Portugal Telecom, SGPS, S.A., valuing the firm's shares at €1.35 a share, in what was seen as a rival bid to a previous €7 billion offer from Altice, though the offer made by Altice is on PT Portugal, not on PT SGPS.[59] On 1 December 2014, the Angolan businesswoman formally registered her offer at the Portuguese Securities Market Commission (Comissão do Mercado de Valores Mobiliários, CMVM, in Portuguese).[60]

In January 2017 Unitel, led by dos Santos, officialized the purchase of 2% of Banco Fomento de Angola (BFA) from BPI for 28 million euros and now controls 51.9% of the bank's capital.[61] The operation was approved by sector regulators, namely the National Bank of Angola (BNA) in December 2016. In February 2017 dos Santos decides to sell her position in Banco BPI, following the takeover bid launched by CaixaBank. Dos Santos arrived in 2009, stepped out[clarification needed] in 2017 and won more than 80 million euros: Santos' capital gain comes not only from the sale of the 18.5% holding on BPI, but also from the dividends from 2008 and 2009, worth around 12.6 million euros.[62]

Investments in Angola[edit]

With 51% control of Condis, dos Santos signed a joint partnership with the Portuguese Sonae group in April 2011 for the development and operation of a retail trading company in Angola. The entry in Angola by the Portuguese group led by Paulo de Azevedo was to be performed by the Continente (Angola), which planned to open the first supermarket by 2013 in Angola.[63]

Focus on telecommunications[edit]

She created Unitel in partnership with Portugal Telecom, after a tender process she considered fair.[31] Also through Unitel International Holding, a platform for Unitel investments where Portugal Telecom has no presence, she acquired the mobile operator T+, in Cape Verde and gained the license for the establishment of the second telecom operator in São Tomé and Príncipe.[64][65][66] Under this investment dos Santos announced during a visit to São Tomé and Príncipe that Unitel will invest in education in the country to train engineers, managers and other technicians and also focus on job creation.[67]

By 2015, dos Santos owned a share of satellite-TV operator ZAP, that had in December 2013 acquired the rights to distribute Forbes in a number of Portuguese speaking countries, namely Portugal, Angola and Mozambique. It had been announced that most of the content would be produced by a local team, complemented by content for the North American edition, therefore potentially allowing influence on Forbes content. It was initially planned that the first edition of the Portuguese language Forbes would be published during the second quarter of 2014. [68]


Holdings of dos Santos in the recent years:[69][70]

  • Trans Africa Investment Services, a Gibraltar-based vehicle founded together with her mother for the diamond business
  • Unitel International Holdings B.V.: change of name of Kento and Jadeium, based in Amsterdam, company-vehicle for dos Santos' investment in telecommunications
  • Santoro Finance: company-vehicle for dos Santos' investment in Banco BPI based in Lisbon
  • Esperaza Holding B.V.: based in Amsterdam, energy, oil etc.
  • Condis: a retail business based in Luanda

Luanda Leaks[edit]

On 19 January 2020 the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published a detailed report on how dos Santos amassed her wealth over the years. The report – which it called Luanda Leaks – provides evidence of how she "made a fortune at the expense of the Angolan people".[71]

The night of 22 January, only three days after the leaks, her personal wealth manager and private banking director Nuno Ribeiro da Cunha was found dead in the garage of his house.[72]


  1. ^ Fernandes, Filipe S. "Isabel dos Santos – Segredos e poder do dinheiro" (PDF) (in Portuguese). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 June 2016.
  2. ^ "In the spotlight: Isabel dos Santos, Angola's 'princess'". France24.
  3. ^ "Isabel dos Santos muda-se para o Dubai, um novo paraíso fiscal". Jornal Expresso.
  4. ^ Burgis, Tom (29 March 2013). "Lunch with the FT: Isabel dos Santos". Financial Times. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  5. ^ a b "How Isabel Dos Santos, Once Africa's Richest Woman, Went Broke". Forbes. 22 January 2021.
  6. ^ Dolan, Kerry A. (22 January 2021). "Former Angolan Billionaire Isabel Dos Santos Is Liable For $340 Million Payment After French Court Ruling". Forbes. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  7. ^ Dolan, Kerry A. (14 August 2013). "Daddy's Girl: How An African 'Princess' Banked $3 Billion in a Country Living On $2 Per Day". Forbes. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  8. ^ "Isabel dos Santos desmente acusações de enriquecimento ilícito feitas pela Forbes". Económico. Archived from the original on 29 August 2016. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  9. ^ "Gestão da Sonangol: PGR mandou instaurar processo criminal contra Isabel dos Santos". ANGONOTÍCIAS. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  10. ^ "Angola orders Isabel dos Santos asset seizure". BBC. 31 December 2019.
  11. ^ a b Simões, Lígia (10 January 2020). "Exclusivo. DCIAP investiga operações de Isabel dos Santos denunciadas por Ana Gomes" (in Portuguese). Jornal Económico. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  12. ^ a b "Angola: Cidadã russa Isabel dos Santos imune à extradição?" (in Portuguese). DeutscheWelle. 9 January 2020. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  13. ^ a b "Portugal: la justice ouvre une enquête sur Isabel dos Santos" (in French). 11 January 2020. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  14. ^ "Governo angolano prepara confisco de bens de Isabel dos Santos em Portugal" (in Portuguese). Angola24horas. 11 January 2020. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  15. ^ Norinha, Vítor (3 January 2020). "De bestial a persona non-grata" (in Portuguese). Jornal Económico. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  16. ^ ISABEL DOS SANTOS – SEGREDOS E PODER DO DINHEIRO Archived 15 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Filipe S. Fernandes. Documentation (Portuguese)
  17. ^ The Guardian: "Isabel dos Santos, dubbed 'princess', named Africa's first female billionaire" by David Smith 25 January 2013
  18. ^ Mail & Guardian (Zambia): "Angola: Who's who in the palace?" by Louise Redvers 2 November 2012
  19. ^ The Australian: "Angolan Africa's first woman billionaire" 25 January 2013
  20. ^ Biography at MPLA website Archived 22 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine (in Portuguese)
  21. ^ Mail & Guardian: "Angola: Who's who in the palace?" by Louise Redvers 2 November 2012
  22. ^ Garside, Juliette; Burke, Jason (19 January 2020). "Isabel dos Santos: president's daughter who became Africa's richest woman". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  23. ^ Celso Filipe, Report about Isabel dos Santos on Negócios Online, December 2008
  24. ^ "Isabel dos Santos: 'First African female billionaire'". BBC News. 25 January 2013.
  25. ^ "La Famille Dokolo : Ndona Tuluka – Nzolantima – Hanne – Manzanza – Sindika – Luzolo".
  26. ^ "Augustin Dokolo, an African entrepreneur". Retrieved 14 March 2013.
  27. ^ Дудина, Галина (Dudina, Galina) (21 January 2021). "Душа Сантуша: Как россиянка стала богатейшей женщиной Африки" [Soul of Santos: How a Russian woman became the richest woman in Africa]. Коммерсантъ (in Russian). Archived from the original on 21 January 2021. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  28. ^ "Isabel dos Santos reforça em Portugal com entrada na Zon Diário Económico, 21 December 2009 (pt)". Archived from the original on 15 March 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  29. ^ Isabel dos Santos é a 18ª figura mais poderosa da economia portuguesa Jornal de Negócios, 4 August 2011 (pt)
  30. ^ "Isabel dos Santos: o rosto de Angola". Público (in Portuguese). 20 July 2007. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  31. ^ a b "Lunch with the FT: Isabel dos Santos". Financial Times.
  32. ^ "Meet The Forbes Second Richest African Woman: Isabel dos Santos". The African Economist. 4 December 2012. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  33. ^ "All in the family: Angola president picks eldest daughter to head state oil firm, western firms scramble for contracts". MG Africa. 3 June 2016. Archived from the original on 16 February 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  34. ^ by Reuters
  35. ^ "Tribunal decreta arresto preventivo a contas e empresas de Isabel dos Santos".
  36. ^ "Angola News: Isabel dos Santos Says Asset Freeze Risks Businesses". Bloomberg L.P. 3 January 2020. Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  37. ^ "Qualified Shareholding" (PDF). CMVM. 8 May 2012.
  38. ^ "Qualified Shareholding" (PDF). CMVM. 9 May 2012.
  39. ^ Dolan, Kerry (23 January 2013). "Isabel Dos Santos, Daughter Of Angola's President, Is Africa's First Woman Billionaire". Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  40. ^ "Isabel dos Santos acquires Cineveste stake in Zon Multimedia". 6 June 2012. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  41. ^ "Angola's dos Santos becomes top Zon shareholder". 9 May 2012. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  42. ^ a b "ANNOUNCEMENT" (PDF). CMVM Official website. 14 December 2012.
  43. ^ Angola: Isabel dos Santos reinforces her presence in Portuguese firms, 9 May 2012
  44. ^ Millennium investment banking: Kento qualified holding comment 14 March 2011 (page 1)
  45. ^ "NYSE Euronext Company profile". Archived from the original on 10 July 2011.
  46. ^ Zon's shareholders unanimously approved the entry of Isabel dos Santos (pt)
  47. ^ Shareholders structure BPI 24 June 2011 (pt)
  48. ^ Bloomberg: Isabel dos Santos wants to raise stake at BPI, 22 December 2010
  49. ^ "Report on Voice of America (pt)". Archived from the original on 22 May 2011. Retrieved 15 March 2011.
  50. ^ "Banco BIC Português Official website". Archived from the original on 16 December 2012. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
  51. ^ "Qualified Shareholding" (PDF). CMVM.
  52. ^ "Announcement" (PDF). CMVM. 28 August 2013.
  53. ^ "Manager Transactions" (PDF). CMVM.
  54. ^ "Announcement" (PDF). CMVM.
  55. ^ "Optimus, Zon merger brings potential for expansion – Dos Santos". Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  56. ^ "Isabel dos Santos The strategy of the new company will be open to new geographies". Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  57. ^ Isabel dos Santos comparece na AG da Zon Optimus Retrieved 7 July 2018 (portuguese)
  58. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 31 March 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CMVM
  59. ^ NOS shareholder bids for Portugal Telecom shares Reuters, 9 November 2014
  60. ^ Dos Santos launches bid for Portugal Telecom SGPS Reuters, 1 December 2014
  61. ^ BFA Announces Board Changes Bloomberg, January 2017
  62. ^ Isabel dos Santos steps out of BPI with 80 million ECO News, 14 February 2017
  63. ^ Portuguese group Sonae authorised to open hypermarkets in Angola Aicep Portugal Global. Retrieved 27 December 2011
  64. ^ "Unitel Internacional assina contrato para ser segunda operadora em São Tomé e Príncipe". ANGOP.
  65. ^ "Unitel takes over control of T+ in Cape Verde".
  66. ^ "Africa Telecom & IT – Unitel to become second operator in Sao Tome & Principe".
  67. ^ "Unitel STP to start operating in Sao Tome and Principe this year". Macauhub English. 30 May 2013.
  68. ^ PÚBLICO. "Forbes chega este ano a Portugal e África, pela mão de Isabel dos Santos". PÚBLICO.
  69. ^ Os negócios de Isabel dos Santos em Portugal Archived 22 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  70. ^ A Angolana mais rica de Portugal, English: "The richest Angolan in Portugal",, 1 August 2012 (pt)
  71. ^ Isabel dos Santos made a fortune at the expense of the Angolan people, Luanda Leaks reveals., published 19 January 2020
  72. ^ "Luanda Leaks | Aparece muerto en Portugal el gestor financiero de Isabel dos Santos". El Confidencial (in Spanish). 23 January 2020. Retrieved 23 January 2020.

External links[edit]

Media related to Isabel dos Santos at Wikimedia Commons