The daughter of the second president of Angola, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, is called the richest woman in Africa. Receiving rent from African oil and diamonds, the “Angolan princess” preferred to live in Europe and the United Arab Emirates. But at the same time, until recently, she hid Russian citizenship acquired by birthright in the USSR. And now a passport with a double-headed eagle can come in handy for her.
The clouds over the 49-year-old mulatto began to thicken after the resignation of her father in 2017 from the post of President of Angola, which he held for 38 years. Retiring from business, José dos Santos left behind a successor – his former Minister of Defense João Lourenço. In his first presidential term, Laurence, apparently, tried to somehow cover the family of his former patron. But elections in August showed that the dos Santos family, which lives in grand style, has become toxic to the ruling Labor Party in Angola. After that, Lourenço, who barely held on to his post, seemed to decide that his shirt was closer: the Angolan prosecutor’s office said that it had applied to Interpol about the detention of the former president’s daughter. Therefore, it is unlikely that Isabel dos Santos will now be comfortable in Europe, where she is considered the keeper of corrupt billions. In such a situation, moving to Russia, to her historical homeland, can be a salvation for her.
Baku – Luanda – London
The richest woman in Africa is connected with Russia by her mother, Tatyana Kukanova from Penza. The parents of the “African Princess” met in Baku in the mid-60s, where they studied together at the Institute of Oil and Chemistry. Eduardo dos Santos was a prominent guy and also an activist – he headed a Marxist circle. The daughter was born in an international family in 1973, and soon her parents went with her to Angola.
In 1975, Angola gained independence from Portugal, becoming an arena for geopolitical games between the USSR, the USA and South Africa. Dos Santos was active in the Labor Party, dealing with international relations. There was no place for a Russian wife in the Angolan military everyday life of her husband – Tatyana, along with her daughter, was sent away from the vicissitudes of the civil war. Only not to Moscow or Baku, but to the UK.
In 1979, the couple divorced. While her father, becoming president, strengthened communist power in Africa, little Isabelle graduated from a prestigious school in London, and then one of the best universities – King’s College London. Then she went to Angola, to her father, who was just at the peak of his power.
It was the mid 90s outside. The USSR collapsed, Angola could no longer count on Moscow’s help. It is not surprising that the Marxist dos Santos changed his views and decided to build capitalism. My daughter also showed interest in entrepreneurship. They say that her first investment was the acquisition of a share in a beach restaurant, the owner of which was glad to receive such a “roof”. Although in London Isabelle was mainly interested in the arts and fashion, in Africa she did not hesitate to invest in a garbage collection company. It is difficult to say how successful these first steps in business were, but they certainly did not bring fabulous wealth.
However, the “African princess” obviously did not have to think about how to support herself. In 2002, she married the offspring of a wealthy Congo family, Sindika Dokolo, the son of a Congolese oligarch. The wedding was held in Angola with state honors, and was attended by the heads of friendly dos Santos of neighboring countries. It was after her marriage to Sindica Dokolo that Isabel dos Santos became the owner of a business empire in Angola at the suggestion of her father. It is known that the Dokolo family owned many profitable assets. Back in the 80s, Sindika’s father owned 17 companies in Zaire (banks, real estate, coffee production, logistics, insurance, car sales, etc.). However, then all this property was nationalized by the local authorities. Then the family of the magnate moved to the capital of Angola, Luanda, and began to build a new network. The future husband of the presidential daughter was a member of the board of the Angolan cement company, owned shares in the Portuguese gasoline business. He invested in diamonds, oil, real estate, telecoms in Africa, and also owned a stake in the Swiss jewelry company Grisogono. Now the Angolan opposition says that the deals of the son-in-law of the former president with Angolan companies were very suspicious. For example, Dokolo made millions by working with the Angolan state-owned diamond company Sodiam. In 2020, an African billionaire was widowed: her husband was fond of diving and died while diving in the Red Sea. What she inherited from her husband is a mystery behind seven seals. But this is clearly enough for a comfortable life.
However, the main claims against dos Santos are related to corruption. For example, her father simply appointed her the head of the state oil company Sonangol. Isabelle also had shares in several Portuguese companies. Forbes claimed that foreign investors took the president’s daughter into shares in order to be able to do business in Angola. Now the accusations against Isabelle dos Santos and her late husband are pouring in from a cornucopia. Moreover, a couple is accused not only of embezzling assets and withdrawing funds to offshore companies, but also of exporting corruption. Portuguese bankers and consultants from well-known international financial firms McKinsey and PwC have come to light in the organization of muddy schemes. They, of course, hastened to declare that they no longer cooperate with the family of the former president of Angola.
An Angolan court has already arrested $1.1 billion worth of shares in various companies registered to Isabel dos Santos and her late husband. Including stakes in the mobile operator Unitel and in several banks. It is alleged that the money for their acquisition was received as a result of the withdrawal of funds from the state-owned company Sonangol. However, for Isabelle dos Santos, who lives in the Emirates, the main threat now comes from European financial authorities and journalists. Its assets in the Old World are estimated at more than two billion dollars. A court in the Netherlands has already frozen shares in the Portuguese oil company Galp worth $550 million, which Isabel dos Santos owned through shell companies. Meanwhile, the mobile company Unitel filed a British court against the daughter of the ex-president (who owns 25% of the company’s shares). It is alleged that its structures have taken loans from the company since 2012 and did not pay them back. The amount of the claim is $430 million. The value of the assets blocked or nationalized by Portugal and the Netherlands, combined, is about $1.3 billion, Forbes calculated. The rest of the “Angolan princess’s” property – houses, yacht, cash and jewelry – could be worth about $400 million.
Will Isabel dos Santos be able to use this freely in freedom? Is not a fact. In 2021, her brother José Filumeno dos Santos was imprisoned for five years in an Angolan prison for embezzling $500 million from the National Welfare Fund, which he directed. If Interpol does receive an arrest warrant from Angola for Isabel dos Santos, then she will have little choice of asylum. In fact, only the Constitution of Russia can guarantee her non-extradition to other states. Since a few years ago, Isabelle admitted: she is a citizen of Russia! The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that dos Santos has a Russian passport. At the same time, making it clear that there is nothing strange here – she was born on the territory of the USSR, has a Russian mother, so everything is legal. Another question is what was left behind the scenes when exactly dos Santos received citizenship. However, how many dubious people have received a Russian passport in recent years, immediately forgetting about it as soon as it ceased to be profitable.
For many years, the status of the richest Russian woman (with a fortune of $ 1.3 billion) was held by Elena Baturina. But after the resignation of her husband from the post of mayor of Moscow, and then his death, she gradually lost her business empire. In recent years, Tatyana Bakalchuk, the founder of the Wildberries marketplace, has taken Baturina’s place on the Olympus of the richest women in Russia. A couple of years ago, her business was valued at $13 billion, but now the quotes have fallen and Bakalchuk’s assets are worth only about $2 billion. So Isabel dos Santos, having, according to some sources, a capital of $ 1.4 billion, actually ranks second in the ranking of the richest citizens of the Russian Federation. However, according to other sources, the capital of dos Santos is $ 2.2 billion, which makes her the richest Russian woman.