Angolan billionaire and former first daughter Isabel Dos Santos decried a the allegations of corruption leveled against her which prompted a New Year’s Eve court order to freeze her vast assets as a “witch hunt” engineered to weaken her father’s influence and distract from economic failures.
Dos Santos, named Africa’s richest woman by Forbes with a fortune estimated at over $2 billion, is a highly divisive figure in Angola, where she is nicknamed “the Princess”. Supporters see an inspirational entrepreneur while detractors say she embodies the kind of nepotism and corruption that has hamstrung the continent.
Since President Joao Lourenco succeeded dos Santos’s father José Eduardo in 2017, after a nearly four-decade grip on power, he has cracked down on the role of his predecessor’s children in state enterprises. He fired dos Santos from her job chairing oil firm Sonangol and her brother from the sovereign wealth fund.
In the latest step of what Angolan authorities say is one of Africa’s most successful anti-corruption drives, dos Santos’s assets were frozen on Dec. 31, threatening to turn a titan of African business into a pariah.
In an interview with Reuters, the 46-year-old rejected the corruption allegations leveled at her.
“This is a political trial, you have a persecuting state and servile and partisan magistrates. Then you have a woman who has been chosen to set an example as a scapegoat. That’s me.” Dos Santos told Reuters in an interview in London.
“In an attempt to mask and distract people from the real economic challenges, (Lourenco) is praising this very selective witch hunt that he is portraying as a fight against corruption.”
The Angolan government and the state prosecutor’s office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Court documents allege dos Santos and her husband steered payments of more than $1 billion from Sonangol and official diamond trading group Sodiam to companies in which they held stakes.
Dos Santos said she and her colleagues were not contacted about any investigation or asked to provide any defense, and she learned of the court action via journalists over WhatsApp.
Prosecutors pushed the case forward based on “lies, false testimony and also false documents”, she said.