Image: José Eduardo dos Santos, the former president of Angola, died in Spain in July 2022, triggering a family feud over repatriating his body. Source: The New York Times. - Photo: 2022

Long Sentences in Corruption Trial for Angolan Ex-President’s Soldiers and Bankers

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) — Dozens of former soldiers who performed illegal services for Angola’s ex-president Jose Eduardo dos Santos received jail terms for up to 14 years for fraud and embezzlement in a closely-watched high profile mass corruption trial.

In addition to the soldiers who went on trial in June were bankers and hundreds of “ghost” employees who remained on the government payroll between 2008 and 2018.

“It was proven that the state was seriously damaged because of… the continued illegal activities, so this court found them guilty,” said Judge Andrade da Silva at the ruling. A total of 202 witnesses testified against the group.

The salaries paid to the ghost military workers cost the government some 38 billion kwanzas ($77 million), the court found. The ruling was the latest in efforts to clean up the trail of corruption that ended the era of the dos Santos clan.

Some of the army officers were accused of keeping stashes of foreign and local currency found in boxes and suitcases by Angolan prosecutors earlier last year.

Investigators found four million US dollars and 391,000 euros in cash at two Luanda properties owned by army major Pedro Lussaty. He was also found in possession of 30 watches worth $600,000, the judge said.

The sheer number of defendants and witnesses forced the trial to be moved to a larger venue, located about 19 miles south of the capital Luanda.

More than 30 lawyers defended the accused who indicated they will appeal the convictions and sentences.

The epicentre of the crimes was the office of the secretary-general in the presidency.

President Joao Lourenco, a former general, came to power in 2017 promising to tackle rampant corruption that took root under his predecessor Dos Santos.

He was re-elected after a narrow win in an August vote that was disputed by the main opposition party UNITA.

Dos Santos died in July in Barcelona, weeks after suffering cardiorespiratory arrest. He was accused of appointing family and friends to key positions during his 38-year rule including his son, Jose Filomeno do Santos, former head of the country’s sovereign wealth fund—found guilty of embezzlement and influence peddling—and his daughter, Isabel, whose assets and bank accounts were seized by the court. Over $1 billion is reportedly owed by Isabel dos Santos and her associates to national accounts.

A controversial figure, dos Santos received many international awards for his commitment to anti-colonialism and promotion of peace negotiations with Western-backed anti-communist rebels, most notably UNITA. He was also praised for improving Angola’s economy and attracting significant foreign investment.

Later, he was criticized as having been a dictator and was accused of creating one of the most corrupt regimes in Africa, with a deeply entrenched patronage network. [IDN-InDepthNews — 03 December 2022]

Image: José Eduardo dos Santos, the former president of Angola, died in Spain in July 2022, triggering a family feud over repatriating his body. Source: The New York Times.

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