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October 28, 2020
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Risk Assessment Agency: ‘Isabel dos Santos is a Victim of Political Persecution’

EXX Africa: “Asset freezing seems to be politically motivated”

Risk analysis agency report points out that Isabel dos Santos could be the victim of something similar to the so-called “Lawfare”, an abusive legal war to annihilate political opponents.

Risk assessment firm EXX Africa has published a report analyzing the government’s anti-corruption strategy in Angola. The text concludes that ongoing trials and investigations in the country would not be based on impartial procedures, thus “politically motivated”.

The business and financial consulting study, which has offices in London and Johannesburg, is dedicated to clients who already have or intend to open businesses in Angola. The director of the agency pointed out to DW Africa that there are unanswered questions in the case of the freezing of the assets of businesswoman Isabel dos Santos. Robert Besseling understands that some investigations seem generic in relation to evidence and the object itself.

The freezing of Isabel dos Santos’s assets, according to Besseling, seems to be “politically motivated.” “They [the Government] seem to be pressuring associates, family and businesswoman to relinquish assets of key companies in Angola and elsewhere just as there is a privatization agenda where the Government is looking to sell a large portion of holdings in the economy and for which the Dos Santos family would also be interested, “said the political economist.

In the report, EXX Africa also questions the “peculiar moment” at which the announcement of the asset freeze was made: on New Year’s Eve. He believes that because of the lack of stronger journalism on political facts at that time, “history made headlines for a week at various media companies around the world,” says Besseling.

Besseling was keen to point out that none of the consultant’s clients are directly linked to Isabel dos Santos’s companies, and the focus of the consultant’s analysis is corruption, governance, privatization and economic stability in Angola.

Victim of “Lawfare”?

Although the report does not mention the term “Lawfare” – used by legal experts in cases of strategic or abusive use of judicial channels to create impediments and restrictions on political opponents – the director of EXX Africa thinks there is a content to this tactic in the case. 

“I agree that the Angolan judicial system seems to be used with political motivations as an instrument or weapon,” he argues.

In the particular case of freezing Isabel dos Santos’ assets, the analyst argues that the Angolan judicial system “would be used as an instrument to try to convince the Dos Santos family and members of former governments to divest themselves of economic interest in key companies. and state enterprises “. Besseling agrees that “there is a tendency for this [Lawfare], which is relevant in this case.”

MPLA MP, rapporteur of the Capital Repatriation Law, João Pinto, however disagreed that it is a case of persecution of a political opponent for the abusive and improper use of legal resources.

Pinto is also a law professor at Agostinho Neto University and thinks that the goal of the Angolan justice and government initiatives is to pay debts to the state in a context of political transition aimed at opening the market.

“It’s better to negotiate”

Pinto recalls that “Lawfare” is a war strategy to eliminate a concrete opponent. For him, what is happening is a legal requirement, not a definite strategy to achieve “a” or “b”.

“It is a requirement of the law on repatriation [capital]. In this process, what is there is a businesswoman of great national and international impact who is in a situation that the state requires to collaborate,” says the parliamentarian.

Amid the pressure on billionaire Isabel dos Santos, Joao Pinto advises: “There is nothing better than negotiating, because corruption issues are not resolved so well only in the courts. Where there is confusion, money runs away,” he says.

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