A Portuguese banker was found dead after being identified as a suspect in a fraud case against Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s former president.
Nuno Ribeiro da Cunha, 45 years old, apparently hanged himself and had attempted suicide earlier this month, Lisbon police said. His death came after Angola prosecutors identified him Wednesday at a press conference in Luanda, the African nation’s capital, as a suspect in a wide-ranging investigation of alleged money laundering and fraud by Ms. dos Santos.
She and three business associates were also named suspects.
Mr. Ribeiro da Cunha was a private-banking director at EuroBic, a Portuguese bank that Ms. dos Santos partly owns, according to press reports in Portugal. His body was discovered Wednesday in a garage in an upscale Lisbon neighborhood, police said in a statement Thursday. Representatives for EuroBic didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Prosecutors in Angola allege that Ms. dos Santos and others carried out transactions with government-owned companies that resulted in a $1.14 billion loss for the state. In December, an Angola court froze her assets in the country, according to a court order reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The allegations are “completely unfounded,” Ms. dos Santos said earlier this week in a statement.
“I have always operated within the law and all my commercial transactions have been approved by lawyers, banks, auditors and regulators,” she said. “I am ready to fight through the international courts to defend my good name.”
Prosecutors in Angola allege that Isabel dos Santos and others carried out transactions with government-owned companies that resulted in a $1.14 billion loss for the state.
Mikhail Metzel/TASS/Getty Images
On Sunday, news outlets including the New York Times and BBC began a series of reports about Ms. dos Santos’s business empire, based on what they said were more than 700,000 leaked documents. The reports have focused on how Ms. dos Santos allegedly got preferential access when her father, José Eduardo dos Santos, was president to invest in land, oil, diamond and telecommunications deals and then shielded her riches with assistance from consulting firms, law firms and Portuguese banks. Forbes estimates her wealth at $2.1 billion.
At EuroBic, Mr. Ribeiro da Cunha allegedly approved $58 million in payments from the Angola state oil company, Sonangol, to companies linked to Ms. dos Santos in November 2017, according to a report by Quartz, citing leaked documents and bank statements. That month, Ms. dos Santos was dismissed as Sonangol’s chief executive.
Ms. dos Santos’s father was president of Angola for 38 years until September 2017. His successor, João Lourenço, launched an anticorruption drive, and Angola prosecutors have also investigated other dos Santos family members and their associates.
On Wednesday, EuroBic said Ms. dos Santos would sell her stake in the bank “in the very short term.” Earlier this week, it said it would terminate commercial relationships with entities controlled by Ms. dos Santos and her close associates and would investigate earlier transactions.
Ms. dos Santos, 46, was born in the Soviet Union, where her father was studying engineering. She earned her degree in the same field at King’s College London and returned to Angola in the early 1990s during a lull in the country’s civil war.
In 2016, the Journal reported that some members of the European Parliament had raised questions about the purchase of a majority stake in a company in Portugal, where Ms. dos Santos has many investments. They suspected that the Angolan state might have indirectly financed major acquisitions for Ms. dos Santos, according to a letter they sent to the European Commission.
Ms. dos Santos denied the allegation, telling the Journal that she started Miami Beach, now one of Luanda’s most expensive nightclubs, with some savings. Her business empire grew from there.
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