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Africa’s first female billionaire £580m assets frozen in UK

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Isabel dos Santos, Africa’s first female billionaire, has had £580m of assets frozen by the UK high court.

Dos Santos, the former president of Angola’s self-exiled billionaire daughter who has long faced claims of corruption, is being sued by the Angolan telecoms company Unitel, which she founded during her father Jose Eduardo dos Santos’s 38-year reign as president. He ruled Angola until 2017, and died last year.

Under Dos Santos’ leadership, Angola became a multi-party state, although it remained controlled by him. The election held in 1992 reelected Dos Santos with 49% of the votes. His opponent, Jonas Savimbi of the National Union for Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) party, claimed that the election was fraudulent.

As of 2021, there is a two-term limit for the president in the Constitution of Angola. The term limit has not been met by any president yet.

João Lourenço is the current incumbent. He ascended to power on 26 September 2017.

Unitel asked the high court in London to grant a worldwide freezing order over her assets at a hearing last month, and that order was granted by Judge Robert Bright on Wednesday.

He gave Dos Santos until next month to provide Unitel with a disclosure of her assets, which include property in London, Monaco and Dubai. The businesswoman is thought to own a house in St Mary’s Place, close to the Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington, which is valued at about a £21m.
Unitel is suing Dos Santos over loans made to separate Dutch company Unitel International Holdings (UIH) in 2012 and 2013, when she was a Unitel director, to fund UIH’s acquisition of shares in telecoms companies. The loans were not repaid and about £300m is outstanding, according to Unitel.

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However, Dos Santos claims to be the victim of a “campaign of oppression” by the Angolan state and accuses Unitel of being itself responsible for UIH’s inability to repay the loans because of its alleged role in Angola’s unlawful seizure of UIH assets.


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