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Isabel dos Santos, has had £580m of assets frozen by the UK high court.


Isabel dos Santos, the former president of Angola’s self-exiled billionaire daughter who has long faced claims of corruption, has had £580m of assets frozen by the UK high court.

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Dos Santos, Africa’s first female billionaire, 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.

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.

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.

Unitel denies any involvement in the alleged asset seizure and said at last month’s hearing that Dos Santos is trying to turn the case into “another battle in a PR war against her father’s successor”, João Lourenço.

Concerns about the source of Dos Santos’s wealth were raised by an investigation in 2020 by the Guardian and journalists from partner organisations in 20 countries, which was based on a huge tranche of confidential documents.

The Luanda Leaks investigation, led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, suggested Dos Santos had benefited from extraordinary opportunities afforded to her by her father’s government.

Dos Santos and her husband, the businessman and art collector Sindika Dokolo, said computers belonging to their employees and legal advisers had been hacked and claimed to be subjects of a politically motivated witch-hunt led by Lourenço. They rejected any allegation of wrongdoing and denied being financed by state money.

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