José Filomeno and his links to Mauritius and Quantum Global
In Aug 2020 Angola’s Supreme Court convicted the son of the former president and the former governor of the central bank of embezzling $500 million from the country’s central bank in 2017.
José Filomeno dos Santos was sentenced to five years in prison Friday for participating in a convoluted plot to defraud the National Bank of Angola in the final weeks of his father’s 38-year rule of the southern African country. The former governor, Valter Filipe da Silva, who authorized the $500 million transfer from the central bank’s account in London to the HSBC Holdings PLC account of a private company with no apparent operations, was sentenced to eight years.
This story however takes us to another scandal in Mauritius 2018. The newspaper Lexpress.mu picks up the threads with their 7 Feb 2020, reminder in an article titled “Luanda Leaks and beyond: Mauritius and the fall of the Dos Santos Empire”,[ https://www.lexpress.mu/node/369730] and extracted below
Shortly after Isabel was heaved out of Sonangol, her half-brother, José Filomeno dos Santos, was also fired in January 2018 as the head of Angola’s sovereign wealth fund – the Fundo Soberano de Angola (FSDEA) – that controlled $5 billion.
José Filomeno earmarked $3 billion of the fund to be managed by his close friend, Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, who ran the Quantum Global group.
Bastos de Morais tried setting up shop in Jersey and the Isle of Man but was refused due to his links with José Filomeno and the likelihood that the company would be dealing in money coming from corruption-prone Angola.
Plus, Bastos de Morais himself came with a chequered past: a Swiss court had fined him $5,390 for improperly approving loans and he was also given a suspended fine of $188,646 and found guilty of withdrawing $100,000 from a company account without authorisation. Refused everywhere else, Bastos de Morais found a ready welcome in Mauritius where the legal firms, management companies and some local banks were more than happy to do business with him. Bastos de Morais’ company, Quantum Global, got $63.2 million in fees from the FSDEA in 2015 and the money circulated from one company within the group to another.
The gravy train ended, however, with the sacking of José Filomeno dos Santos’ as the head of FSDEA. Like his half-sister, José Filomeno also tried a last-minute withdrawal from the state company he was supposed to run before he got the boot.
UK regulators blocked a $500 million transfer from the accounts of the FSDEA into another account. While José Filomeno was arrested for attempted fraud, his partner, Bastos de Morais’ Mauritius-based Quantum Global saw the heat turned up.
In April 2018, an Angolan official travelled to Mauritius to get the Mauritian government to act against the Quantum Global group, which the Angolan authorities claimed was involved in the corruption.
This came as a major embarrassment to the Mauritian authorities. They could no longer pretend this was all business as usual – Mauritius was already criticised for being an offshore tax haven benefitting at the expense of other developing countries, and now the country getting embroiled in a corruption scandal involving the family of the former Angolan president only seemed to confirm that view.
And so following the visit by the Angolan official, the Supreme Court directed the financial services regulator, the Financial Services Commission, to suspend the licences of seven offshore firms linked to Quantum Global and the court froze 91 bank accounts peppered across the major banks in the country, linked to the group. As Quantum Global threatened Mauritian authorities with international arbitration, the matter was brought to an abrupt end. Bastos de Morais was arrested by the Angolan authorities, joining José Filomeno dos Santos in prison.
In March 2019, Bastos de Morais was released in a quid pro quo deal that saw the Angolan authorities agreeing to drop all charges against him and Quantum Global and in return the FSDEA would get back all its money.
Following Bastos de Morais’ release, the Angolan authorities announced that they had recovered $3.35 billion in assets formerly controlled by his company, including $2.35 billion held in bank accounts in Mauritius and the UK and another $1 billion in real estate holdings.
José Filomeno, the son of the former president, Eduardo dos Santos, (himself in comfortable retirement in an up-scale residence in Barcelona), however, still faces trial over the attempted $500 million transfer out of the FSDEA.
Meanwhile, the Mauritian authorities quietly lifted the restrictions on Quantum Global in Mauritius and simply pretended that nothing had happened.
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