Angolan Justice Minister Announces Recovery of More Than $5 Billion Stolen from Angolan Government

On December 17, Reuters reported that Angolan Minister of Justice Francisco Queiroz announced that in 2019 Angola had recovered more than $5 billion that had been stolen from state funds, both in Angola and elsewhere.  Speaking at the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in Abu Dhabi, Queiroz reportedly stated that the money, which included $3 billion stolen from Angola’s sovereign wealth fund, “had been siphoned off by corruption and money-laundering.”

While Queiroz did not specify how the money was stolen, he declared that “[w]e have argued insistently that these important resources should be returned unconditionally to the countries from which they were illegally withdrawn in order to be used to improve the quality of life of our populations.”  In a separate statement, the Angolan Government disclosed that “a business partner” had returned more than $3 billion allegedly stolen from the sovereign wealth fund.

Queiroz also stated, according to the Angolan Government’s website, that the Government, led by President João Lourenço, “has chosen the fight against corruption and impunity as the main axes of the political agenda. As a result, he said, a genuine crusade against corruption and related phenomena is under way, with a greater focus on crimes involving managers and public officials.”  He added “that as a result of prevention, through campaigns of moralization, awareness and education, programs in the media, there is an awareness of the evil that represents corruption in the country.”

N.B.:  Queiroz’s announcement provides a notable benchmark for the Angolan government’s efforts against deeply entrenched corruption since 2017, when Lourenço succeeded José Eduardo dos Santos as Angola’s President after nearly four decades of dos Santos’s autocratic rule.  Thus far, Lourenço’s campaign has included the ouster of dos Santos’s son José Filomeno dos Santos as head of the sovereign wealth fund and dos Santos’s daughter Isabel dos Santos as head of the state-owned oil company Sonangol, as well as the head of the Angolan army and the head of Angola’s foreign intelligence agency.  More recently, on December 9 José dos Santos appeared before the Angolan Supreme Court, together with three co-defendants, on charges of money laundering and embezzlement.

Lourenço’s early anti-corruption actions may have left some observers skeptical that his campaign was more of a vendetta against the dos Santos regime and less of a genuine systematic anti-corruption campaign.  With these latest developments, however, there is reason to hope that that campaign is sincerely intended and sustainable.

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