Sister’s diamond role puts spotlight back on Lourenco family

Angola President João Lourenço

Angola President João Lourenço

from PEDRO AGOSTO in Luanda, Angola
LUANDA, (CAJ News) THE listing of President Joao Lourenco’s sister as a shareholder in Angola’s major diamond company has put the spotlight back on the First Family’s links to state wealth and punches holes into his proclamation as a proponent of anti-corruption.

It gives credence to sentiment by critics that his crusade against graft is only a continuation of the nepotism afflicting politics in one of Africa’s most resource-endowed countries.

Edith Sacramento Gonçalves Lourenço Catraio, sister to the president, is a shareholder at the Angola Diamond Corporation (Dicorp), following the company’s adjustment of its shareholder structure.

A diplomat, who throughout her career worked in Belgium, Spain, and former colonial master Portugal, she is involved in two separate diamond mining companies registered in Angola and Luxemburg.

There is possibly a third registered in Switzerland.

With global problems in the oil industry, diamonds are seen as a buffer as Angola’s revenues have declined in recent years. Angola is Africa’s second biggest producer of crude oil, after Nigeria.

Analysts pointed out that on assuming the presidency in Angola, after succeeding the long-serving Jose Eduardo dos Santos in 2007, Lourenco was an opponent to his forerunner’s trend of letting his family and inner circle benefit from lucrative deals in the diamond industry.

Upon assuming power in the country, rated as the world’s fourth largest producer of diamonds, Lourenco removed some of dos Santos’ children from their positions in state companies.

Jose Filomeno dos Santos was fired from the helm of Angola’s sovereign wealth fund shortly after Lourenco came to power. He spent months in prison during a probe into alleged corruption before the state’s case collapsed.

Isabel dos Santos, the eldest and arguably the most prominent of the former president’s children, was axed as chairwoman of state oil firm Sonangol. She has previously been summoned to answer questions about alleged malpractice during her time at Sonangol.

Local sociopolitical commentator Maico Borba accused Lourenco of selective application of the law.

“The so-called crusade against graft is wrought with double standards,” he said.

“The fact that members of the previous first family were axed from state positions yet those with ties to the current president, like his sister at the diamond company, gives credibility to view the purges were a ploy by Lourenco to strengthen his power and rid the ruling party and government of dos Santos’ influence.”

Lourenco and his family have recently faced accusations of corruption.

The president and his wife, Ana Afonso Dias Lourenço, own a five-bedroom home in the affluent Maryland suburb of Bethesda, northwest of Washington. The property was purchased in 2013 for some £1.73 million (slightly over $2 million).

The Lourencos are believed to be the largest landowners in Angola, most prominently owning a multimillion-dollar 2,000-hectare farm.

Last month Africa Intelligence, a think-tank, linked Lourenco to a controversial US Republican operative, Elliot Broidy, who has been investigated by the US Department of Justice for alleged influence peddling and lobbying on behalf of foreign governments. He is also under investigation in Ukraine and has previously pleaded guilty to bribery.

Among his controversies, Broidy also attempted to meet Lourenco, while he was Angola’s Minister of Defence, alongside an Angolan intelligence director. Africa Intelligence got hold of an email by the beleaguered Broidy confirming the invitation to the meeting.

Dated 29 December 2016, it is addressed to Rachel Kelley of the Government Publishing Office.

It reads: “As we discussed, I am inviting two foreign nationals who are government officials.”

He goes on to name Lourenco and Andre De Oliviera Joao Sango, then the Angola Director of External Intelligence, who Lourenco dismissed last year.

Another letter, this time by Erica Hilliard, undersigned as Broidy’s assistant, dated 15 January 2017, confirms the meeting for the following Tuesday (possibly the 19th). The letter confirms Lourenco and Sango as business clients of the Broidy-owned company Circunus.

Addressed to Chloe Pickle, US Senate Director Of Scheduling, the letter states that “to assist Angola in its counter-terrorism efforts, Circunus is providing access to their Open Source Intelligence Centre and providing dedicated analysts for Angola.”

While speaking at a recent swearing-in ceremony of deputy inspectors at the State General Inspection (IGAE), Lourenco lauded the organisation for its increasingly efficient committed to crackdown on corruption, nepotism, and other practices harmful to society.

“Fortunately we managed to have an active State General Inspection, whose results have been evident,” he said.

– CAJ News

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