Africa’s richest woman, nicknamed Angola’s Instagram ‘Princess’, who is at the centre of a billion dollar corruption scandal says a bogus passport using martial artist Bruce Lee’s signature is being used to frame her.
Isabel dos Santos, daughter of Angola’s former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, is the target of a major probe into financial wrongdoing which has seen her assets frozen, along with those of her Congolese husband.
She is accused of siphoning off millions of dollars of public money from deals involving diamonds, oil and telecoms during her father’s 38-year rule.
The 47-year-old, who has 223,000 Instagram followers and socialises with celebrities like Rita Ora and Nicole Scherzinger, claimed that prosecutors used dodgy emails and a bogus passport made by an internet scammer to prove her wrongdoing.
In addition to having the signature of the late Seventies martial arts star rather than hers, the passport showed two different serial numbers, the wrong date of birth and information in English when Angolan documents are in Portuguese, she said.
Insisting she is innocent, Mrs dos Santos claimed her fortune was ‘built on my character, my intelligence, education, capacity for work, perseverance’.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, English-educated Mrs dos Santos, owner of a £13million home in Kensington, West London, said the Angolan and Portuguese courts had relied on ‘fabricated evidence’ to pin blame on her.
‘It appears that a well-orchestrated state campaign has been waged against me,’ she told MailOnline. ‘It’s ridiculous that Portugal, a senior EU country, should seize assets based on the Angolan state’s reliance on a passport that a child could see is a fake.
‘Evidence has been fabricated on the back of sham emails and the signature of a beloved but long dead movie star. This is not right and my assets should be released as a matter of urgency.’
Last year, Angolan courts charged Mrs dos Santos, who was educated at Cobham Hall girls’ boarding school in Kent and King’s College London, with a long list of crimes including embezzlement and money laundering, allegedly committed during her time at the helm of the state oil giant Sonangol.
She and her husband, art collector Sindika Dokolo, 48, were accused of steering payments of more than $1billion (£800,000) from publicly-owned company to firms in which they held stakes, before moving it out of the country.
Their accounts were frozen in Angola in December. Portuguese prosecutors followed suit in February after she was accused of corruption during her time at Sonangol.
Evidence included emails that seemed to show Mrs dos Santos contacting Japanese businesses, offering to invest €1billion as a way of getting embezzled funds out of Angola. Her passport was apparently scanned to prove she was genuine.
But the emails were simply sent by a shady Middle Eastern fraudster who faked the passport to con the Japanese – and the court took the documents at face value, she said.
Alvaro Joao, spokesman for Angola’s public prosecutor, dismissed the accusations as a ‘comedy’. He said: ‘The passport is not a sufficient document for a magistrate to order… (a halt to) banking operations.’
An international arrest warrant for Mrs dos Santos could be issued if she failed to cooperate with the investigation, the prosecutor added, pointing out that the Portuguese court had not relied on the questionable documents.
The colourful socialite, whose father ruled Angola with an iron fist for 38 years, built up a vast business empire over the past two decades, with stakes in several Angolan and Portuguese companies. She has spoken of her hopes to become president in 2022.
Mrs dos Santos left Angola in 2017 when her father stepped down and spends her time between London and Dubai, though her current whereabouts are a closely guarded secret.
Angola has vast mineral and petroleum reserves but its wealth is concentrated in the hands of a ruling elite. Among the general population, life expectancy is among the lowest in the world and infant mortality is among the highest.
A consortium of investigative journalists, after analysing a trove of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents, accused the former first daughter of looting state coffers during her father’s nearly four-decade rule.
The leaked documents appeared to reveal how she secured access to lucrative deals involving diamonds, telecoms, oil and land, cutting shady deals that allowed her and her husband to purchase valuable assets belonging to the state.