Banker implicated in money laundering scandal hangs himself

Scrutiny, charges, and ‘Luanda Leaks’ expose perpetrators, bankers, enablers

The long and powerful reach of Isabel dos Santos may be coming to an ignominious end. And her alleged enablers—including bankers—are feeling the heat.

Dos Santos, the billionaire daughter of the former ruler of oil-rich Angola, is finally facing intense scrutiny related to allegations of money laundering and corruption. On Wednesday, a Portuguese banker implicated in the massive Angolan money laundering scandal hanged himself in his home, according to Portuguese authorities.

Prior to his death, Nuno Ribeiro da Cunha had been the head of private banking at Lisbon-headquartered EuroBic. He had been named in the investigation implicating dos Santos, who currently holds a 42.5 percent stake of the bank.

Dos Santos’ father had ruled Angola for 38 years before stepping down in 2017. During his rule, he appointed his daughter to various powerful posts, including head of the state oil company. Angolan officials are seeking to recover more than $1 billion in money they allege was stolen and laundered by Isabel dos Santos and her cronies and enablers.

In recent decades, Portugal had become a favorite location for Angolans moving money out of the country. Money laundering accusations have dogged many of the massive investments in Portuguese properties and businesses by Angolan nationals. And Portugal has been frequently criticized for lax AML enforcement and weak anti-corruption measures.

The relationship became especially complex over the last two decades as Angolan oil wealth surged and the Portuguese economy struggled. The New York Times reported in 2017 that for many in Portugal, the infusion of massive amounts of investment from wealthy Angolans helped prop up the economy during a very rough patch.

But others around Europe and the world have pressed Portugal to step up its standards and enforcement related to AML Compliance requirements and anti-bribery measures. Groups and individuals have criticized the country for allowing itself to be a money laundromat for vast sums of wealth allegedly stolen from the African country it had formerly colonized.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has posted a range of stories on the corruption and theft of state resources in Angola. And it has also published a trove of documents it has named the Luanda Leaks.

The consortium earlier this week accused Isabel dos Santos of using “unscrupulous deals” to build her fortune, which is estimated at more than $2 billion. The consortium based its allegations on more than 715,000 confidential financial and business records provided by the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa, an advocacy group based in Paris. Journalists also conducted hundreds of interviews. Various banks, bankers, and accountants have been implicated by the documents in the leaks.

Notably, dos Santos has lived a life of extreme luxury while citizens of Angola live in abject poverty.

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