Luanda – Angolan national media reported on Friday that a businessman with ties to the country’s previous political elite was sentenced to nine years in prison for a fraud scam around $900 million (817 million euros).
According to state radio, Carlos Manuel de Sao Vicente was also fined $4.5 million after being convicted of embezzlement, money laundering, and tax fraud.
This is one of the harshest sanctions imposed in the oil-rich southern African country for corruption.
President Joao Lourenco has initiated an anti-corruption campaign to reclaim assets allegedly misappropriated by his predecessor, Jose Eduardo dos Santos.
During Dos Santos’ nearly four-decade leadership, De Sao Vicente was suspected of fraudulently gaining shares in the AAA Seguros insurance firm, as well as illegally benefiting from insurance scams in the oil industry.
He was a director of AAA Seguros, which was founded by the Angolan state oil corporation Sonangol.
During Angola’s oil boom, AAA Seguros sold insurance to Sonangol.
De Sao Vicente, who maintains his innocence, has been jailed at the notorious Viana prison in Luanda’s capital since September 2021.
He is married to Irene Neto, the daughter of Angola’s first president, Agostinho Neto, and a former deputy minister.
The allegation has spurred legal action in Switzerland, where De Sao Vicente is suspected of depositing $900 million at the Geneva-based Banque SYZ.
On suspicion of money laundering, Swiss authorities frozen that sum in his accounts in 2018, one of the largest personal asset freezes in Swiss history.
Part of the freezing was lifted last year by a Swiss court, citing inadequate evidence.
In addition to any other assets in Angola, more than $1 billion linked to the Angolan businessman and his business organization has been investigated in Switzerland.
Authorities in Angola have seized buildings and hotels held by his insurance company, AAA Seguros.