Angola: President’s son dips into sovereign fund for ‘trophy’ Savile Row office

The son of Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos is again at the centre of controversy following reports that the Angolan Sovereign Wealth Fund he effectively controls has invested R3-billion in a ­“trophy” property in London’s Mayfair district.

Africa Confidential reported that the fund, chaired by the president’s son José Filomeno, had spent £220-million on an office complex in the exclusive Savile Row.

The fund was officially set up by Dos Santos in October last year using Angola’s oil revenues, with the stated purpose of investing in the country’s infrastructure and accumulating savings for future generations.

However, it is widely seen as a way of bolstering his son’s patronage base, possibly in preparation for him to succeed to the presidency.

Africa Confidential reported that Plaza Global Real Estate had bought the property in question, a 9 570m2 office block at 23 Savile Row.

It remarked that the purchase had “caused some surprise, since half of Angola’s population lives below the poverty line and its human development indicators are among the world’s worst”.

The publication said that Plaza Global was a joint venture of Quantum Global Real Estate and LaSalle Investment Management, which acted on behalf of the Angolan fund in the Mayfair purchase.

Swiss-based Quantum Global was controversially chosen to manage the sovereign wealth fund’s $5-billion in assets. Quantum is owned by Ernst Welteke, a former German central banker and José Filomeno’s friend and ­ex-partner at Angola’s only investment bank, Banco Kwanza Invest.

Its advisory board includes another friend of José Filomeno, Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, a native of the oil-rich region of Cabinda, who grew up in Switzerland.

In 2011, De Morais was convicted in the Swiss canton of Zug of “repeated qualified criminal mismanagement” of companies and fined 4 500 Swiss francs (R50 600), with a suspended fine of 160 000 Swiss francs.

There has been much adverse comment on Dos Santos’ junior conflicted role in the wealth fund. In addition, he has been criticised for presiding over a fund that answers only to the president, not to Angola’s Parliament, which is constitutionally responsible for such oversight.

Banco Kwanza Invest announced recently that José Filomeno had resigned as vice-president and had sold his shares to De Morais, subject to approval.

Questions about the purchase emailed to Nicole Anwer, the Swiss-based public relations officer for the Angolan wealth fund, had not been answered by the time the Mail & Guardian went to print.

According to the fund’s website, and an interview with José Filomeno published this week by German news agency Deutsche Welle, the fund is still being established and has made no investments.

In February, the Angolan Constitutional Court controversially upheld the legality of the fund, following claims that under Angolan law, the president did not have unilateral power to create such a fund and needed the national assembly’s approval to do so.

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.

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