/ 19 November 2013

Angola’s sovereign wealth fund denies R3bn spend on ‘trophy’ office

José Filomeno de Sousa dos Santos
José Filomeno de Sousa dos Santos (also known as Zenú). (Supplied)

Angola's sovereign wealth fund has strongly denied spending R3-billion on a "trophy" office block in London's exclusive Mayfair district, saying the property was purchased under a separate Central Bank of Angola mandate at open auction in August last year.

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) last week reported on allegations appearing in the journal Africa Confidential that the $5-billion fund, chaired by Filomeno dos Santos, the son of Angola's President José Eduardo dos Santos, had bought a 9 750 square metre office block at 23 Savile Row in London, United Kingdom.

  • Read: Angola: Who's who in the palace??

The publication said purchaser Plaza Global Real Estate, a joint venture between Quantum Global Real Estate and LaSalle Investment Management, acted on behalf of the sovereign wealth fund. Quantum Global is the fund's asset manager.

The report was echoed by law firm mischcon.com, which quoted UK property website propertyweek.com.

President Dos Santos set up the sovereign wealth fund using Angola's oil revenues, with the stated purpose of investing in the country's infrastructure and accumulating savings for future generations.

Africa Confidential said 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".

'Not an investor'
A spokesperson for the Switzerland-based sovereign wealth fund, Nicole Anwer, said in an email response this week that the fund "is not an investor in real estate in London".

AmaBhungane approached Anwer for comment on Africa Confidential's allegation last week, but she had not yet responded at the time of going to press.

Anwer said the fund has made no investments to date, "but with the investment policy now approved [it] is in a position to identify investment opportunities according to the guidelines set out by the investment policy".

Quantum Global marketing and communications head Mark Morley denied that the sovereign wealth fund is involved in the Mayfair purchase. "The property was acquired by Plaza under an entirely separate mandate in August 2012. The fund was not launched until October 2012," he said.

Disputed ownership
Anwer disputed Africa Confidential's claim that former German central banker Ernst Welteke, a friend and former business partner of Filomeno dos Santos, owns Quantum.

But she did not dispute that the company's advisory board is chaired by another friend of Dos Santos, Jean Claude Bastos de Morais.

Morley rejected allegations of a conflict of interest arising from Quantum's management of the fund, saying it won the management contract in a process that was competitive and supervised under Angolan law.

Anwer said Quantum had the advantages of "strong technical expertise, a favourable risk return profile, experience of working in sub-Saharan Africa and Angola, and particularly with Angolan authorities, a meaningful local presence and language skills and an evidence-based track record".

The Angolan government appointed Deloitte as independent auditors of the sovereign wealth fund a few days ago, she said. The company will audit the fund’s financial accounts in the first half of 2014.

In addition, the Angolan parliament will assess the performance of the fund in September each year. 

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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.