We are no longer talking about lack of ethics. We are now talking about potentially aiding and abetting corruption and money laundering. We are talking about opening the floodgates to possibly dirty money and to suspected crooks. We are talking about tarnishing the image of a whole country and sapping the morale of its people.
The news that made the headlines this week about the president of the republic’s close friend and associate, Álvaro Sobrinho, is shocking in more than one way.
While Sobrinho, in the middle of smiles and fanfare, was making history here, elsewhere, he was making international headlines for being “under investigation from all sides over the ‘missing’ €4.2 billion from bankrupt BES Angola” (Portugalresident.com). The international press also reported that “with accusations of fraud dogging his career for years, he had €18 million ‘frozen’ in various accounts under the eye of investigators in 2011 when he was made an official suspect in a case alleging Angolan State fraud.” Although he has been cleared of the charge, he is still facing charges of money laundering and tax evasion connected to a Swiss firm he owns in Monte Branco, in Portugal.
Sobrinho’s story is a rare window into the tragic kleptocratic narrative that has been gripping Angola for years. It is a country where corruption is rife, tolerated and quasi-overt. An extremely unequal society largely because of nepotism, cronyism, fraud, graft, state-tolerated thievery and thuggery, Angola is a sad scene where abject, wretched poverty and vulgar conspicuous displays of wealth can be seen alongside each other like in no other country. It’s within this environment that Sobrinho has surfaced and found no other priority in the world than to help our students – those who are fortunate enough to have three meals a day and already have a first degree – to chase a PhD, through his Planet Earth Institute, which President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim has been touting as vice-chairperson, while some 70% of Angolans live on less than $2 a day!
Without as much as a little Google search, the president readily opened the State House – the most prestigious seat of our democracy – to Sobrinho, bragging about having attracted some 10 scholarships into the country, giving students “the opportunity to conduct research at some of the world’s leading universities” including “the University of Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh in the UK, amongst others at the pinnacle of international research”. In the end, no student managed to go to the “pinnacle of international research”. One student will probably go to Cape Town and the other nine will head to the University of Mauritius! Instead – as our sister publication, l’express, revealed – seven other lucky people have received a nice sedan each as a gift for their efforts.
This is all very embarrassing for a country trying very hard to portray an image of a clean jurisdiction. It is particularly humiliating because it is linked to the highest institution in the country.
And, with such serious allegations swirling around the State House, the president decided to observe radio silence. When I called, I was told that she was too busy and that she would call back. I am still waiting.
It is interesting how the president is always available to tell journalists how many billions she supposedly brought into the country (where on earth are they and where do they come from?) and she repeats ad nauseam how she goes to the market to buy her own vegetables, does her own gardening and even makes tea! When she is needed to weigh in on a serious issue which is shaking the country, she cannot be reached for comment.
That is unfortunate. Because she has some explaining to do.
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Qui a appuyé le dossier pour que l’Angolais obtienne un Investment Banking Licence ? Qui est intervenu pour faciliter les procédures ? Autant de questions qui restent sans réponse sur Alvaro Sobrinho, l’homme qui éclabousse le gouvernement en raison de ses multiples casseroles au Portugal. Au fil des enquêtes de l’express, le mystère s’épaissit. Voici un résumé des articles publiés sur cette affaire.