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Angolan ex-president dos Santos denies ties to daughter's alleged graft

In a letter to Angola's parliament and constitutional court, Jose Eduardo dos Santos distanced himself from investigations into illicit enrichment during his rule.

FILE: Former Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. Picture: AFP

LUANDA - Angola's former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos has denied links to alleged public company embezzlement during his rule, in his first response to corruption investigators last month freezing his daughter's assets.

Isabel dos Santos, the ex-president's billionaire first-born, has been the target of an anti-corruption campaign led by her father's successor President Joao Lourenco.

She is accused of using state-owned firms to divert over a billion dollars for her personal enrichment, allegations she denies and calls part of a political vendetta.

The investigation is looking at alleged irregularities involving diamond marketing firm Sodiam and Sonangol - Angola's national oil company, which was handed over to Isabel dos Santos by her father in 2016.

In a letter to Angola's parliament and constitutional court, Jose Eduardo dos Santos distanced himself from investigations into illicit enrichment during his rule.

It is the first time he has responded to allegations surrounding his daughter, who has repeatedly claimed her innocence.

"The (former) President of the Republic... had no direct participation in diamond sales," the ex-president stated in the letter, dated 13 January and seen by AFP on Friday.

Dos Santos also denied "participation in the sale of crude oil" produced by Sonangol, claiming revenues were monitored by the finance minister and only incorporated into the state budget after parliament's approval.

"The (former) President of the Republic... has never transferred (money) to himself or to any other state," he concluded. "(Those) who said he did it lied!"

Lourenco forced Isabel dos Santos out of the state oil firm within months of coming to power in 2017. He has since launched a purge of his predecessor's administration.

Jose Eduardo dos Santos ruled the oil-rich southern African country with an iron fist for 38 years.

During this time, top positions were awarded to the ex-president's cronies and wealth accumulated in the hands of a select few.

Last month, prosecutors froze the bank accounts and holdings owned by Isabel dos Santos and her Congolese husband Sindika Dokolo.

Dos Santos' children claim they have been unfairly targeted by Lourenco's anti-graft campaign.

His son Jose Filomeno went on trial last month for allegedly embezzling $500 million (around 450 million euros) from Angola's sovereign fund, which he oversaw from 2013 to 2018.

Nicknamed "Zenu", he is the first member of the dos Santos family to be prosecuted and faces a maximum of 12 years in jail if found guilty.

Meanwhile, Zenu's half-sister Welwitschia was suspended from Angola's parliament in October for absenteeism and "unjust enrichment".

The majority of the dos Santos have moved abroad. Thousands follow Isabel and Welwitschia's jet-setting lifestyle on Instagram.

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