ANGOLAN NGOs DENOUNCE INTERNATIONAL CORRUPTION AND MONEY LAUNDERING


PRESS RELEASE

ANGOLAN NGOS DENOUNCE INTERNATIONAL CORRUPTION AND MONEY LAUNDERING SCHEMES WITH SUSPECTED INVOLVEMENT OF FORMER SONANGOL EXECUTIVES AND PORTUGUSE BANK

The Angolan non-governmental organisations Associação Mãos Livres, Fórum Regional de Desenvolvimento Universitário (FORDU) and Associação OMUNGA hereby inform national and international public opinion that they have filed a complaint with the Central Department of Investigation and Penal Action, in Portugal, against corruption and money laundering schemes that are believed to have taken  place between 2005 and 2012 and are suspected to involve former senior executives of Sonangol, E.P. and the commercial bank where the transactions were registered.

The facts that constitute grounds for suspecting crimes of active and passive corruption, and money laundering are described below:

  1. PLAINTIFFS

    a) Associação Mãos Livres (Associação dos Juristas e Jornalistas na Defesa e Difusão dos Direitos Humanos)
    b) Fórum Regional para o Desenvolvimento Universitário (FORDU)
    c) Associação OMUNGA

  2. SUSPECTS

    a) Baptista Muhungo Sumbe
    b) José Pedro Benge
    c) Manuel Domingos Vicente
    d) Fernando Osvaldo dos Santos
    e) Millennium BCP (Banco Comercial Português, SA)
    f) Other persons currently unknown, including current or former employees of Millennium BCP

  3. DATE AND PLACE OF THE COMPLAINT

Date: 07 September 2021

Place: Portugal, Attorney General’s Office, Central Department of Investigation and Central Action

  • 4. ALLEGED FACTS

  • a) The suspected bribe payments were made in two related schemes, in the years 2005 to 2012 by a multinational oil services and construction firm – SBM Offshore N.V. – and paid into the Portuguese accounts of two similar offshore companies – Mardrill Inc. (Mardrill) and Sonangol International, Inc. (SII) – each owned and managed by one or more senior executives of the Angolan parastatal hydrocarbon company Sonangol E.P. (Sonangol). The payments were received and managed by Banco Comercial Português (BCP) without the exercise of requisite anti-money laundering due diligence.
  • b) The suspects Baptista Muhongo Sumbe (Sonangol executive), José Pedro Benge (Sonangol executive) and Fernando Osvaldo dos Santos (oil industry businessman) were directors and officers of the Panamanian shell company Mardrill Inc. (Mardrill), since at least April 2010.
  • c) The suspects Baptista Muhongo Sumbe, José Pedro Benge and Manuel Domingos Vicente (at the time all were senior executives of Sonangol) were directors and/or officers of the shell company in Panama, Sonangol International, Inc. (SII). Baptista Sumbe was allegedly the founding President and CEO of SII, incorporated on April 7, 1998, only two months after Mardrill. Sumbe was later additionally appointed as Secretary and Treasurer on 1st January 2010.
  • d) The suspects José Pedro Benge and Manuel Domingos Vicente (then Sonangol’s CEO) were appointed as Directors of SII on January 1, 2010. A few days later, on 4 January, a shareholders meeting approved the opening of a corporate bank account at Banco Privado Atlântico (BPA-Europa). Baptista Sumbe was granted sole signatory authority, and José Benge and Manuel Vicente were granted joint signatory authority.
  • e) The first scheme, the Mardrill Inc. deal, involves 52 payments totalling US$17.4 million paid over six years to the Panamanian shell company Mardrill Inc. SBM’s agreement to make these payments appears to have resulted from express threats that SBM’s business with Sonangol and other potential business in Angola would be seriously affected if the payments were not made.
  • f) The second scheme, Sonangol International, Inc. deal, involves US$35 million that is suspected to have been illicitly paid in 2012 by SBM’s subsidiary, SBM Holding Inc. s.a., to the second shell company in Panama, Sonangol International, Inc., and under very similar circumstances to the Mardrill payments.

  • 5. REPORTED CRIMES AND OFFENCES

Within the scope of the Portuguese legal system, the plaintiffs denounce the alleged crimes of money laundering (Article 368-A of the Portuguese Penal Code), active corruption with prejudice to international trade, passive corruption in the private sector, active corruption in the private sector (Articles 7, 8 and 9 of Law No. 20/2008), and the infringement of administrative offences for violation of various banking obligations (provided for in Articles 6, 9, 10 and 12 of Law No. 25/2008 of 5 June).

  • 6. BACKGROUND

In November 2017, two former senior SBM executives admitted in a US federal district court to the longstanding practice of making multi-million-dollar bribe payments to government officials in more than five countries – Angola, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Equatorial Guinea and Iraq. In this trial, the names of the Angolan officials involved in the corruption scheme were not disclosed, and SBM agreed to pay $238 million to the US government to settle the court case.

In 2020, Swiss courts tried and convicted Didier Keller, a former senior SBM executive, for involvement in the payment of bribes of about $6.8 million to Sonangol executives between 2005 and 2008. The documents in this case revealed the names of Angolan personalities connected to Sonangol who accepted or facilitated payments from SBM, including two identified as suspects in the complaint now filed by the three NGOs.

Despite these prior facts, to date the Angolan authorities have not prosecuted the former Sonangol executives named in the Swiss trial. Similarly, in Portugal, the bank Millennium BCP has also not been investigated for having allegedly failed in its anti-money laundering diligence by facilitating, or at least not preventing, the transactions between SBM and the offshore companies created and owned by the former Sonangol executives.

  • 7. MOTIVATION

As there is sufficient evidence to suspect corruption and money laundering crimes of public interest in both Angola and Portugal, the three non-governmental organisations (Associação Mãos Livres, Fórum Regional de Desenvolvimento Universitário (FORDU) and Associação OMUNGA) have decided to submit a criminal complaint to the Central Department of Investigation and Penal Action of the Portuguese Prosecutor General’s Office.

Corruption and money laundering are public crimes and any person or entity that has access to evidence supporting suspicion of such crimes has the duty to report. In making this complaint, the three Angolan NGOs reiterate, individually and collectively, their commitment to promoting a culture of whistleblowing and the fight against the corruption that has so greatly harmed the Angolan people.

  • 8. OBJECTIVE

The complainant organizations hope that the case will be taken to trial in Portugal and that justice will prevail, having full confidence in the competence of the Portuguese authorities for this purpose.

  • 9. NEXT STEPS

The case has been handed over to the Portuguese authorities and the organisations will wait for the judicial process to take its course. When appropriate, further announcements will be made by the three organisations through their communication channels, through the spokesperson indicated by the three organisations, Dr Salvador Freire, or by their lawyer in Portugal, Dr Francisco Teixeira da Mota.

Luanda, aos 16 de Setembro de 2021

Associação Mãos Livres                                                FORDU                                        Associação OMUNGA

Guilherme Neves                                                  Ângelo Kapwatcha                             João Malavindele Manuel

President                                                  Boarf Chair                        Executive Director

CONTACT:

Dr. Salvador Freire                                         Dr. Francisco Teixeira da Mota

Spokesperson                                                                      Lawyer

salvafreire@gmail.com                                   francisco@teixeiradamota.pt      

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