Angola’s largest mobile phone provider has sued a company controlled by one of Africa’s richest women, billionaire Isabel dos Santos. The company stopped repaying its loans following a cash crisis deepened by the Luanda Leaks investigation.
Unitel has alleged that dos Santos’ Dutch company, Unitel International Holdings BV, or UIH, defaulted on loans issued from 2012 to 2013. The company is seeking the immediate repayment of more than $430 million. Unitel filed the case in a London court in October.
Dos Santos was Unitel’s chair at the time of the loans. The money was used to fund a shopping spree in telecommunications companies across the Lusophone world. UIH snapped up stakes in Portugal, Cape Verde and Sao Tome & Principe. Unitel further alleges that UIH has no corporate connection to Unitel. This is despite the company names’ close correlation.
Unitel says that UIH first fell behind on interest repayments in September 2019. UIH further missed increasingly more valuable repayments in February and August 2020 following the publication of the Luanda Leaks investigation. The investigations were conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Unitel also claims that a series of corporate, regulatory and judicial actions taken in the wake of Luanda Leaks may cause UIH to not repay the loans. Earlier this month, dos Santos lost control of the company that owned her 25% stake in Unitel. She also stepped down from Unitel’s board in September.
According to the Luanda Leaks investigation, Unitel paid out more than $5 billion in dividends to shareholders from 2006 to 2015. As a result, the ICIJ reporting showed that Unitel became a cash cow for dos Santos.
Isabel dos Santos lost her husband a few weeks ago but it seems companies are showing no sympathy to Africa’s richest woman.