Angola’s Vice President, Manuel Vicente, has been charged with corruption and money laundering in Portugal, the Prosecutor General’s office in Lisbon confirmed on Thursday.
The charges dates back to when he was Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the national oil firm, Sonangol. Vicente is accused of bribing a magistrate in order to shelve investigations into his deals at the oil company.
He is alleged to have given a former prosecutor, one Orlando Figueira, a bribe of $810,000 as part of the corrupt deal. Figueira has been arrested last year and appropriately charged.
I'm astounded that my client has been accused, not only because he had nothing to do with the facts but also because he has never been questioned about them.
Even though the Angolan government has yet to officially respond to the news, the prosecutor’s office says it will notify the government and seek their cooperation in the matter.
Two of Vicente’s legal and financial representatives, Paulo Blanco and Armindo Pires, both Portuguese, were also charged with corruption and money laundering for allegedly paying the bribe jointly with Vicente and arranging a job in a bank as a favour for Figueira.
“In exchange, the former prosecutor ruled in favour of the chief executive of the Angolan company in two investigations, both of which were ultimately shelved by the prosecutor,” the office added.
His lawyer has expressed shock at the move. “I’m astounded that my client has been accused, not only because he had nothing to do with the facts but also because he has never been questioned about them,” Rui Patricio said.
Vicente headed Sonangol between 2009 and 2012. That post is currently held by Isabel dos Santos, powerful daughter of outgoing President Eduardo dos Santos. Angola and Nigeria are Africa’s top oil producers.
The southern African country has repeatedly described previous attempts by Portuguese authorities to investigate the Vice-President as “revenge by the former colonial master” and “neo-colonialism”.