Africa’s richest woman in ‘fresh financial mess’ involving a $400m lawsuit filed by Unitel.

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Isabel dos Santos

The billionaire daughter of Angola’s former president, Isabel dos Santos faces personal involvement in a $400 million lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed by Angolan telecoms provider Unitel against her Dutch firm Unitel International Holdings (UIH), as ruled by London’s High Court.

The ongoing litigation also involves allegations of an “illegal seizure by the Angolan state of UIH’s assets,” which dos Santos’ attorneys claim has hindered UIH’s ability to repay the loans.

The billionaire daughter of Angola’s former president Isabel dos Santos can be personally joined to a $400 million lawsuit filed by Angolan telecoms provider Unitel against a business she controls, London’s High Court declared on Thursday.

In 2020, Unitel filed a lawsuit against dos Santos’ Dutch firm Unitel International Holdings (UIH) for loans given in 2012 and 2013 when dos Santos was a director of Unitel to support UIH’s purchase of telecom company shares.

According to Unitel’s attorneys, the loans were not returned, and a balance of almost $395 million plus interest is still owed. Despite sharing a name, the two businesses are unrelated, and dos Santos, who owns UIH, left his position as a director of Unitel in 2020.

Dos Santos, the first female millionaire in Africa, whose father Jose Eduardo dos Santos ruled Angola for 38 years until 2017, had requested to be personally included in Unitel’s lawsuit against UIH.

Dos Santos should be included in the current litigation, according to Judge Mark Pelling’s decision on Thursday.

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Regarding its claims that dos Santos had violated her obligations as a director of Unitel, he claimed that Unitel has a “realistic prospect of success.”

Dos Santos “vehemently denies that she has violated any of her director’s duties,” according to court documents filed on Tuesday by her attorney Richard Hill.

Because of its claimed involvement in the “illegal seizure by the Angolan state of UIH’s assets,” according to her attorneys, Unitel is also to blame for UIH’s incapacity to pay. Unitel disputes that it had any part in the asset confiscation.

Dos Santos has long been the target of charges of corruption, including those made by Angola that she and her husband diverted $1 billion in public funds to businesses in which they had holdings while her father was president, notably Sonangol, the world’s largest oil company.

Her assets in Angola worth almost $1 billion were confiscated last year, and additional properties connected to her have been taken in Portugal.

Dos Santos, who purports to reside in Dubai, has categorically refuted all accusations against her, and her attorneys have called them a “political conspiracy.”

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