Angolan officials held hidden Cobalt shares-FT

LONDON, April 16 Sun Apr 15, 2012 8:12pm EDT

LONDON, April 16 (Reuters) - Three of Angola's most powerful officials have acknowledged they hold concealed shares in an oil venture linked to Cobalt International Energy, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

The newspaper said the recently departed head of the national oil company and an influential general confirmed that they, along with another general, have held shares in Nazaki Oil and Gaz, the local partner in Cobalt's oil venture in the country.

The article said Manuel Vicente, head of state-owned Sonangol until his appointment in January as minister of state for economic co-ordination, and General Manuel Helder Vieira Dias Junior, known as Kopelipa, head of the presidency's military bureau, confirmed their holdings in letters.

The third official was identified by the FT as General Leopoldino Fragoso do Nascimento.

Vicente and General Kopelipa are cited as saying they exerted no influence over the award of Cobalt's oil rights.

"Always respecting all Angolan legislation applicable to such activities, not having committed any crime of abuse of power and/or trafficking of influence to obtain illicit shareholder advantages," the two officials are quoted as saying, in reference to their Nazaki interests.

Their interests were held through Grupo Aquattro Internacional. Aquattro, the FT said, was named as a Nazaki shareholder in two company documents from 2007 and 2010.

U.S. authorities are investigating the Goldman Sachs backed explorer's Angolan operations, the FT said.

Cobalt could not be immediately reached for comment.

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