LISBON, Feb 3 (Reuters) - It’s good news that Angola’s Isabel dos Santos has decided to sell her investments in Portuguese companies, Portugal’s Economy Minister Pedro Siza Vieira told Reuters, saying that would avoid any potential damage to them as she battles fraud charges.
The billionaire, whose father Jose Eduardo dos Santos was Angola’s president for 38 years until 2017, last month was named by the country as a suspect over alleged mismanagement and misappropriation of funds while she was chairwoman of state oil firm Sonangol.
Also last month, hundreds of thousands of files about dos Santos dubbed the “Luanda Leaks” were released by several news organisations focussing on how she amassed a fortune estimated at more than $2 billion.
Dos Santos, who denies any wrongdoing, holds significant stakes in Portugal’s Eurobic bank, engineering firm Efacec, oil group Galp and telecoms company NOS.
Eurobic, where she is the biggest shareholder, and Efacec, where she owns 65%, have both said dos Santos has started the process of selling her stakes.
“Her willingness to divest quickly is helpful,” Siza Vieira said in an interview.
“This is a good step because we want to avoid any reputational damage impacts in the activity of these companies,” he said, adding that judicial investigations had to run their course and that he was not preempting their conclusions.
Dos Santos, Eurobic, and Efacec did not immediately comment. Galp and NOS declined to comment.
The Bank of Portugal said last month it had asked Eurobic about Sonangol banking account transfers between Angola and Dubai.
The central bank is also carrying out an inspection of Eurobic to assess its anti-money laundering safeguards. The unlisted bank said last month that it was complying with all requirements to prevent illegal transactions.
Portugal’s prosecutor’s office said it would investigate the files leaked by the media and Angola’s public prosecutor is also looking into dos Santos’ business dealings.
“Society has become more intolerant with corruption, lack of transparency, tax evasion,” Siza Vieira said. (Reporting by Sergio Goncalves and Ingrid Melander; editing by Jason Neely)