Angola Attorney General in Dubai but unable to convince Interpol on Isabel dos Santos extradition

Angolan businesswoman Isabel dos Santos

Angolan businesswoman Isabel dos Santos.  

Photo credit: Fernando Veludo | AFP

Angola's Attorney General's Office (PGR) has referred responsibility for a possible arrest of businesswoman Isabel dos Santos to Interpol and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), confirming that Hélder Pitta Gróz was in Dubai as part of judicial cooperation.

"If it is true that she lives in Dubai, it is a matter for the UAE and Interpol," PGR spokesman Álvaro João said. The spokesman responded thus when asked about a report that the attorney general had recently been in Dubai to try to arrest the Angolan businesswoman, targeted in an Interpol "red alert".

A "red alert" is a request from a state - in this case, Angola - to Interpol member countries to locate and provisionally arrest a person, with a view to extraditing, surrendering or similar legal action.

"States are sovereign, they may or may not comply, judging by the interests at stake. But the issue is not centred on Isabel dos Santos [the target of several lawsuits], but on the various cases with a connection to the UAE," Álvaro João stressed.

Asked whether Angola has initiated any extradition proceedings against Isabel dos Santos, the same official replied that "it is not necessary", as it is Interpol that has the mission to make the arrest.

The extradition request is only initiated when the person concerned is arrested," he added.

According to the PGR spokesperson, Pitta Gróz has travelled to several countries to strengthen cooperation with similar institutions, within the scope of existing bilateral and multilateral agreements, including Portugal, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates, among others.

"About three weeks ago he was in the UAE to deal with current issues of common interest, given that the Attorney General's Office is the central authority for international judicial cooperation in criminal matters. Several issues were addressed, without precisely addressing issues strictly linked to the alleged extradition of Isabel dos Santos," he said.

Álvaro João also said that, although there is no extradition agreement between the two states, under international law the principle of reciprocity applies: 

"If you do not proceed with plausible reasons to the claim of the requesting state, tomorrow, equally, your requests would not be met by this state".

The Angolan justice system has repeatedly called on the Portuguese authorities, and other countries, to collaborate in legal proceedings taking place in Angola and internationally, the most notorious being those targeting Isabel dos Santos, daughter of former Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos. 

Several shareholdings in companies and bank accounts of the Angolan businesswoman have been frozen or seized in Angola, Portugal and other jurisdictions where she is the target of legal proceedings.

Isabel dos Santos has been the target of corruption charges for years, including allegations that she and her husband, Sindika Dokolo, who died in October 2020, embezzled nearly $1bn of public funds from companies in which they had acquired stakes during her father's presidency, including oil giant Sonangol. The daughter of Angola's former president, who died in July last year, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

If there is no need for extradition, as per the Angolan official, then there is no cause for a Red Notice with Interpol, as it would be a waste of taxpayers’ resources.