LISBON (Reuters) - Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos called on Tuesday for a corruption case against her to be dropped, accusing Angolan authorities of using forged documents including a bogus passport to get courts to seize her assets.
Angolan authorities seized the accounts of dos Santos and her husband Sindika Dokolo late last year over allegations that they steered $1 billion (£814.3 million) in state funds to companies in which they held stakes during the presidency of her father Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled for 38 years until 2017.
In February, Portuguese prosecutors followed suit, freezing Isabel dos Santos’ assets in the country after she was named a suspect in a fraud investigation based on allegations of misappropriation and mismanagement during her time as chairwoman of Sonangol.
She and Dokolo have denied any wrongdoing.
Dos Santos, 47, whose whereabouts are not known, said her lawyers had discovered a fabricated passport in her name last month when granted access to the Luandan court’s files on the asset freeze for the first time.
The passport was in English, the passport number was cited differently in two locations on the document and the signature belonged to long-dead kung fu star Bruce Lee, who died in 1973, according to a photo attached to a statement from dos Santos.
“The Angolan Public Prosecutor’s Office presented material evidence that was fabricated and based on a forgery. This court decision should be struck out as abuse of process and the judgement set aside,” dos Santos said in the English-language statement.
“The forgery of the passport is obvious at first glance,” it said.
Angolan authorities said on Tuesday that the passport was being verified by the Angolan Embassy “precisely in order to verify its authenticity”.
“The periculum in mora (danger in damage to justice due to delay of the decision) in the process was not based on any identity documents but on documents attesting the fear of dissipation of assets,” the Angolan prosecutors’ statement read.
Portugal, in turn, took its decision to freeze the ex-first daughter’s assets based on the fraud accusation, a criminal charge unrelated to the asset freeze and “in which no passport copy was referred”, the prosecutors’ statement said.
The Luandan Provincial Court in Angola could not be reached for confirmation or comment on what impact there would be on the asset freeze if the document dos Santos cited was proven to be fabricated and part of the file against her.
Its December court order ordering the asset freeze listed within its accusations that it held documents proving that “the accused Isabel Jose dos Santos contacted Japanese authorities and showed interest in making investments in that country of up to 1 billion euros.”
Angola’s chief prosecutor said in January that an international arrest warrant for dos Santos could be issued if she fails to appear to cooperate with the investigation.
Reporting by Victoria Waldersee and Catarina Demony; Editing by Andrei Khalip, Mark Heinrich and Howard Goller