Deafening silence after Angolan corruption report

By Richard Lee | May 21st, 2013
Human Rights and Wrongs Blog
Human Rights and Wrongs Blog

It has been a month since the release of a damning report into a massively corrupt Angola-Russia debt deal. A month since it explained in forensic detail how more than US$700 million ended up in the pockets of arms dealers and senior Angolan officials, including President dos Santos. A month since a group of courageous Angolan anti-corruption campaigners used its new evidence to file criminal complaints in Angola and Switzerland.

And Luanda’s response to all this – nothing. Not a word. No official attempt to refute the allegation that tens of millions of dollars ended up in the bank accounts of the president and other officials, or to explain why hundreds of millions of dollars were ‘paid’ to dubious and unnecessary middlemen. Usually, any allegations of corruption – let alone directly naming and shaming the president – would be met with a swift denunciation and a concerted campaign to discredit – or intimidate – the accusers into silence. But in this case, it is the authorities in Luanda who are silent.

Perhaps they hope the scandal will simply fade away, especially as the report – Deception in High Places – does tackle an ‘old’ case. But that is unlikely. Published by Corruption Watch UK and Mãos Livres, the report provides compelling evidence. And it has already sparked debate in Angola, Europe and the US - with another high-level meeting to be held in Portugal this week organised by a member of the European Parliament.

Or perhaps they are relying on the Swiss legal authorities not to pursue the criminal complaint. No one relly thinks the case will proceed in Angola but there is optimism that the law will take its course in Switzerland – since one of its biggest banks facilitated the deal. Unfortunately, there has been no word yet from the Swiss prosecutors.

But it is an open society and the pressure for action is building – just like the pressure on the Angolan authorities to speak out. It will be extremely interesting to see what they finally have to say.

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