Corruption persists worldwide and whistleblowers in many countries risk everything. So, two years ago a group of lawyers, anti-corruption activists and investigative journalists founded PPLAAF – French acronym for Plateforme de Protection des Lanceurs d’Alerte en Afrique – Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa.
PPLAAF co-founder, veteran French human rights lawyer William Bourdon, told a recent ICIJ conference in Paris that protecting whistleblowers should be a duty for every government and society.
“Their sacrifice, their courage is crucial in opening the eyes of the world to the huge, complex, underground threats to the public interest,” he said.
Now, a trove of document from the program have led to a series of stories on Isabel dos Santos, described as the richest woman in Africa. The daughter of long-serving Angolan president, José Eduardo dos Santos, the stories report that she moved public money into tax havens and private businesses. Dos Santos told the BBC that the charges are false and politically driven.
The leak includes 715,000 documents, including emails, contracts, spreadsheets, audits, board of directors meeting minutes loan agreements, deeds, public contracts, invoices, and tax returns.
- Western consulting, accounting and law firms played a key role in helping Africa’s wealthiest woman amass and shield a fortune.
- PwC, Boston Consulting Group and other major firms facilitated dos Santos’ efforts to profit off her country’s wealth, apparently ignoring red flags along the way.
- Regulators around the globe have virtually ignored the key role Western professionals play in maintaining an offshore industry that drives money laundering and drains trillions from public coffers.
From the story
As Isabel dos Santos tells it, she made her massive fortune through business acumen, grit and entrepreneurial spirit.
A global business celebrity, she is a regular presence in elite boardrooms and at such star-studded venues as the Cannes Film Festival. The eldest daughter of a former Angolan guerrilla-turned-autocrat also presents herself as the face of a new Africa.
The Luanda Leaks investigation tells a dramatically different story about how Isabel dos Santos became Africa’s richest woman.
A leaked trove of financial and business records reveals the inside story: how she moved hundreds of millions of dollars in public money out of one of the poorest countries on the planet and into a labyrinth of companies and subsidiaries, many of them in offshore secrecy jurisdictions around the world. The records also show how Western financial firms, lawyers, accountants and government officials — from Lisbon to London and Luanda, from Malta to Dubai — were only too happy to help.
More from The New York Times: How U.S. Firms Helped Africa’s Richest Woman Exploit Her Country’s Wealth