Angola asks for legal aid over frozen Geneva funds

Around $900 million remains frozen in Geneva. Keystone

Angola has asked Switzerland for legal assistance concerning almost a billion francs frozen in Geneva and reportedly connected to Angolan-Portuguese businessman Carlos Manuel de São Vicente.

This content was published on September 15, 2020 - 12:27

Last week the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) received Angolan Deputy Justice Minister Eduarda Rodrigues Neto for an interview with the lawyer overseeing the case, FOJ spokeswoman Ingrid Ryser said on Tuesday, confirming a report in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ).

The FOJ received a request for judicial assistance from Angola in this matter on June 22, Ryser told the Keystone-SDA news agency. At the beginning of August the FOJ then asked the Angolan authorities to clarify the request.

“Naturally the Swiss authorities are prepared to assist the Angolan authorities within the framework of the applicable law on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters,” Ryser said.

According to the Angola Press Agency, Rodrigues Neto handed over a new request for judicial assistance to the Swiss authorities in Bern on Friday.

$900 million frozen

According to the NZZ, the case concerns Angolan-Portuguese businessman Carlos Manuel de São Vicente, who is being investigated by Geneva’s judicial authorities on suspicion of money laundering. The affair dates back to 2018 but only recently became known through a decision by the Geneva Criminal Court, published by the Swiss justice portal Gotham City.

Based on a report of suspected money laundering submitted by Banque Syz to the Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland, the Geneva public prosecutor’s office ordered account freezes totalling CHF1.114 billion ($1.23 billion) at the end of 2018. Following a partial release, around $900 million remains frozen.

On July 9 the court rejected an appeal by Carlos Manuel de São Vicente to unblock the funds. What happens next depends largely on the response to the request for legal assistance.

This is not the first time the Swiss authorities have had to deal with dubious money connected to Angola. Previous instances have involved the Angolan Sovereign Wealth Fund and the Angolan National Bank; presidential daughter Isabel dos Santos, her brother Filomeno dos Santos and the Swiss-Angolan businessman Jean-Claude Bastos; and in earlier years Angolan officials with bank accounts in Switzerland.

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