Daniel arap Moi, who ruled Kenya with an iron fist between 1978 and 2002, will receive a state funeral after dying in Nairobi on February 4th. Observers justified the funerary honours and the praise which current Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta lavished on the long-time strongman by the fact that Moi voluntarily stepped down after over two decades of authoritarian rule.
Moi’s death, however, will refocus attention on the darker parts of the autocrat’s legacy. In his heyday, the Kenyan leader staged massive festivals in his own honour, carried an ornate ivory walking stick as a heavy-handed metaphor for his authority, and had thousands of his opponents imprisoned and brutally tortured beneath infamous government facility Nyayo House.
Graft with a Western touch
He also presided over increasing corruption, which he exploited to enrich himself, his family and his cronies. Moi and his inner circle are believed to have siphoned off some £1 billion in public funds, much of which still eludes Kenyan authorities’ grasp.
In order to carry out this large-scale graft, Moi relied not only on Kenyan institutions under his thumb, but on a worldwide “web of shell companies, secret trusts and frontmen”. Even as Western governments pressured Moi to stamp out corruption, the strongman bought properties around Europe, a bank in Belgium and managed to stash away funds with the help of Swiss financiers and secrecy jurisdictions such as Liechtenstein and the Channel Islands.
It’s tempting to consign Moi to the past as one of Africa’s “last Big Men” and argue that Western go-betweens and financial institutions would no longer be complicit in such schemes. Unfortunately, as the growing scandal surrounding Angola’s dos Santos family illustrates, a plethora of rogue consultants, banks and businessmen are still helping corrupt African elites transfer their ill-gotten money out of the continent.
Angola’s dos Santos clan in the limelight
Just as Moi’s death is reminding pundits of the scandals which saw him nicknamed Kenya’s “grandmaster of corruption-fed patronage”, the Luanda Leaks released last month have laid bare the rampant corruption former leader José Eduardo dos Santos and his family allegedly engaged in.
Dos Santos himself seems to have initiated some problematic schemes, while others were masterminded by his children, to whom he handed lucrative government positions. The president, who came to power just a year after Moi and ruled until 2017, apparently enlisted some of Europe’s most legally-compromised businessmen to help him move Angolan state funds out of Africa.
Yves Bouvier and Marc Francelet: European con men at dos Santos’s service
In one such plot, dos Santos enlisted a pair of reputed fraudsters for a public healthcare project. It’s somewhat doubtful that Swiss art dealer and “freeport king” Yves Bouvier—who’s on the hook in Switzerland for potential tax evasion and is being pursued in courts around the world for apparently swindling a former client out of $1 billion—and French paparazzo Marc Francelet—whose lengthy criminal career has included falsifying his own payslips and accepting bribes from Saddam Hussein—actually intended to set up a healthcare system.
Instead, according to the Angolan press and French court documents, the pair carried out a series of suspicious bank transfers between Francelet Conseil— a consulting company Marc Francelet set up at dos Santos’s behest— and Yves Bouvier’s Singapore-based company Brave Ventures Pte Ltd. Through their convoluted network of firms, Francelet and Bouvier apparently made Angolan state funds disappear into both Francelet Conseil’s coffers and Yves Bouvier’s bank account.
Like father, like daughter
The former Angolan president’s daughter Isabel may not have taken advantage of Marc Francelet and Yves Bouvier’s services, though it’s possible that she and her husband may have stored some of their substantial African art collection in Bouvier’s freeports. Dos Santos’s husband, Sindika Dokolo, is recognized worldwide as an art collector who is extremely engaged in repatriating African artworks and has amassed an impressive collection of more than 3000 works of African art. In any case, Isabel dos Santos clearly doesn’t fall far from the tree in using shell companies and unethical Western consultants to milk Angola for all it’s worth.
Isabel dos Santos allegedly funneled more than $1 billion from Angolan state-owned companies to firms in which she and her husband had a financial interest. In the wake of the Luanda Leaks and a complaint by former Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes—who, interestingly enough, was instrumental in the investigation into Yves Bouvier’s freeport in Luxembourg which resulted in the European Parliament recommending that such zones be phased out—dos Santos is now facing investigation in both Angola and Portugal and may soon be the subject of an international arrest warrant.
Like her father and Daniel arap Moi, Angola’s former first daughter built a dense network of offshore accounts in secrecy jurisdictions and more than 450 holding companies to enable this apparent fraud—and then used the imprimatur of major international banks and consulting firms to give her empire the veneer of legitimacy.
Lax regulation in Lisbon
An arsenal of Western firms and consultants were happy to sanitize Isabel dos Santos’s image while apparently turning a blind eye to signs of money-laundering. McKinsey, PwC and BCG all collected handsome profits for managing the Angolan billionaire’s intricate investment schemes and front companies. Accenture shrugged off evidence of dos Santos’s corruption while carrying out $54 million of work for companies she controlled.
As former Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes highlighted, however, Portugal was particularly complicit in these problematic schemes. The autocrat’s daughter was allowed to collect shares in any number of Portuguese important companies, from engineering firm Efacec to telecom group NOS. What’s more, dos Santos’s access to Portuguese banks was pivotal in permitting her to sidestep growing scrutiny of her financial dealings. Between 2012 and 2014, skittish as regulators honed in on anti-money laundering issues, Citi, Barclays, Santander and finally Deutsche Bank cut dos Santos and her husband off.
As one kleptocracy expert put it, “one of the best ways to launder money is to buy the bank”. Dos Santos did exactly that, becoming the largest shareholder in Eurobic and the second-largest in BPI. These two banks extended her large loans which should have raised red flags, signed off on irregular payments, and opened bank accounts for her shell companies.
Many of these Western firms are now feigning shock and contrition at suggestions that they enabled Isabel dos Santos’s graft. PwC chairman Bob Moritz euphemistically declared “it’s not exactly our finest hour”, while Eurobic has reacted with relief to dos Santos’s announcement that she is selling her shares in the bank. The Luanda Leaks, however, have confirmed that the days when Western financial institutions and advisers helped African autocrats squirrel away cash pilfered from their people did not die with Daniel arap Moi.