Press Release / April 18, 2002

Angola’s denials do not stand up

The ceasefire, after so many decades of war, is a very positive development that has the real and increasing possibility of being a lasting peace.

To move forward, Angola needs to emerge from the shadowy structures of state looting but the Angolan Government’s 11th of April inadequate response to Global Witness’s new report ‘All the Presidents’ Men’ (1) suggests that they have not yet developed the will to do so. “Global Witness’ report seeks to put into the public domain information essential for the reconstruction of the country, and includes recommendations to ensure accountability of international oil and banking companies in their operations. Unfortunately, the Government appears to have misinterpreted the key findings of the report”, said Global Witness director, Simon Taylor.

Much of the Angolan Government’s response is inaccurate, and focuses its efforts to discredit the validity of Global Witness’ report, whilst not responding to numerous key issues. For example, the Government claims the so-called ’First Virgin Bank’, which held approximately US$1.1 billion during 2001, and which was connected to two high-powered Angolans, does not exist. This is presumably an unintentional error by the Government, because the report clearly explains (see page 22) that it is in fact likely to be the name of an account, held at a different bank, in the British Virgin Islands. Furthermore, the report clearly explained that the ‘First Virgin Bank’ is “not licensed to carry on banking business within or outside the Virgin Islands” (page 22).

The Angolan Government claims that the report is part of “a campaign against Angola that aims to undermine important reforms that have been undertaken by the government in adverse conditions, which include transparency measures”. ‘The Government is clearly rattled in its attempts to defend the indefensible’, said Simon Taylor. But attempts to invoke the name of the IMF in this defence process have backfired. It is clear for all to see from President dos Santos’ comments to Voice of America (2), that the relationship with the IMF is now at an all-time low. With the effective death of the IMF’s Staff Monitored Plan as of June 2001, it is difficult to see what the Government actually means by “transparency measures”: Where is the data about state income from oil and bank loans? When will Sonangol be audited? Angola is currently attempting to secure more oil-backed loans having obtained approximately US$3 billion in loans in 2001. Do these efforts represent an attempt to repeat the Russian debt scheme but to other creditors? When will the Government explain properly the discrepancy of approximately $770 million between data filed at the Ministry of Petroleum and the Ministry of Finance on oil company tax payments in 2000?

The questions are endless and the answers are non-existent. The fact of the matter is that there is no meaningful programme of any kind with the IMF, and prospects of a programme look very remote. Rather than waste its efforts in ill-thought out arguments, if the Government is serious in its efforts to create genuine and lasting peace, then they must take on board the information and recommendations provided in ‘All the Presidents’ Men’. It is not possible to reconcile at least US$1 billion annually for the past 5 years with a situation where 480 children die every day from preventable causes and at least one million people are totally dependent on international food aid; something has to change.

The challenge now is for the International Community to use the forthcoming G-8 and NEPAD meetings to bring about changes that will lead to more accountability of state income. One key effort should be to develop transparency of company payments to all international governments. This could be easily achieved through international regulatory authorities, such as the US’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) making declaration of ALL payments to ALL governments a condition of stock-market listing.

Press contact: Simon Taylor Tel: +44 (0) 207 272 6731

Editor’s notes:

(1) The latest Global Witness report ‘All the Presidents’ Men – The devastating story of oil and banking in Angola’s privatised war’ can be found at

(2) ‘Luanda acusa FMI de actuação policial em Angola’’, Público; 1st of March 2002

(3) Global Witness focuses on the role of natural resources in funding conflict and corruption. It is non-partisan in all its countries of operation. In Angola, Global Witness has previously highlighted how the traffic of conflict diamonds funds UNITA’s continued insurgency as well as questioning management of oil revenues by the Government.