Press Release / Aug. 4, 2009

Private oil firm's shareholders have same names as top Angolan government officials

A private oil company in Angola, given permission by the state oil company Sonangol to bid for potentially lucrative oil rights, has shareholders with the same names as Sonangol's chairman and other top officials, Global Witness has learned.

Angola is one of the two top oil-producing countries in sub-Saharan Africa but most of its people still live in dire poverty.

Concerns about management of the oil sector have long been a factor in the difficult relationship between Angola and the International Monetary Fund. As an IMF team visits Angola, this briefing suggests that little may have changed.

"We expect to see fierce competition between companies for access to oil and minerals in developing countries like Angola once the world economy recovers," said Diarmid O'Sullivan, a campaigner at Global Witness. "This case, unless otherwise explained, underlines the risk that members or cronies of corrupt governments may try to enrich themselves by entering the bidding via supposedly private companies, with the connivance of regulators."

Sonangol is a regulator of Angola's oil sector and grants licences to companies seeking to exploit its huge reserves of oil and gas. In December 2007, Sonangol included a little-known private company, Sociedade de Hidrocarbonetos de Angola (SHA), on a published list of companies pre-qualified to bid for oil licences.

A record for SHA in Angola's official gazette, seen by Global Witness, names one of its shareholders as of August 2007 as being Manuel Domingos Vicente, which is also the name of Sonangol's chairman. Other shareholders have the same names as senior presidential advisers and a former finance minister

"If these officials are in fact the same people as the shareholders of SHA, then the assumption has to be that Sonangol is abusing its regulatory power to help a private company whose owners include its own chairman."

Global Witness, an anti-corruption watchdog that focuses on natural resources, has been reporting concerns about gross corruption in the Angolan oil sector since 1999.

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For more information, contact Diarmid O'Sullivan on +44 7872 620 955, [email protected] or Amy Barry on +44 207 5616358; +44 7980 664397, [email protected]

Full references and sources detailed in the report (attached below)