Angola: Little reaction so far to the “Angolagate” scandal trial

The infamous “Angolate” case hits the tribunals in France this month, involving top figures of that country and supposedly influential Angolans, starting with the country's president José Eduardo dos Santos. Angola has tried at all costs to prevent public debate, claiming to “respect the confidentiality laws” of the foreign nation.

We should recall that the term “Angolagate”, also known as the Mitterrand-Pasqua affair, refers to a political scandal that dates back to 1992, when José Eduardo dos Santos realised his military disadvantage against Jonas Savimbi‘s UNITA, which at the time had gained more than 80% of Angolan territory. Facing this situation, the Angolan president chose to break the United Nations sanctions prohibiting arms trading to which Angola was subject, and acquired more than 400 tanks, around 150,000 shells, more than 100,000 anti-personnel mines, around a dozen helicopters, a handful of warships and other weapons originally from the former Soviet Union.

The arms sales cost around $790m, and were made through a Paris-based consortium of companies named  Brenco International. Its head, Pierre Falcone, and Israeli politician Arkadi Gaydamak were major players in facilitating this whole mission and are now in the dock. Altogether, 40 other defendants, some of whom are high profile members of France’s political establishment, are to go on trial and face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

The trial began last Monday, October 6th, and investigations should last until March 4th next year. In this first week, there has been very little reaction on the Angolan blogosphere, and the media is also quiet.

One of the few bloggers to comment on the issue, Roberto Ivens from Nos Cus de Judas blog [pt] reveals an unusual fact regarding the absence of Angolan defendants in this process:

“Não haver neste processo um único arguido angolano não deixa de ser curioso. Que todo o material de guerra, tanques, navios, helicópteros, obuzes, minas, tivesse entrado em Angola sem que ninguém o houvesse solicitado faz pensar que, afinal, poderá ter havido uma..invasão estrangeira?!”

“It is quite curious that there isn't a single Angolan indicted by this process. The thought that all these weapon – tanks, ships, helicopters, shells, mines – had come into Angola without anyone ordering them, makes one wonder if ultimately there may have been a foreign invasion? “

The French justice also accuses Jean-Christophe Miterrand, son of the former late president Miterrand, former French Socialist Party Southern Africa expert Jean-Bernard Curial and Charles Pasqua, the former Interior Minister, among others. Moçambique para Todos [pt] blog also joins the “Angolate” talks with an article by Angolan Eugénio Costa Almeida:

“Pois então não é que a justiça francesa, sem tomar em linha de conta os superiores interesses da República Francesa, decidiu iniciar o julgamento deste processo, com acusações que vão desde tráfico de armas, abuso de confiança, fraude fiscal e tráfico de influências. Tudo por causa de uns míseros 420 carros de combate, 150 mil obuses, 170 minas anti-pessoais, 12 helicópetros e 6 navios de guerra, eventualmente comprados por Angola e para os quais uns quantos auferiram umas míseras dezenas de milhares de dólares em “luvas”. Gingubas ou peanuts, como diriam os nossos amigos norte-americanos, eventualmente depositadas em contas obscuras em empresas, cidades francesas, suíças ou israelitas, antes de seguir para as de companhias e empresas financeiras sedeads em paraísos fiscais onde o dinheiro “adormece” por uns tempos antes de voltar a circular…é que parar é morrer, e há tantas quintas e palácios na Europa para serem comprados”.

“So, the French judicial authorities, without taking into account the best interests of France, decided to start trying this case, with charges ranging from illegal weapons sales, trust abuse, tax evasion, influence trafficking. All because of a meagre 420 tanks, 150,000 shells, 170 [thousand] anti-personnel mines, 12 helicopters and 6 warships, eventually purchased by Angola and for which a few people received a meagre few tens of thousands of dollars in “gifts”. Gingubas or peanuts, as our American friends would say, possibly deposited in obscure accounts in companies, in French, Swiss or Israeli cities, before going to those of companies and businesses based in tax havens where the money is “dormant” for a while before being returned to the economy… to stop it is to die, and there are so many villas and palaces to be bought in Europe.”

As expected, Angola denies wrongdoing and rejects the accusations of illegal arms trafficking and tax evasion, saying that the material was legal, was not of French origin and did not pass through France. The Angolan authorities threaten to retaliate against France on the country's oil interests.

This trial comes at a bad time for the country, as France has tried to forge closer relations with the Angolan government since the beginning of the year. Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to Angola five months ago being evidence of this.

Originally written in Portuguese, translation into English by Paula Góes

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