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A win for the Dos Santos clan

The constitutional court has overturned the conviction of the former president's son in a fraud case, citing violations of his right to a fair trial

Angola's beleaguered former First Family has enjoyed a small victory after the country's constitutional court voided the 2020 conviction of José Filomeno dos Santos, aka Zenú, who has been serving his sentence under house arrest.

In a ruling on 4 April, judges found that Zenú's conviction breached 'the principles of legality, adversarial proceedings, a fair and consistent judgment and the rights of the defence'. However, it is not clear whether Zenú will be freed, or face a retrial along with three other defendants, including former central bank Governor Valter Filipe da Silva.

In 2019, Zenú was accused of trying to embezzle up to US$1.5 billion from the $5bn Angola Sovereign Wealth Fund, which he oversaw from 2013 to 2018. He was then charged with stealing $500 million from the fund and transferring it to a foreign bank account.

Members of the Dos Santos family have faced a series of investigations, asset freezes and prosecutions since former President José Eduardo dos Santos, who died in 2022, was replaced by João Lourenço in 2017. Lourenço quickly put the Dos Santos family at the heart of an anti-corruption drive (AC Vol 61 No 23, Mounting protests face police violence). Two of Dos Santos's daughters, Isabel and Welwitschia 'Tchizé', both accused of stealing state funds, are in exile. Isabel lost an appeal at the London High Court last December to freeze assets worth £580m as part of a legal case against her by Angolan telecoms firm Unitel (Dispatches 30/8/22, Dos Santos funeral fails to quieten claims of voter fraud).


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