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Legal setback for Africa’s first female billionaire Isabel dos Santos as High Court upholds $735 million asset freeze

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Legal setback for Africa's first female billionaire Isabel dos Santos as High Court upholds $735 million asset freeze

In a significant legal blow, Isabel dos Santos, Africa’s first female billionaire, has lost her battle against a London High Court application to freeze a staggering £580 million ($735 million) of her assets. The legal skirmish unfolded as dos Santos faced a lawsuit from Angolan telecoms operator Unitel, marking a contentious chapter in her already embattled legal history.

 

The daughter of former Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who held power for 38 years until 2017, Isabel dos Santos is no stranger to controversy. The High Court’s decision to grant a worldwide freezing order over her assets is a result of a lawsuit filed by Unitel, accusing dos Santos of defaulting on loans extended to her Dutch firm, Unitel International Holdings (UIH), in 2012 and 2013.

 

Unitel’s legal action contends that dos Santos, who was a director of Unitel at the time, failed to repay the loans, leaving an outstanding balance of nearly $395 million, plus accumulated interest. The freezing order, granted by Judge Robert Bright, signifies a significant setback for dos Santos, whose wealth and financial dealings have been under intense scrutiny, both in Angola and internationally.

 

The legal saga stems from dos Santos’ alleged mismanagement of funds and questionable financial transactions during her father’s presidency. Among the accusations, dos Santos and her husband have been accused of utilizing $1 billion in state funds to finance companies in which they held stakes, including those tied to the oil giant Sonangol.

 

Unitel’s claim focuses on the loans given to UIH, and dos Santos argues that Unitel should bear responsibility for the failure to repay, attributing it to Unitel’s alleged involvement in the unlawful seizure of UIH’s assets by the Angolan government. The legal battle raises complex issues surrounding corporate governance, financial accountability, and the intersection of political power and business interests.

 

Isabel dos Santos, a prominent figure in the business world with extensive investments in various sectors, has consistently denied any wrongdoing, asserting that she is the victim of a prolonged political vendetta. The freezing or confiscation of her assets in Angola and Portugal has been a focal point of contention, with dos Santos claiming that additional freezing orders are unnecessary due to existing measures in place in other jurisdictions.

 

Despite dos Santos’ arguments, Judge Robert Bright, in a written ruling, dismissed the notion that existing freezing orders in other countries negate the necessity for an additional order in the London High Court. The decision underscores the court’s determination to independently assess the merit of the freezing order application, irrespective of legal actions in other jurisdictions.

 

The legal battle involving dos Santos and Unitel is emblematic of broader challenges faced by African nations in addressing corruption and financial impropriety. The case not only scrutinizes individual conduct but also delves into the corporate structures and governance practices that underpin vast business empires.

 

As the legal proceedings unfold, dos Santos’ legal team is likely to explore avenues for appeal, prolonging a legal saga that has far-reaching implications. The decision by the London High Court further fuels the ongoing debate surrounding transparency, accountability, and the relationship between political influence and corporate activities in the African context.

 

In conclusion, Isabel dos Santos’ loss in the legal battle over the asset freeze marks a pivotal moment in her ongoing legal struggles. The decision by the London High Court underscores the complexity of the case and the court’s commitment to impartially assess allegations of financial impropriety. As dos Santos navigates this legal quagmire, the case continues to draw attention to broader issues of governance, accountability, and the intricate interplay between political power and business interests in Africa.

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Nigeria International Energy Summit 2024: focus on collaboration as petroleum producers forum takes centre stage

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Nigeria International Energy Summit 2024: Focus on Collaboration as Petroleum Producers Forum Takes Center Stage

Nigeria International Energy Summit 2024: focus on collaboration as petroleum producers forum akes centre stage

 

Amidst the backdrop of a rapidly evolving energy landscape, the Nigeria International Energy Summit (NIES) 2024 emerges as a pivotal platform for fostering collaboration and cooperation among players in the pursuit of sustainable energy solutions. Spearheaded by James Shindi, Chief Executive of Brevity Anderson and consultant to NIES, this year’s summit marks the seventh iteration in a series dedicated to catalyzing dialogue and innovation within the energy sector.

In a statement on Sunday, Shindi underscored the overarching objective of NIES 2024, emphasising its steadfast commitment to nurturing a climate of collaboration conducive to addressing critical challenges confronting independent energy producers. Central to this endeavour is the inception of a groundbreaking session entitled the Nigerian Petroleum Producers’ Forum—a novel initiative aimed at galvanizing industry leaders towards collective action and shared insights.

Themed “Innovation, Collaboration, and Resilience: Empowering Independent Producers in the Dynamic Energy Era,” this innovative platform promises to empower independent producers, equipping them with the tools and strategies necessary to navigate the complex and ever-shifting terrain of the energy industry. By fostering a culture of resilience and adaptability, NIES 2024 seeks to lay the groundwork for sustainable growth and prosperity within the sector.

At the forefront of discussions will be an exploration of the myriad of challenges confronting independent energy producers, coupled with actionable strategies designed to promote innovation and collaboration. This holistic approach underscores the imperative of fostering a symbiotic relationship among stakeholders, wherein mutual benefit and collective advancement reign supreme.

Integral to the agenda is the identification of policy interventions tailored to support independent producers amidst the dynamic energy landscape. By sharing best practices and success stories from diverse regions, NIES 2024 aims to provide policymakers with practical insights to inform the formulation of supportive policies and regulations conducive to sectoral growth and stability.

The summit boasts an impressive lineup of speakers, including Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil), who will deliver a keynote address setting the tone for deliberations. Joining him is Osagie Okunbor, Country Chair/CEO of Shell Companies in Nigeria and Chairman of the Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS), whose wealth of experience promises invaluable insights into industry dynamics and challenges.

Rounding out the panel of speakers are Gbenga Komolafe, Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, and Abdulrazaq Isa, Chairman of the Independent Petroleum Producers Group/Waltersmith Group, whose opening keynote speech will set the stage for fruitful discourse and collaboration.

As different players in the energy sector gather at NIES 2024, the stage is set for a convergence of minds, ideas, and aspirations, as the industry charts a course towards a future defined by innovation, collaboration, and resilience. Against the backdrop of mounting challenges and opportunities, the summit stands as a beacon of hope, illuminating the path towards a sustainable and prosperous energy future for Nigeria and beyond.

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Fuel scarcity looms as NARTO declares petroleum transporters’ strike amid soaring operational costs

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NARTO Declares Petroleum Transporters' Strike Amid Soaring Operational Costs: Fuel Scarcity Looms

Fuel scarcity looms as NARTO declares petroleum transporters’ strike amid soaring operational costs

 

In a bid to address the dire economic challenges plaguing Nigeria’s petroleum industry, the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) has issued a resolute directive to its members, mandating them to halt the loading of petroleum products effective Monday, February 19, 2024. This drastic measure, stemming from the crippling burden of skyrocketing operational costs, threatens to unleash fuel scarcity and exacerbate the nation’s economic woes.

In a formal communiqué addressed to the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), NARTO lamented the insurmountable hurdles gripping the sector, rendering their operations financially untenable. The missive underscored the association’s relentless pursuit of viable solutions to mitigate these challenges, including fervent appeals to relevant authorities for a sustainable adjustment in freight rates. Regrettably, these entreaties have fallen on deaf ears, exacerbating the plight of petroleum truck owners.

Quoting excerpts from the correspondence, NARTO articulated its poignant plea, stating, “We are deeply constrained to seek the support and understanding of your union and members towards the excruciating challenges petroleum truck owners are facing with the high operational costs in the industry.” Despite relentless efforts to engage key stakeholders, such as the Major Energy Marketers Association of Nigeria, in constructive dialogues, the resounding silence has left NARTO with no recourse but to initiate this decisive course of action.

Echoing the gravity of the situation, NARTO’s National Executive Council (NEC) unanimously endorsed the directive, compelling members to withhold their petroleum trucks from loading activities, effective February 19, 2024. The association implored petroleum truck drivers, who are integral members of NUPENG, to extend unwavering support in solidarity with NARTO’s quest for sustainable viability within the petroleum haulage sector.

The ramifications of NARTO’s impending strike reverberate across the nation, with the specter of fuel scarcity looming ominously. Such an outcome threatens to unleash a domino effect, triggering inflationary pressures and impeding economic growth trajectories. The ramifications extend beyond mere inconvenience, posing a formidable threat to the socioeconomic fabric of Nigeria.

In a concerted effort to avert this impending crisis, the Federal Government, in collaboration with downstream regulators and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, is poised to convene a high-stakes meeting in Abuja on Monday. This crucial summit aims to foster constructive dialogue, facilitating a harmonious resolution to the impasse between NARTO and pertinent stakeholders. The deliberations aspire to chart a pragmatic pathway forward, one that safeguards the interests of all parties while ensuring the uninterrupted flow of petroleum products vital to Nigeria’s economic vitality.

Against the backdrop of escalating tensions and mounting apprehensions, the nation stands at a pivotal juncture, poised between the precipice of economic instability and the promise of collaborative resolution. The outcome of Monday’s deliberations holds profound implications, not merely for the petroleum industry, but for the collective welfare and prosperity of Nigeria as a whole.

As the clock ticks inexorably towards the fateful hour, stakeholders brace themselves for a pivotal reckoning, acutely aware of the stakes at hand. In the crucible of adversity, the resilience and ingenuity of Nigeria’s populace are poised to emerge triumphant, navigating the turbulent currents towards a brighter, more prosperous horizon.

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Fuel Scarcity Looms as Tanker Owners Threaten Nationwide Shutdown Over Rising Diesel Costs

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Fuel Scarcity Looms as Tanker Owners Threaten Nationwide Shutdown Over Rising Diesel Costs

Fuel Scarcity Looms as Tanker Owners Threaten Nationwide Shutdown Over Rising Diesel Costs

As Nigerians grapple with ongoing economic challenges, the specter of fuel scarcity looms large once again as the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) threatens to halt petrol lifting operations starting Monday, February 19, 2024. The impending shutdown, triggered by the exorbitant cost of diesel, could exacerbate the nation’s fuel supply woes, compounding the woes of already burdened citizens.

A Dire Warning

In a stern declaration made on Thursday, February 15, 2024, in Abuja, NARTO President, Yusuf Othman, sounded the alarm, announcing that members of the association would ground their tanker fleets in response to unsustainable operating costs. Highlighting the financial strain caused by the skyrocketing prices of diesel, Othman lamented that operational expenses far outweighed revenue, compelling members to consider drastic action.

Pleading for Attention

Despite repeated appeals to key stakeholders in the oil sector and President Bola Tinubu, NARTO’s pleas for intervention have fallen on deaf ears. Othman bemoaned the lack of response to their letters addressed to various government agencies and industry leaders, expressing frustration over the failure to address their grievances.

Market Realities and Rising Costs

Providing insights into the market dynamics, Othman underscored the disparity between prevailing market rates and stagnant freight rates. He cited the unyielding freight rates, set during the previous administration, as untenable in the face of escalating operational expenses. With diesel prices soaring and freight rates unchanged, tanker owners find themselves operating at a significant loss, unable to cover basic expenses such as fuel, vehicle maintenance, and driver allowances.

The Burden of Bridging

Othman shed light on the stark financial realities faced by tanker drivers, particularly in the transportation of petroleum products within and across states. Highlighting the exorbitant costs associated with local and bridging operations, he revealed the glaring mismatch between government compensation and actual operational expenditures. Despite the substantial financial outlay required for diesel and logistical support, transporters are left grappling with inadequate compensation, further exacerbating their financial woes.

Implications for the Nation

The impending shutdown of petrol lifting operations could have far-reaching consequences for Nigeria’s already strained economy and populace. With fuel scarcity likely to disrupt transportation, commerce, and daily life, citizens are bracing for heightened uncertainty and economic hardship. As the deadline approaches, all eyes are on government authorities to address the grievances of NARTO and avert a nationwide crisis.

As Nigeria teeters on the brink of yet another fuel crisis, the urgency to address the underlying issues of diesel costs and operational challenges becomes increasingly imperative to safeguard the nation’s economic stability and well-being of its citizens.

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