Projects Deception in High Places:
The Corrupt Angola-Russia Debt Deal
The Angola-Russia Debt Deal relied on a number of people for its execution. Here, we highlight the roles played by the key players as well as provide a short biographical history.
Co-Owner of Abalone Investments
The key player in the Angola–Russia debt transaction, was born in 1952 in Moscow. At the age of 20, he emigrated to Israel, after which he relocated to France, where he initiated his first business. In 1993, Gaydamak, along with his partner, Pierre Falcone, helped to arrange a large arms deal that saw the Angolan government purchase $790 million in weaponry from Russia and France.
In 2009, French courts convicted Gaydamak for various crimes related to the deal – known as Angolagate – although some convictions were overturned and his six-year sentence was reduced by half on appeal in 2011. He has never served time in jail as he refused to travel back to France, opting instead to remain in Israel.
Co-Owner of Abalone Investments
Pierre Falcone was born in Algeria in 1954. When he was aged eight, Falcone’s parents moved to France, following Algeria’s declaration of independence. In his early twenties Falcone moved to Brazil, where he started his business life as an agricultural entrepreneur. Together with his Bolivian wife, Falcone established himself as a signifi cant socialite in the US in the 1990s.
In 2009 Falcone was convicted of various crimes relating to Angolagate, receiving a six year sentence. He had attempted to claim diplomatic immunity as he was then the Angolan ambassador to UNESCO – a position that confirmed his closeness to the Angolan political elite. Some of his convictions were overturned and his sentence was reduced on appeal in 2011. He remains active in Angola
Zeev Zakharin, a non-commissioned Israeli reserve officer, had, like Dagan, acted as a signatory to many of Gaydamak’s financial instruments. He had served as an Army Commander for the Israeli Defence Force. In the 1990s he had trained the presidential guard for Zaire’s dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko. He subsequently linked up with Gaydamak, and then later broke relations with Gaydamak. Zakharin now reportedly runs farms in Angola.
Co-Owner of Abalone Investments
Vitaly Malkin, now aged 58, was estimated to be worth around $1bn according to Forbes’ “World Billionaires” 2008 feature. His fortune could not have hurt his rise to the position of senator in the upper house of the Russian Parliament in 2004. Malkin joined forces with Boris Ivanisvhili in 1990 to form a host of banks in the newly democratic Russia, at the same time purchasing an array of Russia’s newly privatised mineral assets.
The extent of their business acumen was revealed in 2004–05 when they sold their combined metallurgical assets for an estimated $2.2 billion. In 2012, Malkin’s official tax returns showed that he was the richest member of the Russian upper house of Parliament, earning $33.6 million in 2011 alone. He resigned from Parliament in 2013 after allegations emerged that he unlawfully held dual Israeli and Russian citizenship and substantial assets in Canada.
Financial Administrator of Abalone Investments and other Gaydamak Entities
Joelle Mamane, now in her late 50s, is an accountant by profession who worked for the Discount Bank in Luxembourg during the 1980s and early 1990s, where she rose to the position of Deputy CEO. Thereafter, she set up an independent financial advisory service specialising in offshore financing vehicles—skills she allegedly used to create a vast array of offshore companies intended to disguise Gaydamak’s real assets.
She was the critical financial engineer, adviser, and business alter ego for Gaydamak. It was she, sources say, who had originally incorporated Abalone for Gaydamak and had served as its managing director, and frequently as signatory. Mamane is currently active in the Jewish philanthropic sector.
A former senior official in Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, Avi Dagan also appears in another Angola-related Gaydamak scandal, involving not oil but diamonds. In that matter, Gaydamak ended up suing another Israeli business associate, Lev Leviev, for about $1 billion in a British court, seeking (unsuccessfully) to enforce an alleged agreement with Leviev to share with Gaydamak one half of Leviev’s interest in the Angolan diamond parastatal, ASCORP S.a.r.l. Dagan, who tended to refer to Gaydamak in emails as the “father,” testified in support of Gaydamak in that case, but was found by the court to be “not a straightforward witness,” who provided testimony that “could not be relied upon” and was, in part, “impossible to believe.”
THE ANGOLAN OFFICIALS
José Eduardo dos Santos
President of Angola
Born in 1942, José Eduardo dos Santos has served as the President of Angola since 1979. At the time the country was still split by a civil war between dos Santos’ MPLA and the opposition rebel group, UNITA. MPLA controlled Luanda and was widely regarded as the de facto Angolan government. Only Jonas Savimbi’s death in 2002, however, effectively ended the war.
During his time as President of Angola, dos Santos and his family have amassed a substantial personal fortune. His daughter, Isabel, used her father’s infl uence to jump-start her business career at age 24, according to Forbes magazine, which put her at the top of its list of “Africa’s Richest Women” in 2011 and in 2013 dubbed her “Africa’s First Woman Billionaire,” highlighting her substantial business interests in Portugal, including major holdings in two Portuguese banks, Banco Espírito Santo and Banco Português de Investimento.
José Leitão da Costa e Silva
Minister in the Office of the Presidency
Born in 1951, José Leitão da Costa e Silva has held a number of powerful positions within Angola’s ruling MPLA party, at all times remaining very close to the President of the party and later the country, José Eduardo dos Santos.
From 1992 to 2004, during the time of the Debt Deal and at the time he received the $3m payment from Abalone, da Costa e Silva served in one of the most powerful positions in Angola: Minister in the Office of the Presidency. Since 2005 da Costa e Silva has served on the board of the company Grupo Gema, which controls stakes in a number of profi table ventures, including an oil exploration deal with Sonangol.
Elísio de Figueiredo
Ambassador without Portfolio
Elísio de Figueiredo is an Angolan diplomatic stalwart. In 1976 he was appointed independent Angola’s first ever ambassador to the United Nations, a position he held until 1988. Thereafter, he served in a number of diplomatic postings.
During the early 1990s – the period in which Angolagate and the Debt Deal were conceived and executed – de Figueiredo served as Angola’s Ambassador without portfolio in Paris. During the now notorious Angolagate deal, de Figueiredo was allegedly appointed by José Eduardo dos Santos as Angola’s envoy to key contacts in France.
Joaquim Duarte da Costa David
Director General of Sonangol and Minister of Finance
Joaquim Duarte da Costa David was born in 1951 and has long been considered a political ally of the Angolan President, José Eduardo dos Santos. David began his career as an oil engineer in the late 1970s, working for Petrangol and Texaco.
In 1982 he was appointed a divisional chief of Angola’s state oil producer, Sonangol. He was promoted to the position of director general of Sonangol in 1989, a position he held until 1998. David was thus director general of Sonangol during the earliest phases of the Angola-Russia Debt Deal. After resigning from Sonangol, David served as Minister of Finance until 2000, after which he served as the Minister of Industry. In 2010, David ‘s Ministry was expanded to include Geology and Mines —a position he still holds.
José Carlos de Castro Paiva
Director General of Sonangal UK
José Carlos de Castro Paiva remains an influential force in Angolan politics. In 1975 de Castro Paiva began his career in banking. A year later, he joined the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, rising to the head of its marketing department.
In 1987, de Paiva Castro was appointed to the position of Director General of Sonangol UK Ltd., a position he still holds. He also serves as chair of the board of Banco Angolano de Investimentos (BAI), which was formed in 1996 as Angola’s first private bank. The largest shareholder of BAI is the state oil producer Sonangol.
José Pedro de Morais Jr
Director: Ministries of Industry and External Relations, Minister of Finance
Born in December 1955, José Pedro de Morais Jr has held positions within the Angolan administration since dos Santos’ presidential inauguration in the 1970s. He has served as a director within the Ministries of Industry and External Relations. Most notably, he served as Minister of Finance between 2002 and 2008. He has also made a name for himself in the world of international finance, serving as Angola’s alternate Executive Director at the International Monetary Fund.
THE RUSSIAN OFFICIALS
Deputy Minister of Finance, Minister of Finance
Born in 1957, Mikhail Kasyanov has been a major player in Russian politics and administration, deeply involved in resolving the country’s Soviet era debt problems. In 1993, Kasyanov was appointed the Head of the Department of Foreign Credits and External Debt at the Russian Finance Ministry.
Two years later, he was appointed Deputy Minister of Finance, a position he held until 1999, when he was promoted by Boris Yeltsin to Minister of Finance. In this role, Kasyanov served as Russia’s chief negotiator on restructuring the country’s Soviet-era debt with international creditors. In 2000, he was selected as the country’s Prime Minister, serving under President Putin. After being ousted by Putin in 2004, Kasyanov formed the People’s Democratic Union in 2006, of which he was elected party leader. In 2010 he helped to co-found the People’s Freedom Party.
Minister of Finance
Born in 1960, Alexei Kudrin is a powerhouse of Russian politics. In 1996 he was made Deputy Chief of Boris Yeltsin’s presidential administration. In 2000 he was appointed Finance Minister, a position he held until September 2011, making him the longest-serving post-Communist Russian Finance Minister. Kudrin has been credited with driving the policy of settling the majority of the country’s foreign debts.
Kudrin resigned in 2011 after a public falling-out with Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev. Kudrin was reported to be disinterested in a return to politics “in the nearest future”, instead focusing on creating a group to support civic initiatives.