LOCAL media have reported that Angolan diamond mining company Dicorp had an interesting recent addition to its list of shareholders last January – Edith do Sacramento Gonçalves Lourenço Catraio. She is a former diplomat, and the sister of Angolan President Joao Lourenco.
This Angolan diamond mining company, however, was registered in 2016, a year before her brother took office, and three years before the public discovered her position as a shareholder. In late 2017, her gem corporation pledged to invest 20 percent of the total cost (more than $16 million) in a diamond project in Angola alongside public company Endiama.
The question many are asking is what a diplomat is doing on the board of a diamond company. Edith Lourenco is actually involved in two separate diamond mining companies registered in Angola and Luxemburg, and perhaps a third registered in Switzerland. The Swiss company counts De Beers’ local Angolan representative among its shareholders.
The current Angolan president has made the fight against corruption a cornerstone of his public image campaign, but this fight does not extend to his own family.
The news of his sister’s new position comes at an awkward time for Lourenco. Documents published by Africa Intelligence on July 10, 2019 show that in 2017 Trump-linked Republican operative Elliot Broidy tried to arrange meetings between US Congressmen and two high-ranking Angolan government officials – the minister of defence and director of external intelligence. The Angolan minister of defence at the time was the current president, Joao Lourenco. Broidy has since been investigated by the US Department of Justice over his business and political activities. He has been accused of influence peddling and lobbying on behalf of foreign governments.
Lourenco and his family have faced accusations of corruption in the past. They were reported to own a five-bedroom house in an affluent neighbourhood of Maryland, US. The property was bought in 2013 for just over $2 million. They saved some money, however, by abusing a local tax credit scheme.
Angola is the world’s fourth largest producer of diamonds, and they have a bloody history in the country, having previously been used by the opposition UNITA group to fund the prolonging of the brutal Angolan Civil War, despite several opportunities for peace presenting themselves.
The civil war in Angola is over, but diamonds continue to shape the country’s internal dynamics. This is especially true when the local currency has devalued 40 percent since last year, making precious metals a hot commodity for those seeking to enrich themselves. Edith Lourenco’s transition from diplomacy to diamonds, in the context of her brother’s anti-corruption campaign, highlights the continuing importance of this gemstone in Angola.