THE US multinational, General Electric (GE) and Manuel Vicente, a former vice-president of Angola, are embroiled in a legal dispute between two Angolan businessmen.
Businessman Rui Miguel Casimiro Tati is suing another businessman Eugenio Manuel da Silva Neto Neto (Geny Neto) and his company GLS Holding for $10 million for services he claims to have provided in setting up a consortium between GLS Holding and the US multinational General Electric (GE) in Angola. The aim of this partnership was to build an underwater equipment factory and a service centre in Soyo for the oil industry.
During the hearing of case before the Luanda Provincial Court, serious revelations have been made by both parties regarding the involvement of the former Chairman of the Board of of the state oil company, Sonangol, and former Vice President of the Republic, Manuel Vicente.
According to Eugénio Neto, Manuel Vicente used his influence to facilitate the formation of the GLS-GE consortium. Specifically, in 2010, Manuel Vicente, then head of Sonangol, is alleged to have told Neto that GE Oil & Gas was on a Sonangol ‘blacklist’ due to ‘past misconduct.’
In his lengthy statement of facts, Neto reveals that Vicente said to him: ‘By knowing the defendant Eugenio Neto personally, because of the consideration for him, and because of the socio-economic impact of the project for the country, Vicente would “forgive” GE Oil & Gas and remove it of the blacklist so that the defendant could work with it (…).’
However, the factory was never built, even though an investment of over $170 million was announced with a huge fanfare in the press. But the fact is that the consortium has done other deals with oil multinationals operating in Angola, which are estimated at over $1bn.
This case shows how Manuel Vicente allegedly misused his influence to favour a friend, removing a company from a blacklist that was not known to exist in Sonangol, and forgiving that same company for an unknown crime. In legal terms, this act of Manuel Vicente constitutes a crime of influence peddling.
Following this ‘confession’ about Manuel Vicente’s influence peddling, Rui Tati listed him as a witness in his response to Eugenio Neto’s rejoinder.
And here begins the show. According to information obtained by Maka Angola, an initiative dedicated to the fight against corruption and the defence of democracy in Angola, Manuel Vicente wants to use the immunities and privileges that his current MPLA (ruling party) status gives him. ‘That is, he also wants to be heard “on the beach” instead of the court. This is a repetition of the unfortunate episode of the former Attorney General, the disgraceful general João Maria de Sousa,’ Maka Angola said.
Eugénio Neto’s relationship with Manuel Vicente became grew when the former was vice-president of Espírito Santo Commerce (ESCOM) of the Grupo Espírito Santo (GES) and Helder Bataglia. The GES owned 56 percent of the capital of Banco Espírito Santo Angola (BESA). Manuel Vicente, on the other hand, had economic interests with GES through BESA (currently called Banco Economico), where he was a partner, being part of a triumvirate together with the generals Kopelipa and Leopoldino Fragoso do Nascimento.
ESCOM was associated with the Chinese trafficker Sam Pa, who, until four years ago, dominated the relationship between Angola and China and the billions of dollars of funding managed by the National Reconstruction Office (GRN) for the recovery of infrastructure destroyed during the war.
Initial contacts had been encouraged by then-ESCOM President Helder Bataglia and international arms dealer Pierre Falcone of the famous Angolagate case. According to Maka Angola, Eugénio Neto was part of the initial delegation.
Manuel Vicente, as head of Sonangol, became the key figure in the relationship with China in securing oil payments, while General Kopelipa took over the GRN. It was the time of the greatest party in plundering the country’s resources.
As always in these large and opaque businesses, the schemes are too complicated and end up very badly revealed. A judge will hardly get to the bottom of the matter. But the truth about what is essential always comes to the fore.