Silence works wonders in Angola

By Richard Lee | February 06th, 2014

So it’s over. There will be no Swiss investigation into the hugely corrupt Russia-Angola debt deal, which saw over US$750 million looted from Angola’s coffers - money that ended up in the pockets of senior Angolan officials (including the president) and the bank accounts of dodgy middlemen. And no further investigation in Switzerland of a deal that was facilitated by Swiss banks.

Sadly, the bravery of the Angolan activists who publicly filed a criminal complaint in Switzerland will not be rewarded with an in-depth examination of the scandal despite the wealth of new evidence outlined in last year’s excellent report by Corruption Watch UK – Deception in High Places: The Corrupt Russia-Angola debt deal.

Instead, it’s the tactics employed by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos that have proven successful.

And his tactics were so simple – say nothing, respond with total silence. You would think that a president accused of siphoning off over US$30 million from his own country’s treasury would angrily and loudly and publicly profess his innocence. But dos Santos has not said a thing since the report was launched in April last year. Not even when 4 of his fellow Angolans filed a criminal complaint related to the looting.

In most countries, silence like this would not work wonders since it would encourage journalists to keep digging, opposition politicians to cry foul and civil society activists to demand a public enquiry. But this is Angola. Dos Santos knew that he just had to keep his mouth shut and the issue would fade away – as long as the Swiss did not actively pursue the case.

And perhaps he already knew they wouldn’t. They certainly did not provide the most persuasive grounds for refusing to proceed with a full-scale investigation. Neither he nor the other senior officials implicated in the deal ever expressed any fear or concern. They knew that they were immune – so why bother defending themselves?

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