The fight against corruption initiated by João Lourenço, President of the Republic of Angola, is finding several obstacles.
In order to be successful, a structural change is required that includes the creation of a new judiciary body focused on corruption, a specialized Court section on corruption and money laundering, and new legislation to allow plea-bargain and agreements between the parties.
It was in February 2018, when the then Chairman of the Board of Directors of Sonangol, Carlos Saturnino, presented at a public press conference facts that he considered very serious and related to the management of Isabel dos Santos in that company.
In May 2020, after several reports about these and other facts, for example the Luanda Leaks, possibly attributable to Isabel dos Santos, the truth is that, apparently, she has not yet been notified to make statements in the judicial procedure which was opened in Angola.
The reality is that there is a risk of a sharp prolongation in this case, neither condemning nor absolving herself, leaving a trail of injustice over all matter. The comic episode about the passport with Bruce Lee’s signature that would be in one of Isabel dos Santos’s cases is a first tenuous symptom of the hypothesis of failure of this symbolic process of fighting corruption in Angola.
Also, in May 2020, very recent suspicions about acts of corruption were made public in the Interministerial Commission to Combat the Coronavirus Pandemic, namely, the unjustified chartering of Ethiopian Airlines planes and the purchase of goods from private entities, all of them with large tax debts in Angola. Companies that were hastily resuscitated to compete with the government’s biosafety material supply program. In the words of the veteran Angolan journalist Graça Campos, we begin to see that the “PIIM (Integrated Plan for Intervention in Municipalities) has become the official free transit of access to public money.”
It is not for us to evaluate or judge the claims made by Carlos Saturnino, the ICIJ or Graça Campos, but to conclude from the factual point of view that the fight against corruption in Angola, despite the very clear intentions expressed by the President of the Republic, João Lourenço, isn’t having an immediate and permanent effect. Neither the processes move quickly, nor the corrupt practices seem to have been eradicated, lasting as a reality in the life of the country.
It is in this context that it is essential to proceed with a structural change in the organic and fundamental legislation regarding the fight against corruption.
We envision three areas of intervention:
-The creation of a judiciary body focused on combating corruption;
– New judicial judicial with the competence to investigate and judge cases of corruption and money laundering (specialized sections of courts, judges and procedural law).
-The introduction of legislation that provides for plea-bargain and the possibility of procedural agreements ratified by judges between the parties to a criminal case.
Fig. 1- Proposed measures to fight corruption
These three measures are essential to put the fight against corruption on the right path. We will briefly go through each of the proposals.
Judiciary body focused on combating corruption
A body with sweeping legal powers, i.e. to investigate, search, seek, apprehend, listen, detain, demand international cooperation, etc., specialized in combating corruption, should be created. This body would centralize all the investigation regarding major cases of corruption and money laundering, having its own structure and statute equally separate from other bodies. It would be a focused body, capable of investigating a case, accusing, filing or reaching an agreement, proceeding to argue the case in court, and finally appealing to follow cases from beginning to end.
An example that can be followed and properly adapted is the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in the United Kingdom. Here we have an entity that investigates, prosecutes and follwow several of the proceedings in cases of serious or complex fraud, bribery and corruption.
Fig. 2- The British Serious Fraud Office can be a reference for the body to be created in Angola in order to fight corruption
Specialized sections in the ordinary Courts with the competence to judge cases of corruption and money laundering (Investigation and Judgment) and its own procedural law
Concomitantly, an investigating judge attached to this kind of criminality would be established, as well as a specific section within the ordinary Courts. The procedure in this section, both in the investigation phase and in the judgment phase, would be the subject of a specific procedural law, albeit guaranteeing the defense will allow an acceleration of the process, avoiding delays. Only the appeal would be made to the usual criminal section of the Supreme Court.
Hence, investigation and prosecution would have bodies specialized in corruption and money laundering.
Fig. 3- New judicial structure for fighting corruption
Legislation that provides for plea-bargain and the possibility of procedural agreements ratified by judges between the parties in a criminal case.
Finally, it is urgent to pass legislation that enables and speeds up the fight against corruption, allowing for the adoption of measures of premium law, as well as the possibility of reaching agreements in the processes between the parties, with such agreements subject to ratification by a judge.
We advocate the existence of the plea-bargain, that is, of negotiations between the Public Prosecutor and the defendants that lead to the return of assets, a lighter or nonexistent penalty and the denunciation of other co-participants.
“Plea-bargain” is a legal benefit granted to a defendant who agrees to collaborate in a criminal investigation or explain the role of his or her co-participants in a crime. This formula facilitates criminal investigation and, provided certain guarantees are safeguarded, allows for quick convictions within the framework of the rule of law.
It will be not enough for the defendant to confess a crime and to indicate other culprits. He/She must provide evidence of what he/she is saying and cannot be repeating what is already known. Therefore, the plea-bargain has to bring evidence and novelties, and it is subject to a detailed menu of regulations that prevents abuse.
The approval of a law on “negotiations” with defendants, should be an urgent objective, to substantiate the activities of asset recovery through agreements.
Fig.. 4- Advantages of the
Plea-Bargain in Angola
 Graça Campos, A mamata vai solta, 17 de maio 2020. Available online at: https://www.correioangolense.info/2020/05/17/a-mamata-vai-solta/