The daughter of Angola’s ex-president became Africa’s richest woman after allegedly syphoning hundreds of millions of pounds of public money into offshore accounts.
Isabel dos Santos, who was educated in Kent and London, is said to have got access to deals involving diamonds, oil and telecoms when her father was president.
The claims come one month after Angola’s prosecutors froze the bank accounts and assets owned by Ms dos Santos, 46, and her Congolese husband Sindika Dokolo, 47.
Isabel Dos Santos, 46, with her Congolese husband Sindika Dokolo, 47, in Cannes in May 2014
Isabel dos Santos, pictured between Nicole Sherzinger and Paris Hilton in Cannes in May 2018
Ms dos Santos with Amber Heard (left) and Cara Delevingne (right) at Cannes in May 2014
The couple allegedly steered payments of more than $1billion (£800,000) from state companies Sonangol and Sodiam to firms in which they held stakes.
One example cited by BBC News claimed that as she left Sonangol, she approved $58million (£45million) of payments to Dubai consultants Matter Business Solutions.
She claimed no financial interest in Matter, but among the 700,000 leaked papers are documents showing it was run by her business manager and owned by a friend.
However, the King’s College graduate has denied wrongdoing, saying her fortune is ‘built on my character, my intelligence, education, capacity for work, perseverance’.
Ms dos Santos, who owns a £13million home in Kensington, West London, has 190,000 Instagram followers and is regularly photographed with celebrities.
Ms dos Santos with Lindsay Lohan and Harvey Weinstein at a party in Sardinia in August 2016
Ms dos Santos has a £13million home in Kensington, West London, and went to King’s College
Ms dos Santos owns a £40million superyacht called Hayken, seen in Miami in October 2016
Among the stars she has been seen with are Lindsay Lohan, Rita Ora, Nicole Scherzinger, Paris Hilton, Amber Heard, Cara Delevingne and Harvey Weinstein.
Ms dos Santos, who has a fortune worth £1.9billion, attended Cobham Hall girls’ boarding school in Kent and studied electrical engineering at King’s College.
The claims will be aired in a Panorama investigation on BBC One at 8.30pm tonight, following a probe by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The New York-based group revealed the ‘Panama Papers’ tax haven scandal in 2016, and its latest series zeroing in on Ms dos Santos is called ‘Luanda Leaks’.
A team of 120 reporters in 20 countries looked into Ms dos Santos, the daughter of former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who served from 1979 to 2017.
Ms dos Santos has posed with a host of celebrities, including Rita Ora in Cannes in May 2017
Former Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos is pictured in Luanda in August 2012
But Ms dos Santos took to Twitter to refute the claims, launching a barrage of around 30 tweets in Portuguese and English, and accusing journalists of telling ‘lies’
The ICIJ team said it found a ‘broken international regulatory system that allows professional services firms to serve the powerful with almost no questions asked’.
It claimed ‘an army of Western financial firms, lawyers, accountants, government officials and management companies’ helped her hide assets from tax authorities.
But Ms dos Santos took to Twitter to refute the claims, launching a barrage of around 30 tweets in Portuguese and English, and accusing journalists of telling ‘lies’.
‘My fortune is built on my character, my intelligence, education, capacity for work, perseverance,’ she wrote.
She also blasted ‘the racism and prejudice’ of SIC-Expresso, a Portuguese TV station and newspaper, and member of the ICIJ, ‘that recall the colonial era when an African could never be considered equal to a European’.
Prince Harry meets current Angolan president João Lourenço in Luanda in September 2019
Harry walks through a minefield in Dirico, Angola, during a visit to the country last September
Floodwaters are seen around houses in the Vila Nova neighbourhood of Luanda on January 10
Children sit and stand at the Boa Vista slum in the outskirts of Luanda in August 2012
Ms dos Santos’s lawyer dismissed the ICIJ findings as a ‘highly coordinated attack’ orchestrated by Angola’s current rulers.
How Jose Eduardo dos Santos ruled with an iron fist for 38 years
Jose Eduardo dos Santos ruled the oil-rich southern African country of Angola with an iron fist for 38 years.
Top positions were awarded to his cronies and wealth accumulated in the hands of a select few during this time.
His time in charge was also widely associated with authoritarianism, corruption and nepotism.
He left a legacy of poverty and nepotism after stepping down in 2017 from the top job in a country still recovering from a 1975-2002 civil war.
Last month, prosecutors froze the bank accounts and holdings owned by his daughter Isabel and her husband.
But Mr dos Santos’s children claim they have been unfairly targeted by an anti-graft campaign by their father’s successor President Joao Lourenco.
His son Jose Filomeno went on trial last month for allegedly embezzling $500million (£385million) from Angola’s sovereign fund, which he oversaw from 2013 to 2018. Nicknamed ‘Zenu’, he faces up to 12 years in jail if found guilty.
Meanwhile, Zenu’s half-sister Welwitschia was suspended from Angola’s parliament in October for absenteeism and ‘unjust enrichment’.
Ms dos Santos herself told BBC Africa the file dump was part of a ‘witch hunt’ meant to discredit her and her father.
The ICIJ investigation said Western consulting firms were ‘apparently ignoring red flags’ while helping her stash away public assets.
‘Regulators around the globe have virtually ignored the key role Western professionals play in maintaining an offshore industry that drives money laundering and drains trillions from public coffers,’ the report said.
Its document trove included redacted letters allegedly showing how consultants sought out ways to open non-transparent bank accounts.
One confidential document allegedly drafted by consultants in September 2015 outlined a complex scheme for the oil company to move its money offshore.
The former president’s daughter headed Angola’s national oil company Sonangol. Forbes magazine last year estimated her net worth at $2.2billion (£1.7billion).
The businesswoman is often called ‘The Princess’ by Angolans, while an investigation by Forbes in 2013 tagged her ‘the richest woman in Africa.’
Her father’s successor Joao Lourenco forced her out of the oil company after becoming president in 2017.
Ms dos Santos said on Wednesday that she would consider running for president in the next election in 2022.
Panorama: ‘The Corrupt Billionaire’ will air on BBC One at 8.30pm tonight