Angola: The Angolans’ Building in Estoril Sol
By Rafael Marques De Morais*
Displays of wealth by newly rich Angolans have become legendary in Portugal in recent years. Angolan leaders and their families and business associates have been buying up some of the country’s most opulent properties.
A typical case is that of Estoril Sol Residence, a luxury housing complex comprising three buildings of a distinctive and controversial design in Estoril, a coastal suburb of Lisbon. The complex contains some of Portugal’s most expensive apartments, priced at between one million and five million euros per unit. The complex, opened two years ago, is well known as “the Angolans’ building”, since Angolans are the main property owners there, holding title to about 30 apartments.
An investigation by Maka Angola has revealed the names of the rich Angolans who own property in Estoril Sol Residence.
The Minister of Public Administration, Employment and Social Security, António Domingos Pitra Costa Neto, is the owner of five apartments in the Torre Baía building, on the third, fifth, seventh, ninth and fourteenth floors, the first four of these being registered in the name of his daughter, Katila Pitra da Costa, who is a student. According to reports from the office of president José Eduardo dos Santos, Pitra Neto is expected to be the next president of the Angolan National Assembly, after the elections scheduled for 31 August.
On the ninth and fourteenth floors, minister Pitra Neto has the Kopelipa family as neighbours. Two apartments are owned by Fátima Geovetty, the wife of General Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias “Kopelipa”, the Minister of State and head of the President’s Military Bureau. General Kopelipa’s loyal business partner, Domingos Manuel Inglês, has an apartment on the twelfth floor. In the neighbouring Torre Cascais building, a fourth-floor apartment with a great ocean view is the property of Ismênio Coelho Macedo, a Portuguese man who looks after some of the general’s lesser-known business interests.
Another notable owner is the former Finance Minister, José Pedro de Morais, who has four apartments on the first, second, fourth and fifth floors of Torre Baía.
Valdomiro Minoro Dondo, a Brazilian who also holds Angolan nationality, has an eleventh-floor apartment in Torre Estoril. Dondo has had business dealings with General Kopelipa, José Pedro de Morais, Pitra Neto, the presidential family and other influential members of the regime. His capacity for influence peddling has given him the interesting title of “the richest foreigner in Angola.” Another Brazilian, Gerson António de Sousa Nascimento, owns a duplex on the sixth and seventh floors of Torre Estoril.
Walter Virgínio Rodrigues, a business partner and legal representative of the President’s daughter, Welwitchia “Tchizé” dos Santos, showed business had been good for him when he bought an apartment on the eighth floor of Torre Estoril. To celebrate the multi-million dollar contract for the private management of Channel 2 of the Angolan Public Television (TPA) between the Angolan Social Communication Ministry and the company Westside Investments – of which “Tchizé” dos Santos is the majority shareholder – she granted him a bonus of US$500,000, while paying herself a bonus of US$1.5 million out of public funds.
Another Angolan among the select group of owners is Noé Baltazar, the former director of the national diamond company of Angola, Endiama.
Most of the Angolan owners have ostentatiously bought several apartments, regardless of the price. Some of the purchases have aroused the suspicions of the Portuguese justice system, which has opened inquiries. One of those investigated on suspicion of money laundering was the chairman of Banco Espírito Santo Angola (BESA), Álvaro Sobrinho. Investigations by the Portuguese newspaper Diário de Notícias have revealed that on 2 September 2010, Sobrinho acquired six apartments in the Estoril Sol Residence complex with an initial payment of €9.5 million. His brothers, Sílvio e Emanuel Madaleno, also own three apartments at Estoril Sol.
There are other Angolans who have chosen to use intermediaries in order to acquire properties more discreetly. Whether for legitimate investment or for money laundering, Portugal is still the favoured destination of wealthy Angolans.