April 9, 2018 / 3:59 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-Alleged Angolan fraud scheme aimed to take $1.5 bln -finance ministry

(Adds information from Finance Ministry)

By Stephen Eisenhammer

LUANDA, April 9 (Reuters) - People involved in an alleged scheme to defraud Angola’s government laid out plans to secure as much as $1.5 billion, the finance ministry said on Monday, three times the amount previously mentioned by authorities.

State prosecutors announced in March they were investigating a $500 million transfer made last year out of an account belonging to the central bank to an account in Britain.

Prosecutors have presented initial charges relating to the case against the former governor of the central bank, Valter Filipe da Silva, and José Filomeno dos Santos, the son of the former Angolan president.

Reuters was not immediately able to contact da Silva or dos Santos who has said he is cooperating with authorities.

On Monday, Angola’s finance ministry released a statement setting out what it called “the truth of the serious facts that have occurred”.

It said that a firm, purporting to have the support of a syndicate of international banks, presented a plan to the government to secure $35 billion of international financing for Angola.

The finance ministry statement said the firm had proposed that the government pay out $1.5 billion of its own money to help set up the deal.

A total of $500 million of that amount was transferred to an account in London, the ministry said, but that was flagged as suspicious by British authorities and frozen.

That $500 million has now been returned to Angola’s central bank, the ministry added.

The former central bank governor and the former president’s son are the most high-profile figures to be named in corruption investigations since President Joao Lourenco took over in September promising to combat endemic graft.

Under Angolan law the initial charges, or formal accusations, against both men must then be upheld via a formal charge document. Prosecutors said this process would be completed within 90 days.

The $500 million transfer happened last year towards the end of the 38-year presidency of José Eduardo dos Santos, shortly before the elections that replaced him, the ministry said. (Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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