Apr 18 2012

Cobalt’s and Goldman’s Angola connections

Posted by: Nick Shaxson in: Thoughts

There will always be a special place for oil-rich Angola, and particularly the indefatigable people of Angola, in my heart. I was the Reuters correspondent there from 1993-1995, during what (for the first part of my assignment) the United Nations was calling the worst war in the world.

I gave a talk at Chatham House yesterday looking at the evidence of how Angola has been faring in the ten years since they killed the bloodthirsty Unita leader Jonas Savimbi. It’s very, very disappointing. I wrote something very brief about it here.

One of the many challenges facing the Angolan people is, of course, of course!, corruption.

The Financial Times has done some excellent digging about the Goldman Sachs-backed Cobalt International Energy, which it discovered (with the help of my old Angolan friend Rafael Marques) has gone into a potentially highly lucrative partnership with some of the Angolan MPLA regime’s top officials including Manuel Vicente, until recently head of state oil company Sonangol, and Helder Vieira Días (“Kopelipa,”) one of the most influential and secretive advisers to President dos Santos and head of the Casa Militar (military affairs bureau). This follows news that U.S. regulators have started a probe into the matter. I  believe that the British Virgin Islands and Panama are in the frame in this one, though I can’t find a direct reference to this.

Over a billion dollars were knocked off Cobalt’s shares at one point. Congrats to all those who researched this.

And pity the poor people of Angola. Despite ten years of peace, and many tens of billions of dollars’ worth of oil pumped, they suffer some of the world’s worst human development indicators.

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