Angolan lawyer and university professor Benja Satula today questioned the logic of issuing an international arrest warrant against businesswoman Isabel dos Santos, when the proposed amnesty law is under discussion in parliament.
Benja Satula was speaking to Lusa about the recent international arrest warrant at the request of the Attorney General’s Office against Angolan businesswoman Isabel dos Santos, on the sidelines of the National Conference of the National Union of Magistrates of the Public Ministry, in which he was one of the speakers.
For the lawyer, there are other ways to solve this problem, arguing that there is “a somewhat distorted approach to criminal policy”.
“Because, at the same time that a proposal for an amnesty law is being taken to parliament, at the same time an international arrest warrant is being issued against a citizen. From the point of view of dogmatic rationality of criminal policy, these are things that do not match and for that very reason I do not understand the logic, rationality and effectiveness”, he underlined.
According to the professor, society does not need to be euphoric, “because the Public Ministry has already issued other [mandados de captura internacional] and could not bring anyone.
“Precisely because the logic, the reading that is made of the Public Ministry and its structure in Angola, is a structure that anyone abroad can defend by saying that it does not have autonomy, this is a political process, it receives direct guidance from the holder of the executive power, and therefore bars the person from coming”, he stressed.
The lawyer stressed that any process in preparatory instruction implies notification of the defendant to be present to be interrogated, with Isabel dos Santos, in her defence, claiming that she was never heard or notified and that the authorities knew her addresses.
“She says no, that she didn’t, it’s her defense, it’s a right that the accused has to be heard, the right to be present, to speak, to be defended, it’s a fundamental right. The authorities also said, on the other hand, that they had made many attempts to locate them and failed, I think that we are here with a process with an unnecessary and expendable exchange of impressions ”, he considered.
Benja Satula defended that the processes should take place in secrecy of justice, instead of “wars of words”, which he considers unnecessary, but which “the political moment may dictate”.
“In fact, the criminal process, the faster it is investigated the better, if we take time to investigate, we clearly have much more difficulties in tracking, in discovering the evidence, in gathering evidence, in order to be able to condemn in terms of a fair and equitable process” , he stated.
Interpol issued an international arrest warrant for extradition in the name of Isabel dos Santos, at the request of the PGR of Angola, who is wanted on suspicion of “crimes of embezzlement, qualified fraud, illegal participation in business, criminal association and influence peddling, money laundering”, incurring a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison.
Regarding the specific case of the former Vice-President of Angola Manuel Vicente, the lawyer said that it was also necessary to put the euphoria aside, for some reasons, one of them, the fact that his process had started in Portugal.
“We can’t be too euphoric, I work on that and I can’t be too euphoric, for a very simple reason: the engineer Manuel Vicente is being accused of a process that started in Portugal, it’s a corruption process. Well, the corruption process, depending on when it happened, is amnesty. The amnesty law of 2016 granted amnesty for all corruption cases”, he underlined.
Benja Satula also stressed that, not being corruption, in Portugal the former Angolan vice-president could not be accused of embezzlement.
“If it is not corruption, if it is not embezzlement, this proposal [da amnistia] that amnesty will also be presented for processes that are not embezzlement and are not corruption, especially when corruption did not happen in Angola”, he noted.
“So, it’s too much euphoria, we don’t need to have too much euphoria, we have to understand that the people who govern have political opportunism to pass on a message (…) effectively combat crime of any nature, for all the more reason, crime committed by holders of public office, management and leadership positions, political positions”, he added.
Manuel Vicente was protected by the Angolan law of immunity for holders of public office, which limits this protection to five years after the end of the exercise of functions, a period that expired in September.
In 2018, the criminal process initiated in Portugal, known as “Operação Fizz”, in which the former Angolan vice-president was accused of having corrupted the Portuguese prosecutor Orlando Figueira, caused a diplomatic crisis between the two countries, which was resolved after the case concerning Manuel Vicente was transferred to Angola.