Imagine a U.S. public company agreeing to invest millions of U.S. dollars in developing residential properties in Angola to benefit low- and middle-income Angolan families and reduce the huge demand for affordable housing, a growing need ignored by the Angolan government. Imagine that same company seeking to lower the high rate of unemployment in Angola by hiring first 100s and then 1,000s of Angolan workers to help in building, marketing and selling these affordable homes to Angolan citizens. Imagine the new business opportunities created and the sudden interest among other U.S. and international investors in Angola as these affordable housing developments come to life.
Now imagine high-ranking Angolan officials seeing these properties and deciding to enrich themselves even further at the expense of ordinary Angolans. Imagine them working secretly and conspiring among themselves and with Angolan government agencies to forge documents that allow them to first take control of the U.S. company’s Angolan subsidiaries and then take control of the subsidiary bank accounts.
Imagine these Angolan government officials arranging with then Provincial Governor of Luanda, General Higino Carniero (now under investigation for criminal activity), to officially transfer the deed to the U.S. company’s properties, with value in the tens of millions of U.S. dollars, to a current Angolan State Prosecutor for $0. Imagine the Angolan government agencies that are obligated under Angolan law to report these activities but refuse to do so. Imagine Angolan notaries, acting under their official powers within the Angolan Ministry of Justice, approving patently false documentation on behalf of Angolan government officials to enable the theft of property and then those documents vanishing from the official company and property registers when investigated by our Angolan legal representatives. Finally, with all of these clandestine and unlawful activities complete, imagine a group of these Angolan government officials suddenly appearing on the U.S. company’s properties carrying AK-47 rifles and threatening the safety of those employees and residents who refuse to take orders and make payments to this illegally occupying regime.
You are no longer imagining. This is exactly what happened to Africa Growth Corporation (AFGC).
AFGC's mission was to help facilitate the access to affordable housing in Angola. In order to support this mission, AFGC operated four (4) residential apartment buildings on Ilha do Cabo in Luanda. The buildings consisted of 104 apartments and seven (7) offices.
AFGC was a huge advocate for foreign direct investment into Angola, seeing vast opportunities for US companies to assist the Angolan people. As a part of its efforts, AFGC listed the first ever Angolan-focused corporate bond on the Irish Stock exchange in December 2015. AFGC received extensive praise for this monumental accomplishment and for its planned affordable housing program from Angolan business leaders and Angolan government officials.
AFGC was positioned to proved a significant positive impact in Angola.
FAILURE TO FIND JUSTICE IN ANGOLA
Immediately upon having its properties, its companies, its bank accounts seized and controlled by Angolan government forces that had no legal right to do so, AFGC sought relief from the PGR, the Angolan government agency responsible for enforcing Angolan law, and was ignored at every turn. AFGC then went to the Angolan courts twice and on both occasions was awarded a judgment in its favor which found that AFGC’s properties had been seized illegally and “by violent means.” The Angolan court twice ordered that the unlawful Angolan government trespassers evacuate the properties immediately. Claiming immunity as Angolan army officers, the Angolan government trespassers refused to vacate the properties as ordered by the Angolan judge.
FORCED TO RESORT TO U.S. JUSTICE SYSTEM
Unable to find justice within Angola, and continually harassed by Angolan government agents, the U.S. company was forced to bring a lawsuit in U.S. courts, first in Washington, D.C. for the underlying expropriation by the Angolan government. And then later in Miami, Florida for breach of a settlement agreement entered in February 2019 between AFGC and the Republic of Angola after a meeting in which Angolan government representatives conceded responsibility for their illegal activities and agreed to pay AFGC USD $47.5 million. Angola’s subsequent refusal to pay the agreed amount to AFGC represents yet another unlawful action and breach of trust by the Angolan government.
The D.C. court dismissed the case against Angola last month only after AFGC itself moved to dismiss the D.C case so that AFGC could pursue its case against the Republic of Angola in Miami federal court. In addition, the D.C. court did not issue any opinion as to the facts relating to the unlawful and ongoing expropriation of AFGC’s assets by the Angolan government. Rather, the court held it lacked jurisdiction over Angola as a foreign state because its actions, according to the D.C. judge, did not fall within the exceptions to the U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. AFGC’s claims against Angola are proceeding as intended in Miami federal court, where AFGC expects the court to both assert jurisdiction over Angola and compel the Republic to pay the monies owed to AFGC, plus interest and fees.
U.S CONSIDERING SANCTIONS AGAINST ANGOLA
As AFGC’s losses arising from the Angolan government’s actions approach USD $100 million, it is regrettable that AFGC has been compelled to meet with senior members of the Trump Administration and the U.S. Congress to discuss sanctions against Angola absent compensation to AFGC that is overdue and owing.
It is also long past time for the Angolan people to know the full true story.