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Angola’s Vicente charged in ‘Operation Fizz’

Ex-Sonangol boss and current country vice president faces bribery charges from Portuguese prosecutor

The former boss of Angolan state oil giant Sonangol has been charged with corruption by Portuguese authorities over alleged bribery uncovered under the years-long Operation Fizz probe.

Manuel Vicente, who is currently Angola’s vice president, was hit, along with three others, with the charges on Thursday by the state prosecutor in Lisbon.

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Vicente and two of the others charged are accused of paying €760,000 ($808,760 today) to former Portuguese public prosecutor Orlando Figueira – the fourth person charged – in order to bury an investigation into the then Sonangol president, which followed on from an original probe over the purchase of a property in Portugal.

Figueira was arrested in September 2012 and €512,000 in assets was frozen in bank accounts held in Portugal and Andorra as well as safes. He remains under house detention in Portugal, with the public prosecutor describing him in Thursday’s order as being “on long-term unpaid leave” since his arrest.

Vicente has been charged with “active corruption”, “money laundering” and forgery of documents, with Angolan authorities set to issue him with the rap sheet.

Paulo Blanco, Vicente’s lawyer at the time, also faces the same charges, as well as an additional charge of “breach of secrecy of justice”.

Armindo Pires, Vicente’s representative in Portugal, faces the same charges as the ex-Sonangol boss, while Figueira faces the same charges as Blanco.

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Vicente and Angolan authorities have previously denied accusations made against them by Portuguese authorities in relation to the case.

Before Operation Fizz was opened in 2012, Vicente was being investigated over the purchase of luxury apartment in Lisbon. He was widely tipped as an eventual successor to current and long-time President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

Dos Santos’ daughter Isabel was named as the head of Sonangol last summer.