Report Links Mercedes-Benz to Political Corruption in Angola

Report Links Mercedes-Benz to Political Corruption in Angola

A new investigation finds the German car industry is involved in influence-peddling in Angola -- and it's not the first time.
November 8, 2010  |  
 The investigations published by Maka so far have prompted an increasing interest in bringing to light new corruption cases, as was hoped from the beginning.

The most recent case that has come to our attention illustrates the role of foreign investment in broadening, consolidating and institutionalizing corrupt dealings with the country’s political leaders. This case involves the “general distributor of Mercedes Benz cars for Daimler in Angola.”

On 12 July 2009, the Minister of State and head of the Military Bureau in the Presidency of Angola, General Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias Júnior “Kopelipa,” set up the company Auto-Star Angola, with himself as majority shareholder. The deputy director of the Office of National Reconstruction (GRN), Manuel José Cardoso do Amaral Van-Dúnem, and the faithful depository of General Kopelipa’s businesses, were each granted a 10 percent shareholding. The businessmen Herculano Adelço de Morais and António de Lemos, received 30 percent and 10 percent of the shares respectively. 

The Web site of the Belgian company Societé de Distribution Africain (SDA) announced the creation of Auto Star with the intention of setting up “a Belgian and Angolan joint-venture that officially represents Mercedes and Evobus in Angola.” The Web site describes Auto Star Angola as a subsidiary of SDA and as having modern facilities including offices and salesrooms on a 2,000-meter site in the Viana industrial area in the suburbs of Luanda. The company’s own publicity brochure says the site is 89,000 000 meters in size with facilities “planned by Mercedes-Benz’s Architectural Office.” The site is in the Special Economic Zone in Viana, which falls under the jurisdiction of the GRN. Until last April the director of the GRN was General Kopelipa himself, while Manuel Van-Dúnem, his partner in Auto Star Angola, is still the GRN’s deputy director.

The foreign partners and the law

Societé de Distribution Africaine is a company created by its CEO, the Belgian Philippe de Moerloose. The Report of the United Nations Groupof Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo, in November 2009, mentioned De Moerloose as having flouted UN Security Council Resolution nº 1807 (a, 5). This resolution provides that any consignment of weapons or related material to the DRC must be reported in advance to the UN, in accordance with its peace mission mandate in that country.

According to the report, Philippe de Moerloose holds 70 percent of the shares in Hewa Bora Airways, which was used to transport arms and ammunition to the Congolese army in 2008 and 2009. The same Philippe de Moerloose is also quoted in his capacity as founder and chairman of Demimpex, a company that served as an intermediary in the sale of military vehicles to the Congolese government in 2008. The experts confirmed with the Belgian authorities that Demimpex, now associated with Auto Star Angola, has no license for the import, export or transport of weapons, ammunition, military equipment and associated technology. The experts stressed that the relevant Belgian legislation applies to its citizens and companies, regardless of whether or not military material passes through Belgian territory.

On August 12 2010, the German ambassador to Angola, Jorgen-Werner Marquardt, gave an interview to Semanário Económico, the Angolan business weekly, in a move to promote German business interests. This newspaper belongs to the Media Nova group, owned by General Kopelipa in partnership with his current top adviser, General Leopoldino Fragoso do Nascimento, and Manuel Vicente, the chairman and CEO of Sonangol, the Angolan national oil company.