Angolan Vice President Manuel Vicente will face trial in Portugal over allegations he bribed a magistrate to drop two investigations against him, according to a Wednesday ruling cited in Portuguese media.
Vicente, who was the president of Angolan national oil company Sonangol at the time of the alleged crimes, is accused of bribery, money laundering and document falsification, the public prosecutor’s office said, according to Portugal’s main news agency Lusa.
Lisbon’s trial court has also ordered former Portugese prosecutor Orlando Figueira, who was arrested in 2016, to be tried on suspicion of receiving money from Vicente.
Vicente has denied any involvement in the affair, saying shortly after Figueira’s arrest that he had “absolutely nothing to do with any payment”.
Until news of the corruption scandal emerged last year, the 61-year-old had been strongly tipped as a potential successor to President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, who has ruled Angola since 1979.
He was informed of the indictment in February through a letter addressed to authorities in Angola, an oil and diamond rich former Portuguese colony in southwestern Africa.
According to Portuguese media reports, Figueira received 760,000 euros ($800,000) to bury cases involving the Angolan leader.
He is accused of accepting bribes, document falsification, money laundering and breaching the confidentiality of an official investigation.
One of the investigations which Figueira allegedly dropped in exchange for cash centred on the origin of funds which Vicente used to buy a luxury apartment in a Lisbon suburb.
In 2012, attempts to investigate alleged money laundering and tax evasion by several Angolan officials in Portugal chilled relations between the two countries, which have strong economic ties.
Portugal is Angola’s main source of imports and Portuguese companies are active in banking and construction in the vast African country.
Less than a week after the Angolan vice president was charged, Portuguese Justice Minister Francisca Van Dunem postponed a visit to Angola in February, “at Luanda’s request”.