Police raid Portugal offices of BCG and PwC in corruption probe

27 January 2023 Consultancy.eu 4 min. read

Consultants of two of the world’s largest professional services firms have found themselves at the heart of a major corruption probe in Portugal. An investigation into the dealings of billionaire Isabel dos Santos has seen the offices of PwC and Boston Consulting Group raided.

Telecommunications and banking magnate Isabel dos Santos – the eldest daughter of Angola’s former President José Eduardo dos Santos – was once considered as Africa’s richest woman – with Forbes magazine listing her net worth at over $2 billion.

However, recent years have seen her become the subject of a stunning fall from grace – and she was dropped from the magazine’s rich list in January 2021, having had her assets in Angola, Portugal and the Netherlands frozen.

Police raid Portugal offices of BCG and PwC in corruption probe

While dos Santos has denied wrongdoing, previously calling accusations against her a “witch hunt”, she has been under criminal and civil investigations since 2019.

This began after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and 36 media partners published the Luanda Leaks investigation – including documents showing how Dos Santos had leveraged family ties, built shell companies, and deployed inside trading to build a business empire of transactions and luxury properties in Europe, Africa and North America.

After the ICIJ brought the investigation to the attention of the government of Angola, a court froze Dos Santos’ major assets, including banks and a telecom company. Then, in early 2020, a judge in Portugal – of which Angola is a former colony –ordered the seizure of all Dos Santos’ assets in the country.

But Dos Santos is not the only party accused of orchestrating the scam. The Luanda Papers also showed that a network of American and European companies had advised dos Santos for years – in spite of repeated warnings of her corruption. Among those firms were global strategy advisory giant Boston Consulting Group, and Big Four accounting and consulting firm PwC.

Due to these ties, both Portugal and Angola have been keen to look into a number of organisations in Portugal. In 2020, a Portuguese government regulator issued calls for the criminal prosecution of auditing companies that had worked for the billionaire – but the Portuguese police’s recent office raid came at the behest of Angola’s government.

Reports in the press suggest that the Angolan government specifically requested for Portugal’s police to examine the Lisbon offices of Boston Consulting Group, PwC, and Eurobic – a bank formerly part-owned by dos Santos. The raids were conducted earlier this week.

The press notes that Angola believes the searches will turn up records related to the loss of public funds from its state-owned oil company, Sonangol, where Dos Santos previously served as the Chairperson.


The Luanda Leaks investigation noted a number of examples where senior figures from the professional services giants had worked for dos Santos. One case saw Boston Consulting Group help Dos Santos operate a failing jewellery business – which was acquired with Angolan public funds.

Meanwhile, other records show PwC played a key role in Dos Santos’ tax dealings, advising on methods of avoiding Angolan tax and other issues, for lucrative fees. In both instances, the ICIJ noted that Boston Consulting Group and PwC had served Dos Santos long after other Western firms and banks had distanced themselves from the Angolan billionaire, who was facing questions about the source of her wealth.

While Boston Consulting Group sources told ICIJ they believed it was “not appropriate” to comment given ongoing “investigations regarding allegations against Isabel dos Santos”, PwC’s Chair Bob Moritz was more forthcoming with comment. Speaking to The Guardian, he noted being “shocked and disappointed” by the revelations that the firm had advised companies owned by dos Santos. Meanwhile a leading tax advisor with PwC left the firm following the scandal.

It is not the first time either firm has been placed in the spotlight for controversial dealings, however. The ICIJ also recently released a report around its Pandora Papers, which detailed how PwC helped Alexei Mordashov – a Russian steel baron, and long-time client – grow his offshore empire. According to the Pandora Papers, his dealings are closely tied to transactions with companies linked to a key Vladimir Putin associate.

In 2017, meanwhile, Boston Consulting Group was the target of another raid by Portuguese police, after a local client became the subject of a corruption inquiry. Long-term company client Energias de Portugal’s CEO was named as a suspect in an ongoing bribery investigation, inciting law enforcement agents to search the consultancy’s Lisbon office.