DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Police in Dubai say they don’t suspect foul play in the death of Sindika Dokolo, the husband of the embattled Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos, after his death free diving off the city-state as corruption allegations circle both him and his wife.
Dokolo, a 48-year-old Congolese art dealer who married dos Santos in 2002, died Thursday near Umm al-Hatab Island, Dubai police said in a statement Sunday.
Dubai police Maj. Gen. Khalil Ibrahim al-Mansouri, assistant commander-in-chief for criminal investigation affairs, said authorities received an emergency call about Dokolo near the island. Maritime units rushed to the island, some 7 nautical miles off the coast of Dubai, and later discovered Dokolo dead.
Dokolo had been “performing a free dive locally known as ‘al-hiyari’ — a form of underwater dive that relies on breath-holding rather than the use of breathing apparatus such as scuba gear,” al-Mansouri said. Such free diving was once very common in Dubai when it was a small pearling village on the coast of the Persian Gulf before its rapid boom late in the last century.
“Dubai police investigated the circumstances of the death and listened to statements of the deceased’s friends and reviewed the results of the forensic report, all of which concluded that there was no criminal suspicion behind the death,” the police said in a statement.
The police statement comes after Dokolo’s family posted a message on his Twitter account announcing his death.
“The Dokolo family, his wife, children, mother, brother and sisters have the deepest sorrow and immense sadness to announce the passing of Sindika Dokolo, which occurred on October 29, 2020 in Dubai,” the tweet read. “We thank all who have expressed their sympathy and kindness and who share our grief.”
Born in Kinshasa in the former nation of Zaire in 1972, Dokolo grew up in Belgium and France, according to a family biography. He collected art from a young age and later managed his family’s holdings in Congo.
Dos Santos is the daughter of Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled diamond- and oil-rich Angola for 38 years before stepping down in 2017. His government long faced allegations of looting the country’s wealth while leaving the majority of its population living in shantytowns.
Dos Santos has been reported to be the richest woman in Africa, with Forbes putting her current wealth at $1.4 billion. She once served as the head of Angola’s state-owned oil company Sonangol and has stakes in major industries across the former Portuguese colony.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, relying on more than 715,000 confidential financial and business records, reported in January that Dos Santos and her husband had links to more than 400 companies and subsidiaries in 41 countries. The consortium’s report on the documents, referred to as the “Luanda Leaks,” described Dos Santos as making “her fortune by taking a cut of Angola’s wealth.”
Dos Santos has denied any wrongdoing and called an order freezing her assets in Angola a “politically motivated attack.” She has vowed to “use all the instruments of Angolan and international law at my disposal to fight this order and ensure the truth comes out.”
Dos Santos has been living in Portugal. However, a recent report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on how corrupt money flows through Dubai, a city-state in the United Arab Emirates, said “dos Santos allegedly deposited over $57 million in a shell company owned by a Dubai-based friend and, as of June 2019, had moved to the emirate.” The consortium earlier reported dos Santos maintains a home at the Bulgari Hotel and Resorts on a manmade island in Dubai.
Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.