Isabel dos Santos: Banker found dead in Lisbon

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Media captionMs Dos Santos has denied allegations that she built her fortune by exploiting her country

A banker implicated in the embezzlement and money-laundering case against Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, has been found dead in Lisbon.

Nuno Ribeiro da Cunha managed the account of oil firm Sonangol, formerly chaired by Ms Dos Santos, at the small Portuguese lender EuroBic.

His death, on Wednesday, was reported on Thursday soon after Angolan prosecutors named both as suspects.

Ms Dos Santos denies alleged corruption revealed by leaked documents.

Mr Da Cunha was found dead at one of his properties in Lisbon.

A police source told Portuguese media that “everything points to suicide”.

Africa’s richest woman ‘ripped off her country’
Isabel dos Santos eyes Angolan presidency

On Wednesday EuroBic said it would end its business relationship with Ms Dos Santos, who is reportedly the bank’s main shareholder through two companies she owns.

It was later reported as saying that Ms Dos Santos was selling her capital stake in the bank.

The bank added that it would investigate transfers worth tens of millions of dollars she had made. Some of the transfers drained Sonangol’s account at EuroBic, the New York Times reports.

What is Ms Dos Santos accused of?

Prosecutors are seeking to recover $1bn (£760m) that Ms Dos Santos and her associates are alleged to owe the state.

“Isabel dos Santos is accused of mismanagement and embezzlement of funds during her tenure at Sonangol,” Mr Pitta Gros told a news conference on Wednesday evening.

He said that as a result she was being provisionally charged with “money laundering, influence peddling, harmful management… [and] forgery of documents, among other economic crimes”.

The Angolan authorities will now conduct a criminal investigation to determine whether she should be formally charged.

They have also named five other people as suspects in the case, one of whom was Mr Ribeiro da Cunha, and urged them to return to Angola.

Mr Pitta Gros said that if Ms Dos Santos did not return to Angola voluntarily, an international arrest warrant would be issued for her.

Ms Dos Santos was controversially appointed head of Sonangol in June 2016 by her father, the then president of Angola. She was sacked from the post in 2017 by her father’s successor, President Joao Lourenço.

An investigation into Ms Dos Santos was opened after her successor at Sonangol, Carlos Saturnino, alerted authorities to alleged irregular money transfers. Her assets in Angola have been frozen.

What is in the leaked documents?

On Sunday, the BBC and other news organisations reported on more than 700,000 leaked documents about the billionaire’s business empire.

The documents showed how Ms Dos Santos got access to lucrative land, oil, diamond and telecoms deals when her father was president. Her fortune is estimated at $2.1 bn (£1.6bn).

They also showed how Western firms helped Ms Dos Santos take her money out of Angola.

She called the allegations entirely false and claimed that the Angolan government was engaged in a politically motivated witch-hunt.

Earlier this week a top executive at financial services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers left the firm over its links with Ms Dos Santos. The company declined to comment on the departure and said it had launched its own investigation.

Who is Isabel dos Santos?

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Eldest daughter of ex-President Jose Eduardo dos Santos
Married to Congolese art collector and businessman Sindika Dokolo
Educated in the UK, where she currently lives
Reported to be Africa’s richest woman, with a fortune of some $2bn
Has stakes in oil and mobile phone companies and banks, mostly in Angola and Portugal

Source: Forbes magazine and others


Davos secret ranking: I’d love to see where I am

Diana Paredes

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Tech entrepreneur Diana Paredes says she wouldn’t be offended by a low ranking

“It’s no big deal if Davos rank us in terms of importance,” says Diana Paredes, a tech entrepreneur and delegate at this week’s World Economic Forum (WEF).

She adds: “I’d love to see where I am on the list, probably low down. But I wouldn’t be offended, that’s just how life is.”

Ms Paredes is commenting on claims that the high-end conference in Switzerland categorises its most elite delegates numerically from one to seven based on their “position level”.

The news website Quartz, which published a leaked copy of the alleged list, says those ranked as “ones” are typically given labels such as “Top Executive” or “Head of State”.

“Twos” meanwhile hold positions such as “Senior Executive” or “Deputy Head of State”, and so it goes on, with those at levels six and seven classified as “honorary guests” or “functional staff”.

“Ones” are easy to guess – examples this year include US President Donald Trump and Uber boss Dara Khosrowshahi. Other categorisations are more unexpected – for example, former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown is labelled “6-Public Sector Expert”, while Ivanka Trump ranks seven.

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So far WEF has declined to comment on the claims, nor is it clear what it uses the alleged list for. But most of the elite white badge holders I speak to in the main Congress Centre say they would be neither surprised or offended if the claims were true and that it is common practice in the business world.

“If you think about having a client list, you have your clients that are super demanding or pay higher or are worth more to your firm,” a woman who runs a large US investment company tells me.

“So you’re probably going to pay extra special attention to that client versus a client providing less revenue to you.”

Another high-level investor tells me: “To the extent I am ranked I’d be curious to see how I get ranked. I wouldn’t be offended if I came lower down than I expected.”

Not everyone agrees, although no-one will go on record.

A woman working for a tech company tells me: “This just seems kind of petty to me. It feels a bit elitist and silly.”

Several top academics describe the idea as “superficial” and “unbelievable”, while one says: “I am constitutionally opposed that sort of thing.”

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Charity worker Fernando Laposse says the ranking “is how the world works”

For years, WEF has been accused of elitism, with critics arguing that the top business people and politicians who attend are out of touch with everyday people.

That hasn’t been helped by the complicated coloured badge system operated by the event. Top level white badge holders – who are either invited, or pay thousands to attend – can access all parts of the event, while others face restrictions.

Bottom of the rung are “hotel badge” holders who can’t get into the main Congress Centre at all (although they can attend the parties and events that happen outside).

WEF has said it aims to bring leaders from business, academia, politics and charity together for the wider good, and it always invites diverse voices.

Most of those attending also seem to feel that the idea of ranking in terms of importance is just a fact of life. Designer and charity worker Fernando Laposse from Mexico tells me: “That’s how the world works isn’t it… and we’re grateful to be invited.”

The BBC has contacted the organisation for a comment.


Morrisons supermarket axes 3,000 managers in huge shake-up

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Morrisons is axing 3,000 management roles as part of a huge restructuring to create more shop floor jobs.

The supermarket said it is creating 7,000 new hourly-paid roles at its 500 stores, meaning a net 4,000 new posts.

The new jobs will be in customer-facing roles, such as more butchers, bakers, fishmongers, Morrisons said.

Managers will be able to move to the new jobs, with the firm saying there will be roles “for everybody who wants to continue to work at Morrisons”.

David Lepley, Morrisons group retail director, said: “Whilst there will be a short period of uncertainty for some managers affected by these proposals we will be supporting them through this process.

“There will also be more roles with greater flexibility that are very attractive to colleagues with families.”

Front-line store staff at Morrisons earn £9 an hour. News of the restructuring was first reported by Retail Week.

Manager jobs that are currently at risk include in-store managers and not office roles, the company said.

Jobs such as in-store beer, wine and spirits managers will be combined with other jobs.


Asos boosted by record Black Friday trade

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Asos sold one black dress every second and one wedding dress every minute during record trade on Black Friday last year.

That helped sales at the online fashion retailer jump 20% to £1.1bn in the last four months of 2019.

Asos shares surged 12% on the signs of a turnaround at the firm, which was hit by supply problems last year.

Chief executive Nick Beighton said the performance was “encouraging” but there was “more work to be done”.

Last July, the company issued a profit warning after problems at its US and European warehouses meant that some stock was unavailable to customers.

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Asos said it had 27.7 million orders in the final four months of 2019, up 20% from a year earlier, while the number of visitors to its website rose 23%.

Best sellers such as branded sneakers, overcoats and puffer jackets, as well as staples such as denim, jumpers and organic cotton T-shirts, helped to drive sales over the period.

“Asos made it through the festive season without signalling a distress call. Not only that but sales were better than expected, which will come as a pleasant surprise,” said Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“We think Asos is focusing on the right things, but many investors will just be relieved the group’s been able to deliver a strong quarter.”

The company said it had made a significant investment in trying to gain more customers in the US and EU.

While UK sales rose 18% over the four-month period, sales in the EU climbed 21% and were 23% higher in the US.

“International sales now account for 62% of group retail revenue and it looks like enhancing its US and EU warehousing capabilities is starting to pay off despite the troubles it caused,” said Emily Salter, a retail analyst at GlobalData.


Coronavirus: Taobao warns firms not to profit from outbreak

People wear face masks as they wait at Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan, China.Image copyright
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Millions of Chinese people are travelling for the Lunar New Year holiday

Chinese online giant Taobao has warned sellers using its platform not to profit from the deadly coronavirus outbreak by raising prices.

Fears over the spread of the virus in China have triggered a surge in sales of protective gear in Asia.

Pharmacies have seen a rush for surgical masks, while rubber glove makers are braced for a jump in demand.

At least 17 people have now died, with more than 500 confirmed cases across China, and as far afield as the US.

Subsidy offer

Over the two days of 20 and 21 January more than 80 million masks were sold on Taobao, which is owned by Alibaba and is one of the largest online retailers in the world .

However, media reports suggested these included profiteers looking to quickly resell the masks at a higher price.

This prompted the online message from Taobao warning sellers they were ”not allowed to increase prices”. In November, a pack of 20 3M masks sold for 178 yuan (£20), but on Tuesday sellers were charging up to 1,100 yuan for the same item, according to a report in Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper.

Taobao said it would also offer ”special subsidies” to make sure masks were ”cost-effective” for consumers. On top of this, it will also continue delivery services during the Chinese New Year celebrations

Joleen Siew at Glovida, an e-commerce site based in Singapore selling health products, said it had seen a “significant spike in demand for masks compared to normal”.

“We’ve also seen more demand for immunity products like vitamins and supplements as parents want to protect their kids. Singapore likes to be pre-emptive about these things.”

Denis Low, president of the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association which represents 56 members told the BBC: “I have spoken to the members and we are all geared up if demand shoots through the roof as expected. We will ramp up capacity and make some tweaks to productivity.”

Malaysia produces around two-thirds of the world’s rubber gloves, predicted to be more than 150 billion pairs this year.

During the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009 and 2010, Malaysian rubber glove makers saw a surge in orders of about 10%-15%. Mr Low, who works for glove maker Supermax, said the increase could be higher this time if the coronavirus continues to spread.

”We are very worried about this virus and will do all we can to make sure we meet the demand. But we will not profiteer from this calamity by putting up prices,” he added.

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Demand for face masks has soared

Major airlines have said they will supply protective gear to cabin crew and passengers who request them.

Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific was the first airline to announce it will allow cabin crew to wear surgical masks while operating mainland China flights due to infection concerns.

Singapore Airlines also said it is making surgical masks available to crew, and other carriers operating in the region are expected to follow suit.

A Cathay Pacific spokeswoman said: ”We are monitoring the situation closely and will continue to co-ordinate with the health authorities in Hong Kong and in all the ports to which we operate flights’

As organisations take precautions to safeguard staff by buying masks and gloves, Chinese technology giant Tencent is taking even more drastic steps.

Founder Pony Ma Huateng will not hand out traditional red packets to employees to celebrate the Lunar New Year for fear of spreading the virus.

This is the first time in almost two decades Shenzhen-based Tencent has cancelled this traditional handout to staff.


US sees post-Brexit UK trade deal by end of 2020

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The US expects to complete a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK by the end of this year, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos, Mr Mnuchin said the deal was “an absolute priority” for President Donald Trump.

“We expect to complete that with them this year,” he added.

Mr Mnuchin also took a sideswipe at climate change activist Greta Thunberg, saying she should study economics.

In response to a question about Ms Thunberg’s call for fossil fuels to be scrapped, he said: “Is she the chief economist?”

Mr Mnuchin added: “After she goes and studies economics in college, she can come back and explain that to us.”

‘Aggressive’ timetable

On the subject of the UK’s post-Brexit trade negotiations with the US and the EU, Mr Mnuchin said: “What I saw coming out was that they wanted to accomplish both these deals in 2020. That’s obviously an aggressive timetable.”

He said he could not comment on the EU talks, but he could comment on a UK-US deal.

“That’s an absolute priority of President Trump and we expect to complete that with them this year, which we think will be great for them and great for us,” he added.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, speaking at the same event, said he though a UK-US trade deal ought to be “much easier mechanically” than a UK deal with the EU.

Concerns have been raised in the UK that the NHS could have to pay billions of pounds more for drugs under such a trade deal, as the US will be seeking “full market access” for its companies’ products in the UK.

Mr Ross said: “What we think is that drugs should have similar prices wherever they are, but I don’t believe we are in any position to tell the UK what to pay for drugs.”

On Wednesday, Mr Mnuchin threatened new tariffs on UK carmakers after Chancellor Sajid Javid defied pressure to cancel a new tax on tech firms.

But Mr Javid said the UK would not back down over the tax, which will hit US firms such as Apple, Amazon and Facebook.


Deepfake videos: Can you really believe what you see?

Thanks to the increasing sophistication of so-called deepfake video technology, it is getting easier and easier to turn yourself into somebody else on screen.

At this year’s Davos summit, Jaewoo Seo of technology firm Pinscreen alters his face to resemble a succession of celebrities: K-pop singer Jennie, US actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Will Smith, footballer Lionel Messi, Michelle Obama – and even former UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

Video: Pinscreen

Note: This video has no sound


My Money: ‘I had to get tickets, it was a huge sum, $519!’

Sunneva with some of her friends and familyImage copyright
Sunneva María Svövudóttir

My Money is a new series looking at how people spend their money – and the sometimes tough decisions they have to make. Here, Sunneva María Svövudóttir from Reykjavik in Iceland, records her spending over a week and shares tips for saving.

We’re looking for more people to share what they spend their money on. We’re particularly keen to hear from disabled people about the extra cash your disability costs you. If you’re interested, please email [email protected] or get in touch via our My Money (World) Facebook group, or if you live in the UK, please join our My Money (UK) Facebook group and we’ll aim to contact you.

Sunneva is 20 and lives in Iceland. She works in a bakery part-time as she has just finished at school. Her hobbies are art, bullet journaling, music and make-up.

She recently went head-to-head with another My Money blogger, Chelsea Thomas from California, on World Business Report – have a listen to hear Sunneva talk about what she spent her money on this week.

Sunneva’s week: Dinner at McDonald’s, free acrylic nails and an amazing graduation cake

Today I went out to meet my friend for lunch. We met at a sushi place and I ended up getting some sushi as well as some gyoza dumplings, which cost around 1,700 króna ($13.85, £10.60).

I didn’t do much for the rest of the day besides walk around Reykjavík and talk. But on the night I met my best friend who lives far away from me and we got dinner together at McDonald’s and that was 1,000 króna.

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Sunneva María Svövudóttir

Today I didn’t really save any money as I had made plans to eat out with two people. I also dyed my hair at home but thankfully my mom offered to pay for the dye so I ended up not spending money on that.

Total spend: 2,700 króna

This day was full of stress, as I was doing last minute things for my graduation.

Early in the morning I took a bus, which I didn’t have to pay for as I have a yearly season ticket, to get my nails done. Usually acrylic nails will cost around 8,000 króna but I got them done for free as a gift.

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Sunneva María Svövudóttir

After this I had to do some last minute shopping and went to a grocery store and I ended up getting some money from my dad to buy things for the graduation celebration.

I ended up spending 4,000 króna on soda, coffee and things that still had to be bought. For lunch I had some pho noodles which cost around 1,700 króna. I had to go help my mother after that so I was busy until dinner time.

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Sunneva María Svövudóttir

For dinner I met my aunt, we ate food and went to the movies and that was about 4,000 króna. The rest of the night was spent getting ready for the graduation celebration the next day.

Total spend: 17,700 króna

This was such a big day, so many amazing things happened today.

Let’s start with this morning. I woke up at 8am, and the biggest reason for this is because there were concert tickets that went on sale at 9am.

It was for a concert in London, for a K-pop group called Seventeen, a group I have been following since 2015. So I knew I had to get tickets as they had never been to Europe before. I ended up getting the most expensive tickets for their show in the SSE Arena, it was a huge sum: 64,500 króna ($519, £397). Yes, you read that correctly. It was go all out or don’t bother so, I did it.

After this it was time to get ready for my GRADUATION! I saved money by doing my make-up myself, instead of getting some professional. I had my hair done for free, by a professional. The dress and the shoes I also got for free from Facebook!

In my school we have to wear a cap while we graduate, which costs around 15,000 króna BUT instead of buying one I just ended up wearing my mother’s cap that she had worn years ago, it looked the same so I saved a lot my doing that! I don’t mind wearing things from other people, the dress, the shoes and the cap all looked new.

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Sunneva María Svövudóttir

The ceremony went by fast and after that I went home to get everything ready for the small family gathering that was happening at 5pm. All the food was all figured out by my amazing mother so I didn’t have to spend any money on that.

The night was so fun, I spent it with my friends and family, and I ended up getting a lot of money as gifts from my family. The last thing I did was go out for KFC with my best friend, and that was 1,200 króna.

Total spend: 65,700 króna

I didn’t do a lot on this day. I had work early that morning and the only thing I spent money on were two things for my mother. Those things cost about 4,800 króna, a lip balm and a foam cleanser. I was happy to finally just get to relax at home.

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Sunneva María Svövudóttir

I ate dinner with my family so I didn’t spend any money on food that day,

Total spend: 4,800 króna

I didn’t do that much today either. I just had work again this morning and then after such a long week of waking up early I had a very big nap.

When I woke up for dinner I got a phone call from my aunt and she asked me if I was interested to go see the new Star Wars movie – yes!

I took a bus, again I have a bus card so I didn’t have to pay anything for that. She had already bought a ticket so I saved money on that because my aunt is amazing. I offered to buy popcorn for us so I got some snacks that were 1,200 króna.

Total spend: 1,200 króna

On Saturday I just had a calm day at home so I didn’t do anything special or spend any money.

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Sunneva María Svövudóttir

Total spend: 0 króna

On Sunday I met my aunt, again. (Yes we are pretty close even though she is 11 years older than me!) We went to the mall, as she was trying to find some gifts. I bought a white pen that I needed that was 250 króna but after this we drove to her place and we just spent the day watching horror movies.

Total spend: 250 króna

How does Sunneva feel about her week?

The week was a very busy one, I spent a bit more money on food than I would usually do but since I was rarely at home it just happened that way. I also spent a huge sum of money on something I have wanted to do for so long, go to a concert. I am excited for that, even though it was a huge amount of money. I think that’s what I’m most happy about this week. I do also want to point out the amount of kind people online.

There are so many groups on Facebook that can help with all different occasions, you don’t need to buy a very expensive dress to feel beautiful. Facebook has a bunch of places you can find free stuff, stuff for a low price and such. I highly recommend looking through some pages if you are ever in trouble.

Total weekly spend: 92,350 króna


Davos Diaries: Day 3 – BBC News

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