Jose Filomeno dos Santos (L), the son of former Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, appears in the high court on corruption charges in Luanda. - Joao da Fatima / AFP
Jose Filomeno dos Santos (L), the son of former Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, appears in the high court on corruption charges in Luanda. - Joao da Fatima / AFP

LUANDA: An Angolan court has reinstated a five-year sentence handed to a son of ex-president Jose Eduardo dos Santos four years ago for embezzlement, adding to the legal woes of the late leader's family.

In a surprise verdict announced Tuesday, the Supreme Court in Luanda confirmed its 2020 conviction of Jose Filomeno dos Santos, 46, only months after a higher court quashed it and ordered the matter be re-examined.

"The judges of this plenary... agree to confirm the judgment and therefore to maintain it," read the ruling posted on the court's website.

The young dos Santos, nicknamed Zenu, was one of the first members of the former presidential family to be prosecuted as part of an anti-graft campaign led by President Joao Lourenco since he came to power in 2017.

In 2019 he was accused of embezzling $500 million from the oil-rich country's sovereign wealth fund, which he oversaw from 2013 to 2018, transferring the sum to a foreign bank account.

A year later, Zenu and three co-defendants were sentenced to between five and eight years in prison. Zenu has been serving his sentence under house arrest.

But in April, the Constitutional Court declared that decision void and unconstitutional.

It said that, among other issues, judges had not taken into proper account evidence brought by the defence, including a letter penned by the ex-president authorising the money transfer.

It ordered the Supreme Court to issue a new ruling, taking the letter and other issues into account.

On the decision posted Tuesday, the Supreme Court stuck to its ruling – a move that legal expert Ndinga Dieyi Dituvanga said showed a certain degree of "disobedience."

Dituvanga said a new appeal was possible.

The verdict was the latest twist in the power struggle between Lourenco and dos Santos' family, which has long complained of being the target of a politically motivated campaign.

Under dos Santos's 38-year rule, Angola became one of Africa's top crude producers. But while his family reaped the benefits of the wealth, most of the country's 33 million people were left in poverty.

Handpicked by dos Santos, Lourenco swiftly turned on his predecessor.

The strongman's eldest daughter Isabel, who used to be in charge of state-run oil company Sonangol, has also faced a slew of investigations.

Dos Santos died in Spain in 2022.