As chairman and CEO of the highly-secretive and incredibly powerful Sonangol, Angola’s national oil company, Manuel Vicente’s role in helping China exploit Angola’s natural resources is significant and yet complicated to comprehend.
To begin, all arrows point to a suspect group of companies U.S. intelligence operatives nicknamed “the 88 Queensway Group.” The group’s nickname stems from the address of the building in Hong Kong where a network of companies are operating as a cover for activity conducted by China’s foreign intelligence services.
According to a report compiled by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, the companies operating with the address 88 Queensway in Hong Kong have known ties to Israeli diamond and real estate mogul Lev Leviev.
But what do Chinese foreign intelligence services and an Israeli diamond magnate have to do with Sonangol’s Manuel Vicente?
Using the 88 Queensway Group, Chinese intelligence acquires oil and energy companies and other assets in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. In effect, the 88 Queensway Group serves to promote Chinese national interests and devour precious resources from underprivileged countries like Angola; resources such as oil that are vital to the global economy. The companies are assisted in their asset-swallowing activities by the Angolan national oil company Sonangol—which is, of course, fueled by the self-dealings of Manuel Vicente.
To put it simply, the companies operating at 88 Queensway were created as “fronts” to hide the personal interests of self-interested businessmen such as Manuel Vicente and Lev Leviev, not to mention promote the initiatives of the Chinese Government. China Sonangol was an intermediary company created to facilitate Sonangol’s efforts to tap into commercial markets for funds back in 2005. The 88 Queensway Group provided a significant financing and investment in Angola through two companies Manuel Vicente is tied to: China Sonangol International Holdings Limited (“China Sonangol”) and China International Fund Limited.
The aforementioned connection between Manuel Vicente and Lev Leviev is even more blatant. News outlets published in 2011 reported Lev Leviev sold his 18 percent stake in Angola’s diamond mine to China’s Sonangol International for $400 million, after acquiring the stake for only $20 million in the early 1990s. The deal is slated to be finalized in upcoming weeks, and Manuel Vicente’s Sonangol will become “the first Chinese company to own part of a diamond mine.”