KINSHASA (Reuters) – Sindika Dokolo, the Congolese businessman and art collector husband of Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos, has died in a diving accident in Dubai, a colleague and his family said on Friday.
Dokolo and dos Santos, the daughter of Jose Eduardo dos Santos who ruled Angola for 38 years until 2017, faced corruption charges, including allegations that they steered $1 billion in state funds to companies in which they held stakes during her father’s presidency. Both denied wrongdoing.
Angolan authorities seized their accounts late last year.
The exact cause of the 48-year-old’s death on Thursday was not clear.
“The Dokolo family, his wife, children, mother, brother and sisters have the deepest sorrow and immense sadness to announce the passing of Sindika Dokolo,” a post on Dokolo’s Twitter page said on Friday.
Isabel dos Santos has not commented, but on Thursday posted a photo of her and Dokolo on Twitter.
A colleague and friend of Dokolo, Cedric Mala, and two family members who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that he died while diving. Mala said that Dokolo had years of diving experience and that he always spoke passionately about it.
“Unfortunately the last outing was fatal,” he said. “The doctors tried to resuscitate him without success.”
The ever stylishly dressed Dokolo was influential in the art world and was passionate about African art for Africans – he owned a large collection of contemporary works from the continent.
He was also active in politics in Democratic Republic of Congo where in 2017 he founded the “Congolese Stand Up” movement which opposed a third term for then-President Joseph Kabila, who stepped down in 2019 after 18 turbulent years in power.
“Respects to (Sindika Dokolo) for his contribution to the fight for the freedom and dignity of the Congolese people, and for safeguarding African identity and cultural heritage,” prominent Congolese pro-democracy group Lucha tweeted on Friday.
(Reporting By Stanis Bujakera; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Mark Heinrich)