July 24, 2018 / 2:00 PM / 5 months ago

Swiss firm Quantum Global bids to lift Angolan SWF asset freeze

LONDON, July 24 (Reuters) - Angola's $5 billion sovereign wealth fund locked horns with Quantum Global, manager of $3 billion of the fund's assets, in London's High Court on Tuesday, as the investment firm sought to overturn an asset freeze the fund obtained.

The Angolan sovereign fund, known by its Portuguese acronym FSDEA, has taken the dispute to London, Switzerland and Mauritius as the new government seeks to sever ties with Quantum Global, a Swiss firm headed by Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais.

Bastos is a long-term business partner of Jose Filomeno dos Santos, the son of the former Angolan president. New Angolan President Joao Lourenco removed dos Santos from his position as head of FSDEA in January.

The fund also wants to remove Quantum Global as its asset manager, stating it was concerned about the firm's approach as it was "not fully aligned" with the principles for which the fund was established.

FDSEA obtained a global asset-freeze order against Quantum Global in a UK court, covering funds held under its name or by contracted parties.

Quantum Global has denied wrongdoing, saying the money it has under management is properly accounted for, and that the fund has violated its long-term contractual obligations .

In court documents seen by Reuters, legal representatives for Quantum Global said FSDEA's board had approved the arrangements with the asset manager, which were "entirely transparent".

In separate documents setting out the defence for Bastos, lawyers argued that the FSDEA was trying to get out of contractual arrangements by "running a tenuous fraud and conspiracy claim".

"Any attempt to characterise this as some sort of fraud dreamed up by the first two defendants is highly implausible," Stephen Auld, a lawyer for Bastos, said in court on Tuesday, referring to dos Santos and Bastos.

The court documents for Quantum Global's defence go on to argue that the impact of the asset freeze on the Swiss firm has been severe, with staff and suppliers going unpaid. In addition, it has been unable to make further investments, necessary to protect existing projects.

The UK hearing is scheduled to run for three days and the judge is expected to return his verdict at a later date.

Angola is fighting Quantum Global and Bastos on several fronts. In May, Angolan prosecutors named Bastos as a suspect in a criminal investigation and banned him from leaving the country .

In addition, Mauritius has frozen bank accounts and suspended business licences linked to QG Investments Africa Management, another Bastos firm that also invested money on behalf of Angola. (Reporting by Claire Milhench)

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