DRC

US scraps Trump waiver for sanctions against Israeli mining mogul Gertler

Israeli businessman Dan Gertler during a visit to a mining site run by Katanga Mining Ltd in 2012.
Israeli businessman Dan Gertler during a visit to a mining site run by Katanga Mining Ltd in 2012. Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The US government has reimposed sanctions against Israeli billionaire mining magnate Dan Gertler, a close associate of former Congolese President Joseph Kabila, rolling back a last ditch effort by Donald Trump to grant the tycoon a license to circumvent US sanctions.

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“The license previously granted to Mr Gertler is inconsistent with America’s strong foreign policy interests in combating corruption around the world, specifically including US efforts to counter corruption and promote stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),” the US State Department said in statement.

Gertler and his companies are suspected of embezzlement and corruption in the DRC, accused of signing opaque mining contracts, and first placed under US sanctions in December 2017, with travel bans and asset freezes, then subsequent measures in 2018.

Bringing back sanctions

“Sanctioning Dan Gertler in 2017 was the right US policy then, and I’m pleased to see it reinstated today,” said US Senator Jim Risch, from the senate foreign affairs committee.

“Corruption is a leading factor in the underdevelopment & marginalization of people in the DR Congo, and the US should continue to use the tools at its disposal to help stop it,” Risch added.

Washington estimates that the country lost some US$1.3 billion in tax revenues in 2010 during the presidency of Kabila, arguing that Gertler exploited his relationship with the Congolese president.

It is thought granting Gertler a special license to avoid the sanctions was as the result of intensive lobbying of the Trump administration before he left the White House.

Ida Sawyer, deputy director for Africa at Human Rights Watch, a US-based watchdog, said the move by the Biden administration rolling back Trump’s directive was “a positive step for the fight against impunity and corruption in the DRC and elsewhere”.

Kabila confidant

Gertler allegedly used his friendship with Kabila to secure highly lucrative mining deals, setting up companies on behalf of Kabila, and acting as a middleman for big deals with multinational mining companies.

“Dan Gertler's corrupt partnership with former President Joseph Kabila cost the DRC dearly in terms of lost resources, lost services, and, ultimately, lost lives,” said John Prendergast of The Sentry, a non-profit organisation working on corruption.

“Restoring the sanctions enables Congolese and US anti-corruption efforts to get back on track,” added Prendergast.

The former diamond trader has denied the accusations, saying his investments in the Congo boosted the country’s development.

His lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, told Bloomberg that his client had no opportunity to present evidence showing he was in compliance with sanctions. Dershowitz said Gertler was now considering the options.

Trump’s effective dismantling of the sanctions against Gertler created a backlash amongst US lawmakers, with many calling for Biden to reimpose the measures.

Gertler’s companies hold licenses and royalties agreements for a number of oil and mining projects.

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