22 Dec

U.S. Sanctions Israeli Billionaire Gertler Over Congo Deals

The U.S. sanctioned Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler, one of the biggest individual mining investors in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in what it calls a clampdown on human-rights abusers and corrupt actors.

 The U.S. Treasury said Gertler has used his close relationship with the country’s president, Joseph Kabila, to amass a fortune through corrupt and opaque deals. Between 2010 and 2012 alone, Congo reportedly lost over $1.36 billion in revenues from the underpricing of mining assets that were sold to offshore companies linked to Gertler, it said.
“Gertler has used his close friendship with DRC President Joseph Kabila to act as a middleman for mining asset sales in the DRC, requiring some multinational companies to go through Gertler to do business with the Congolese state,” the U.S. Treasury said in a statement.

Under the sanctions, any assets held by Gertler within U.S. jurisdictions will be blocked and U.S. individuals are prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

Read more: U.S. sanctions 13 in global human rights abuse crackdown

The U.S. “is taking a strong stand against human rights abuse and corruption globally by shutting these bad actors out of the U.S. financial system,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement. “Treasury is freezing their assets and publicly denouncing the egregious acts they’ve committed, sending a message that there is a steep price to pay for their misdeeds.”

Gertler’s representatives at his office in Ramat Gan, Israel, and a public relations firm in London, said they could not immediately respond to the U.S. action. Glencore complies with all applicable sanctions, a spokesman for Glencore said by phone.

Diamond Dealer

Gertler, whose grandfather co-founded Israel’s diamond exchange 70 years ago, arrived in Congo in 1997. The then 23-year-old soon secured a monopoly on the country’s diamond sales from Laurent Kabila, the then-president and father of Congo’s current leader, whose rebellion had just overthrown the three-decade-long regime of Mobutu Sese Seko.

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