Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and Israel's former Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer were involved in a campaign to convince former U.S. President Donald Trump to suspend sanctions imposed on Israeli mining magnate Dan Gertler, who has been embroiled in a years-long, multi-million dollar corruption scandal in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bloomberg News reported on Friday.
On January 15, just five days before Trump vacated the White House, the U.S. Treasury informed Gertler that it would be lifting many of the sanctions imposed on him, but last week the President Joe Biden's administration revoked the sanctions waiver.
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According to the Bloomberg report, Israeli officials said Getler was "a vital national security asset." Spy agency chief Cohen and Ambassador Dermer reportedly "spoke with top U.S. officials over many months," and the Mossad head also "made two previously unreported trips to Congo in 2019 to meet with Gertler and former President Joseph Kabila."
In an interview with Bloomberg, Dermer said that Gertler "has lots of relationships in the region [of Central Africa] that are important to Israel's interests, and he is a major philanthropist, se we did make an official request." He also admitted "It wasn't just Yossi [Cohen] who asked."
Haaretz reported earlier this year that associates of the Israeli billionaire, who was represented by Trump ally Alan Dershowitz and former FBI director Louis Freeh, effectively helped him evade sanctions. Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department said "The license previously granted to Mr. Gertler is inconsistent with America’s strong foreign policy interests in combating corruption around the world, specifically including U.S. efforts to counter corruption and promote stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo."
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The Prime Minister's Office, which oversees the Mossad, declined Bloomberg's request to comment, as did a spokesman for the DRC presidency.
Bloomberg quoted "people familiar with the Gertler case" as saying he may have played a role in Israel's restoration of ties with Chad and Sudan over the past years. Former Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold told the publication he "never heard Gertler's name" mentioned over the course of the diplomatic efforts with Chad. He added, though, that Israel’s interests in Africa are expanding rapidly and that Gertler "could be playing a role."
The harsh sanctions were imposed in December 2017 on Gertler, as well as one of his business partners and fourteen companies associated with him. The order, which was expanded in mid-2018 to include additional companies, argued that Gertler had, “exploited his close ties” with former President Kabila to arrange corrupt mining transactions.
The decision said that Gertler had “acted for or on behalf of Kabila, helping Kabila organize offshore leasing companies.” The loss to the local economy as a result of Gertler’s deals was $1.3 billion from 2010 to 2012 alone, the U.S. estimated.