Biden Administration Reinstates Sanctions on Israeli Mining Magnate Gertler

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Dan Gertler in the DRC in 2012.
Dan Gertler in the DRC in 2012.Credit: Simon Dawson / Bloomberg

The United States on Monday revoked a sanctions waiver for Israeli mining magnate Dan Gertler that was issued in the last days of the Trump administration, 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," Treasury said in a statement.

Haaretz reported earlier this year that associates of the Israeli billionaire, who has been embroiled in a years-long, multi-million dollar corruption scandal in the Democratic Republic of Congo, effectively helped him evade sanctions

On January 15, just five days before Donald Trump vacated the White House, the U.S. Treasury informed Gertler that it was substantially easing sanctions imposed on him. Gertler was represented by Trump ally Alan Dershowitz and former FBI director Louis Freeh.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, lead author of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, said Gertler should not have been granted "an eleventh-hour permit" to do business with U.S. banks and companies.

"If well-connected international billionaires like Gertler think there is a chance they can get away with their corrupt actions, then they will not be deterred," Cardin said.

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 D.R.C. President Joseph 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.

The sanctions forbade U.S. companies from doing business with him, and banned financial institutions outside the United States from working with him in dollars. Practically speaking, the sanctions were much broader, because most banks refuse to do any business at all with people on the U.S. sanctions list. In Gertler’s case, banks in Israel and elsewhere periodically rejected payments originating with his companies even if they were in euros, because of the legal risks of accepting the funds.

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