The Trump administration slapped sanctions on 13 individuals on Thursday, including Israeli businessman Dan Gertler. A presidential executive order, which the Treasury Department said is targeting human rights abusers and corrupt actors, freezes access to any assets that Gertler might have "under U.S. jurisdiction."
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A Treasure Department statement describes Gertler as "an international businessman and billionaire who has amassed his fortune through hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of opaque and corrupt mining and oil deals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo."
It continues by explaining that "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. As a result, between 2010 and 2012 alone, the DRC reportedly lost over $1.36 billion in revenues from the underpricing of mining assets that were sold to offshore companies linked to Gertler."
In a massive leak of documents from the Bermuda-based Appleby law firm in November known as the Paradise Papers, Gertler's name appeared in 120 documents in connection with his alleged relationship with Glencore, a London-listed company that has used Appleby for much of its business. Glencore minutes detailed how the company lent millions to Gertler, who was known for high-level friends in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to allegedly help secure a bid for copper mine in the country.
At the time of the leak, Glencore said its background checks on Gertler were “extensive and thorough.” According to Glencore, the loan “was made on commercial terms negotiated at arms length”, and was fully repaid by in 2010. The company added that the agreement related to a pas de porte (access) payment - and not a bid for a mine.
Gertler's lawyers said that he “rejects absolutely any allegations of wrongdoing or criminality by him.” No loans were used improperly or for inappropriate purposes, Gertler’s lawyers stated.
The Paradise Papers were obtained by the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and a network of over 380 reporters and newspapers in 67 countries, including Haaretz.
Gertler’s media adviser Ronen Tzur said in response: “It is regrettable to see how Dan Gertler’s name was mixed up in a matter that he has absolutely no connection to. The opposite is true: The Gertler family fund has invested large sums, estimated in the billions of dollars, in [the Democratic Republic of the] Congo, pays taxes of hundreds of millions, created thousands of jobs and has rehabilitated transportation infrastructure, roads, education and healthcare in a country that has suffered from severe poverty for years.
“Dan Gertler has personally acted for many years and has brought investors and technology from all over the world to Congo, and as a result of this activity the standard of living has risen dramatically, sources of employment and medical treatment in the country have been developed,” said Tzur.
“Moreover, Dan Gertler’s activities had even been recognized by the American government and United Nations institutions as activities that have contributed in a decisive way to ending the bloodshed in the country.
“We regret there are those who are acting out of motivation for business interests to damage Mr. Gerlter’s good name and entangle his name in order to serve their own needs. The growth and flourishing of the Congo bother them and the strong and long-term alliance between the Congolese people and Mr. Gertler will not be harmed as a result of these actions."
Tzur said they are certain that the unnecessary injustice involving Gertler will soon be remedied.