Donald Trump’s Treasury Department eased US sanctions against Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler five days before the former president’s departure, quietly issuing a license that temporarily lifts restrictions on the mining mogul for alleged corruption in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The decision followed a call from lobbyists working for Mr Gertler, including lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who had close ties to Mr Trump.
Mr. Gertler was sanctioned by the Trump administration in December 2017 under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which froze all US assets he owned and prohibited him from trading in US dollars or with any US entity.
Under the new license – dated January 15 – those restrictions were relaxed until the end of January 2022, allowing U.S. institutions to lift the asset freeze and negotiate with Mr. Gertler and dozens of his sanctioned entities for at least the next 12 months.
The overthrow was immediately criticized by anti-corruption groups who called on President Joe Biden’s administration to reverse the decision.
“For a sanctions designation issued specifically for corrupt and covert activities in DR Congo and elsewhere, being private under a cloud of haste and secrecy at the very end of the Trump administration is a terrible blow to the hearts of one one of the most successful and successful anti-corruption programs of the past decade, ”said Brad Brooks-Rubin, CEO of nonprofit The Sentry.
Mr Gertler, who denies any wrongdoing, declined to comment. Mr Gertler’s team of lawyers had worked with the Treasury Department for many months to secure the ruling and intended to put in place protocols to ensure full compliance with the terms of the new order, said someone familiar with the matter.
A spokesperson for the US Treasury Department under Mr Biden said he was “aware of the action” of the previous administration, but did not comment further.
Neither Janet Yellen, Mr Biden’s candidate for treasury secretary, nor Wally Adeyemo, his choice for deputy treasury secretary, have been confirmed by the Senate to take office. Any move to cancel the Trump administration’s license would require their approval.
Mr. Gertler accumulated enormous power and influence in Congo’s mining sector after arriving in the country as a 23-year-old diamond trader in 1997. He developed a friendship with former President Joseph Kabila and concluded a succession of contracts with the state miner Gécamines. It has gained access to some of its most lucrative mining assets and partnerships with international companies such as Glencore and ENRC.
But some of its activities have become mired in corruption allegations. In 2017 and again in 2018, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Mr. Gertler and his global network of companies, many of which are incorporated in offshore “secret jurisdictions”. Mr Gertler had used his friendship with Mr Kabila to act as an intermediary for the sale of mining assets in the country, one of the world’s largest producers of copper and cobalt, the Treasury said in December 2017 Between 2010 and 2012 alone, he estimated that corrupt transactions involving Mr. Gertler’s businesses cost the Congolese state coffers more than $ 1.36 billion in revenue.
Over the past five years, Mr. Gertler has divested many of his largest investments in Congo, selling his stake in two Glencore mining projects to the Swiss commodities giant in 2017. Glencore, however, continued to pay Mr. · Freeze the royalties he had withheld following the sale, process transfers in euros rather than dollars and avoid penalties.
Glencore declined to comment on the easing of the restrictions. Glencore is the subject of an investigation by the United States Department of Justice into allegations of bribery and corruption in the Congo and two other jurisdictions.
ENRC’s parent company Eurasian Resources Group also declined to comment. Mr. Gertler is expected to receive royalty payments this year from a mine controlled by Eurasian Resources.
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