US sanctions Israeli billionaire over corrupt Congo ties

The kippa-wearing businessman resides in Bnei Brak and has a net worth of $1.2 billion.

December 21, 2017 23:55
1 minute read.
US sanctions Israeli billionaire over corrupt Congo ties

The seal of the United States Department of State is seen in Washington, US, January 26, 2017. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

The US State Department on Thursday sanctioned Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler over evidence of widespread corruption while he conducted business in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Gertler relied on his close friendship with Congo President Joseph Kabila to act as a middleman, according to a US Treasury Department statement, taking a hefty cut from multinational corporations seeking to conduct multi-billion-dollar mining and oil deals.

Between 2010-2012 alone, Congo lost some $1.36 billion in revenue "from the underpricing of mining assets that were sold to offshore companies linked to Gertler," the Treasury Department said.

With the sanction, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has barred US persons and financial institutions from conducting any business with Gertler.

The US "is taking a strong stand against human rights abuse and corruption globally by shutting these bad actors out of the US 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.”

Congressional sources briefed on the designation told The Jerusalem Post that Israel was not consulted on the decision in advance, a courtesy typically offered to allies.

Gertler comes from a diamond-studded family, as his grandfather helped establish the Israeli Diamond Exchange. The kippa-wearing businessman resides in Bnei Brak, according to a Forbes profile, and has a net worth of $1.2 billion. He has been doing business in Congo since 1997, when as a 23-year-old he secured the president's blessing to control the diamond trade in the country.

Gertler also sold an oil block to the Congolese government for $150 million when he had purchased the same stake from the authorities for $500,000.

Along with Gertler, the Treasury Department has cut off several Israeli-related entities from the financial system, including the Gertler Family Foundation, International Diamond Industries and D.G.I. Israel Ltd.

Gertler's representatives in Ramat Gan could not immediately respond to the US sanction, according to Bloomberg.

Michael Wilner contributed to this article.

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