The decision of the Trump administration to ease sanctions on Dan Gertler, a prominent Israeli mining magnate with interests in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), came following pressure from Mossad head Yossi Cohen and former Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, according to a Bloomberg News report on Friday.
Gertler had sanctions placed on him by the US for allegedly corrupt activities in the DRC. According to the report, Cohen and Dermer spoke numerous times with high-ranking US officials to secure the easing of sanctions because Gertler’s connections in Africa were of vital strategic importance to Israel.
The report also noted that Cohen made two trips to the DRC in order to meet with Gertler, as well as former DRC president Joseph Kabila.
In the final days of the Trump administration, Gertler was granted a one-year exemption from sanctions, which was criticized by human rights activists, former administration officials and some Democratic lawmakers.
Upon the Biden administration’s entry into power, sanctions were reimposed on Gertler by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, claiming this was aimed at fighting corruption in the DRC.
The Bloomberg report further noted that Cohen’s trips to the DRC were not well received by current President Félix Tshisekedi, who said Cohen was not welcome to continue meeting with Kabila, who is considered a rival to the incumbent president.
The sanctions on Gertler were initially implemented in 2017 and were done because of his alleged role in acting as a go-between for Kabila and various multinational corporations engaged in corrupt deals that robbed regular DRC citizens of millions of dollars.
Cohen and Dermer, according to Bloomberg, advocated on Gertler’s behalf by claiming that he could help gather intelligence for Israel and the US on terrorist activity on the continent, as well as Chinese activities.
The report comes as Israel continues to reach out to new allies in Africa and expands its diplomatic activities on the continent, which has included building relations with Sudan and Chad.