By Spy Uganda Correspondent
The Biden administration reimposed sanctions on Monday on Dan Gertler, an Israeli billionaire accused of corruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Gertler won an unusual reprieve from the sanctions in the final days of the Trump presidency.
On Monday, the US Department of the Treasury, in consultation with the Department of State, revoked the previous administration’s move.
“The license previously granted to Mr. Gertler is inconsistent with America’s strong foreign policy interests in combatting corruption around the world, specifically including US efforts to counter corruption and promote stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price.
The US State Department hit Gertler with sanctions in December 2017 under the Global Magnitsky sanctions act for “opaque and corrupt mining deals” struck with help from his friend, then-Congolese president Joseph Kabila.
Washington claims Gertler deprived the DRC of $1.4 billion in tax revenues over the past decade.
“The United States stands firmly with our partners in the DRC to counter malign behavior that undermines the country’s institutions and economic opportunities,” Price said.
Rights groups hailed Monday’s move.
“Dan Gertler’s corrupt partnership with former President Joseph Kabila cost the DRC dearly in terms of lost resources, lost services, and, ultimately, lost lives,” said John Prendergast, co-founder of The Sentry, an anti-corruption NGO with a focus on Africa.
“Restoring the sanctions enables Congolese and US anti-corruption efforts to get back on track. Credit goes to the Biden administration and Congress for showing unity in protecting the integrity of the Global Magnitsky sanctions regime,” Prendergast said.
While Gertler and his firms remained on the sanctions list, the Trump-granted license allowed their transactions to go ahead and unfroze their assets at a list of named banks and financial institutions.
The International Monetary Fund last year said the DRC should publish all mining contracts in the name of transparency in exchange for further aid.
Gertler’s grandfather co-founded the Israel Diamond Exchange and was its longtime president.
Gertler, founder and president of Dan Gertler International, has been active in Congo since 1997 when he started his activities seeking rough diamonds. He has since invested in a variety of fields, including in gold, cobalt, copper and agriculture. Forbes has rated his worth at $1.22 billion, saying he built his fortunes through mining ventures in various African states.