KINSHASA, DRC — Two rights groups on Monday urged the new US administration of Joe Biden to reverse former President Donald Trump’s last-minute easing of sanctions on an Israeli billionaire accused of corruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The US State Department hit Dan Gertler with sanctions in December 2017 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.
Now “during the final days of the Trump presidency, the US Treasury substantially eased sanctions” on the billionaire, rights group Global Witness said in a statement.
“Gertler cannot be allowed to carry on doing business with US companies and accessing funds held in the US” while investigations are ongoing, the group added.
“We call on the new Biden administration to take a strong stance against corruption by reapplying the sanctions in full without delay.”
The Trump administration “gave… Gertler and his businesses a license to, in effect, nullify sanctions,” rights group The Sentry said in a statement.
The move “strikes a terrible blow to the heart of one of the most lauded and effective anti-corruption programs of the last decade,” the group co-founded by actor George Clooney added.
While Gertler and his firms remain on the sanctions list, the Trump-granted license allows their transactions to go ahead and unfreezes their assets at a list of named banks and financial institutions, The Sentry explained.
As well as calling on the Biden administration to “revoke this effective pardon,” the group also urged the affected banks not to “open accounts or otherwise conduct transactions for or on behalf of Gertler and his network.”
The International Monetary Fund last year said the DRC should publish all mining contracts in the name of transparency in exchange for further aid.