Israeli firm said using US lobbyists to help Congo regime skirt new sanctions
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Israeli firm said using US lobbyists to help Congo regime skirt new sanctions

Holon-based Mer was reportedly paid $8 million through its Trump-linked Washington contacts to help Central African country

President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila sits in a garden at his personal ranch on December 10, 2018 in Kinshasa. (John WESSELS / AFP)
President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila sits in a garden at his personal ranch on December 10, 2018 in Kinshasa. (John WESSELS / AFP)

An Israeli security firm has been identified by The New York Times as a key conduit between Trump-linked lobbyists and foreign governments looking to skirt US sanctions.

According to the report published Tuesday, the Holon-based Mer Security and Communication Systems was paid $8 million by the Democratic Republic of Congo to lobby against the levying of additional sanctions. The DRC is already the subject of US and EU sanctions, but the mineral-rich African country could face additional sanctions from the Trump administration for widespread corruption and human rights violations under President Joseph Kabila.

Lobbying filings obtained by the Times revealed that Mer paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to former Trump advisers and campaign officials to advance foreign interests in Washington.

The filings show that Mer paid $360,000 to Adnan Jalil, a former congressional liaison for Trump’s campaign; $250,000 to the firm of Nancye Miller, the wife of Trump campaign adviser and former CIA chief R. James Woolsey Jr; $680,000 to the firm of former congressman Robert L. Livingston, an early Trump endorser; and $598,000 to the firm of Brian Glicklich, who has represented Trump allies including Breitbart News and Rush Limbaugh.

One of Mer’s more prominent achievements was a pro-Democratic Republic of Congo event in Washington earlier this year that was attended by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

The report said Mer paid $1.25 million to the firm of Trump associate Robert Stryk to organize the event at the Hay-Adams hotel, and set up meetings between Kabila’s envoy and US officials.

Giuliani maintains that he never acted as a lobbyist for the DRC, though he has offered conflicting accounts of his participation at the July event.

At first, the former New York mayor said he only briefly attended the reception because he was trying to impress a woman by taking her to a Washington party “with a great view.” However, Giuliani later said he attended the event to explore business potential opportunities, saying that he has “always wanted to see what’s Africa all about.”

In September, DRC’s US ambassador, Francois Balumuene, indicated that Giuliani was working directly with his government to help navigate Trump policies and potential sanctions.

Rudy Giuliani, an attorney for US President Trump, during a campaign event in New Hampshire, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, August 1, 2018. Charles Krupa/AP)

“What I know is that it is possible that Giuliani will let us know how to go ahead,” Balumuene said in an interview.

A source familiar with Giuliani’s business affairs told the Times he was negotiating a consulting contract with the DRC, possibly through Mer.

Giuliani would not confirm that he worked with the Congolese government, but said that if he did, it would not amount to lobbying. In a series of text messages to the Times on Sunday, Giuliani said: “If I do it, it would only be security consulting.”

“Beyond that, I can’t say anything other than you can assume if we are working in a foreign country, we are doing security — physical and cyber, antiterrorism, emergency management,” he added.

Weeks after the Hay-Adams event, Kabila announced he would not be seeking a third term as president in the elections set for later this month, in an apparent attempt to show the country will conduct free and fair elections.

Though there is concern the vote has been tilted in favor of Kabila’s handpicked successor, the US has so far refrained from levying any additional sanctions on the country. The Times said some US lobbyists have privately claimed the lack of new sanctions as a victory.

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