Congo-linked Israeli billionaire said evading US sanctions by money-laundering

Two groups say Dan Gertler, accused of making billions via corrupt deals with help of Congolese politician, has been using money laundering network to acquire new mining assets

Dan Gertler (Screen capture: YouTube)
Dan Gertler (Screen capture: YouTube)

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo — Israeli businessman Dan Gertler, an associate of former president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Joseph Kabila, has circumvented US sanctions leveled against him by making use of an international money laundering network, two groups claimed Thursday.

Dan Gertler has been under sanctions by the US State Department since December 2017 for having signed “opaque and corrupt mining and oil contracts.”

According to a survey by Global Witness and the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF), “Controversial billionaire Dan Gertler appears to have used a money laundering network stretching from Democratic Republic of Congo to Europe and Israel to evade US sanctions against him, funnel millions of dollars abroad, and acquire new mining assets in DRC.”

The authors cited “documents provided by whistleblowers despite great risks to their personal safety.”

They argued that Gertler and his agents “set up bank accounts at the Congolese branches of Cameroon-based Afriland First Bank.”

Ahead of the report’s publication, a complaint was lodged Wednesday by Afriland in Paris with the public prosecutor’s office, seeking to prevent it from being published.

The complaint alleged “theft of documents, violation of bank secrecy, forgery, slander,” lawyer Eric Moutet told 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)

The French justice system has jurisdiction over the matter because PPLAAF’s headquarters are in Paris.

Gertler bypassed the sanctions through shell companies, according to the investigation: “In total, between June 2018 and May 2019, at least $100 million flowed through bank accounts associated with this network.”

“Among the various transactions revealed today, at least $21 million was sent to unknown accounts held outside DRC and $25 million was sent to DRC’s controversial state-owned mining company Gécamines,” Global Witness and PPLAAF charged.

Gécamines is headed by a close friend of Kabila, Albert Yuma.

In the report’s conclusion, the two groups encouraged the Congolese government to “freeze the assets” of the Israeli billionaire in the DRC.

Sworn in on January 24, 2019, the new president, Félix Tshisekedi, has said he is committed to fighting corruption.

Tshisekedi governs in coalition with Kabila’s political forces which hold a majority within the government, parliament and in the leadership of the country’s 26 provinces.

“Dan Gertler is in the DRC,” President Tshisekedi said in an interview with TV5-Le Monde in September. “I have met him. I do not do business with him, I am not a businessman. And I do not judge American sanctions. I do not know why they were imposed but I have never heard our American friends tell us that Dan Gertler is so bad that he must not do business in the DRC.”

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.

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