U.S. Restores Sanctions On Israeli Billionaire Who Had Been Granted Reprieve By Trump Administration

The Biden administration Monday reimposed sanctions on Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler for what the State Department calls “extensive public corruption” in the Democratic Republic Of Congo, reversing a controversial temporary reprieve he was granted by the Trump administration.

Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler looks across the open pit mining operations at Comide SPRL’s Mashitu … [+]

In 2017 and 2018, the U.S. sanctioned Gertler for orchestrating a series of “opaque and corrupt mining and oil deals” in the Democratic Republic Of Congo, the Treasury Department said at the time.

But in the last days of former President Donald Trump’s term, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin granted Gertler a one-year license, letting him do business with U.S. entities and access money frozen in U.S. accounts, a move that drew harsh criticism from human rights groups and Democratic lawmakers.

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In a statement rescinding that license, the State Department said Monday that easing sanctions on Gertler was “inconsistent” with “U.S. efforts to counter corruption and promote stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

Gertler, who has denied any wrongdoing, is accused of using his friendship with former DRC President Joseph Kabila to act as a middleman for mining asset sales, resulting in the country losing out on $1.36 billion in revenue from underpriced mining assets sold to offshore companies linked to Gertler, the Treasury Department said.

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who is representing Gertler, told the New York Times the decision to reimpose sanctions was disappointing and made with “without an opportunity for Mr. Gertler to present evidence that he has been complying with all the requirements and conducting himself properly.”

A New York Times investigation last month found the Trump administration’s decision to ease sanctions on Gertler was made in secret without input from American diplomats dealing directly with corruption in Africa. In addition to Dershowitz, Gertler’s legal team included former FBI director Louis Freeh and prominent Israeli lawyer Boaz Ben Zur.

I’m a San Francisco-based reporter covering breaking news at Forbes. Follow me on Twitter @rachsandl or shoot me an email rsandler@forbes.com.

 

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