US sanctions mining magnate accused of corruption in the Congo, reversing Trump-era move

Dan Gertler was first frozen out of the U.S. finan­cial sys­tem in 2017 after Paradise Papers exposed how he helped secure lucra­tive min­ing rights for com­modi­ties giant Glencore.

Israeli bil­lion­aire Dan Gertler walks through the Katanga Mining Ltd. cop­per and cobalt mine com­plex dur­ing a tour of the oper­a­tions in Kolwezi, Democratic Republic of Congo, on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012. Since he first arrived in wartime Congo in 1997 at only 23 years old, Gertler has amassed an empire worth almost $2.5 bil­lion dol­lars, accord­ing to Bloomberg cal­cu­la­tions using pub­licly avail­able doc­u­ments. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The United States has reim­posed sanc­tions on Israeli bil­lion­aire Dan Gertler months after he received an unex­pect­ed reprieve after lob­by­ing President Donald J. Trump’s administration.

The United States first froze Gertler, a min­ing mogul, out of the U.S. finan­cial sys­tem in 2017, weeks after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ Paradise Papers inves­ti­ga­tion. Officials accused Gertler of hav­ing “amassed his for­tune through hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars’ worth of opaque and cor­rupt min­ing and oil deals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).” The sanc­tions were extend­ed in 2018. Gertler denies wrongdoing.

In January, the out­go­ing Trump admin­is­tra­tion grant­ed a license that unfroze some of Gertler’s mon­ey held in U.S. insti­tu­tions, includ­ing Deutsche Bank, and allowed his com­pa­nies to re-enter the finan­cial sys­tem. The reprieve angered civ­il soci­ety who have long report­ed on Gertler’s alleged cor­rup­tion. It sur­prised U.S. offi­cials, accord­ing to a New York Times inves­ti­ga­tion of the lob­by­ing, which involved Alan Dershowitz, who lat­er served as a lawyer to President Trump.

Last month, jour­nal­ists report­ed that com­pa­nies linked to Gertler bypassed U.S. sanc­tions with the help of one of Central Africa’s largest banks. The inves­ti­ga­tion was orga­nized by the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa, which pre­vi­ous­ly pro­vid­ed ICIJ with more than 700,000 doc­u­ments that formed the basis of the Luanda Leaks inves­ti­ga­tion.

As ear­ly as 2001, the United Nations linked Gertler to the “ille­gal exploita­tion” of valu­able DRC resources. Gertler, who has close ties to for­mer DRC President Joseph Kabila, owned a com­pa­ny that received a lucra­tive dia­mond-min­ing monop­oly, U.N. reports alleged. Gertler agreed to exchange dia­monds for the deliv­ery of weapons to Congolese armed forces, accord­ing to the U.N. pan­el. Gertler reject­ed the find­ings and said his com­pa­ny com­plied with its obligations.

In 2017, as part of the Paradise Papers inves­ti­ga­tion, ICIJ and media part­ners revealed how Swiss multi­na­tion­al Glencore, one of the world’s largest com­mod­i­ty traders, dis­cussed appoint­ing Gertler to “nego­ti­ate with the DRC author­i­ties” after offi­cials pushed back on a deal for valu­able cop­per deposits. The rev­e­la­tions showed Glencore pro­vid­ed a $45 mil­lion loan to a Gertler-con­trolled com­pa­ny while the tycoon helped Glencore seal a deal with the DRC government.

Glencore denied wrong­do­ing and said that its back­ground checks on Gertler were “exten­sive and thor­ough.” Responding to ICIJ’s ques­tions, Gertler hired lawyers in three coun­tries and sent a 33-page let­ter that claimed accu­sa­tions of crim­i­nal behav­ior were false.

ICIJ By Will Fitzgibbon