Money (illustration)
Money (illustration)Flash 90

Israeli mining magnate Dan Gertler used a global money laundering network to get around US sanctions and extract further mineral wealth from DR Congo, an investigation by two rights organizations found Thursday.

The United States in 2017 froze all the assets and accounts of Gertler, a close ally of former DRC president Joseph Kabila, accusing the billionaire of profiting from massive resource corruption in Africa.

But an investigation released Thursday by Global Witness and the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF) alleged that Gertler dodged the sanctions to rake in millions over the last several years.

"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," their report said.

Its said its findings were "based on documents provided by whistleblowers despite great risks to their personal safety."

The investigation found that Gertler and a network of proxies set up accounts with branches of the Cameroon-based Afriland First Bank, and at least $100 million flowed through associated accounts between June 2018 and May last year.

Just one day before the report was released, Afriland First Bank lodged a complaint against it with the public prosecutor's office in Paris.

The complaint was over the "theft of documents, violation of banking secrets and defamation," lawyer Eric Moutet told AFP.

It was filed in France because the office of PPLAAF chief William Bourdon is in Paris, Moutet added.

Transparency campaigners have long accused Gertler of having used his friendship with Kabila to obtain lucrative mineral rights at bargain prices before selling them onward at huge margins.

The US Treasury Department said that between 2010 and 2012 alone, the DR Congo lost more than $1.36 billion in state revenues from underpriced mining assets sold to offshore companies tied to Gertler.

The report released Thursday said that among the transactions it probed, "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 Gecamines."

The report pointed out that Kabila's successor, President Felix Tshisekedi, had vowed to fight corruption, and called on his government to freeze Gertler's assets and audit his dealings with state-owned companies.

Tshisekedi, in power since January 2019, governs in coalition with Kabila's party, which holds the majority in parliament.

Tshisekedi has said that while he has met Gertler, he has not done business with him.

"I do not judge the 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," he told the TV5Monde channel in September.

The vast central African nation has great mineral wealth, but is the world's third-poorest country when ranked by per capita GDP, according to the US Central Intelligence Agency.