Fight Over Corruption and Congo’s Mining Riches Takes a Turn in Washington – by Eric Lipton and Dionne Searcey (New York Times – April 2, 2023)

Dan Gertler, an Israeli billionaire, is pressing President Biden to remove sanctions that were imposed on him for bribe-fueled transactions in the impoverished African country.

WASHINGTON — Five years ago, the United States accused a wealthy Israeli diamond dealer of more than $1 billion worth of corrupt mining and oil deals in the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying they undermined economic growth and “the rule of law” in the impoverished African nation. Now, that businessman, Dan Gertler, has found a surprising ally in his quest to have his name removed from a U.S. sanctions list: President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Despite the U.S. accusations that Mr. Gertler had in effect looted the country, Mr. Tshisekedi directly intervened with President Biden, asking that the Treasury Department roll back the punishment, documents obtained by The New York Times show.

“The Democratic Republic of Congo no longer has any grievances against Mr. Gertler and his group,” Mr. Tshisekedi said in a letter, not previously made public, that he sent to Mr. Biden in May. How Mr. Gertler managed to enlist the president of Congo, whom American officials have celebrated for his efforts to combat widespread corruption since he took office in 2019, is an illustration of the determined bid by Mr. Gertler to lift a set of sanctions that prohibits companies with ties to the United States from doing business with him and freezes money he has in international banks.

Mr. Tshisekedi’s lobbying efforts came after Mr. Gertler agreed to return to Congo an estimated $2 billion worth of mining and oil-drilling rights secured over the past two decades. In exchange, the Congolese government agreed to pay Mr. Gertler’s companies $260 million and to help him lobby in Washington to have the sanctions revoked, the agreement with Mr. Gertler says.

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