President Biden forces Israeli mining magnate Dan Gertler back into Magnitsky Act straightjacket

President Biden forces Israeli mining magnate Dan Gertler back into Magnitsky Act straightjacket
Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler. (Photo: Simon Dawson / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Joe Biden administration has reinstated Magnitsky sanctions on Israeli businessman Dan Gertler for ‘extensive public corruption’ in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), overturning a secretive and irregular action carried out during the death throes of the Donald Trump administration.

Dan Gertler was issued a licence five days before Donald Trump left office that gave him access to his money frozen in US banks and allowed him to do business with financial institutions throughout the world. Unless he has been able to use this window to move his assets out of the US, Gertler may be regretting the millions he spent on lobbyists in Washington, DC, including Alan Dershowitz, who represented Trump in his first impeachment trial, and former FBI director Louis Freeh.

Also lobbying for Gertler was the lawyer Boaz Ben Zur, whose clients include Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and David Friedman, then the US Ambassador to Israel, who recommended that the sanctions be lifted.

The decision, which bypassed official channels and was done in total secrecy, was greeted with outrage by anti-corruption campaigners worldwide and the US Democratic legislators who wrote to the Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, calling on her to reimpose the sanctions. They complained that lifting the sanctions against Gertler was “arbitrary and capricious” and  “upends US policy toward the DRC and threatens the integrity of US sanctions programmes more broadly”.

Gertler was the first individual to be “Magnitsky-ed” in 2017. At the time, the Treasury Department explained its decision by noting that he had “amassed his fortune through hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of opaque and corrupt mining and oil deals in the DRC”. 

Treasury estimated that his underpricing of mining assets alone had cost the DRC $1.36-billion between 2010 and 2012 alone.

The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 authorises the US government to sanction those it sees as human rights offenders, freeze their assets and ban them from entering the US.

A statement by Ned Price, spokesperson for the US State Department, said that the US “stands firmly with our partners in the DRC to counter malign behaviour that undermines the country’s institutions and economic opportunities”.

Most of the corruption happened in collusion with the former administration of President Joseph Kabila, who maintains strong political influence in the DRC. Current President Félix Tshisekedi is regarded as a partner of the US.

Anti-corruption activist John Prendergast said that “restoring the sanctions enables Congolese and US anti-corruption efforts to get back on track. Credit goes to the Biden administration and Congress for showing unity in protecting the integrity of the global Magnitsky sanctions regime.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    Will Trump have to repay his kickback/fee for dropping the sanctions.

  • Greg Barker says:

    that money is long gone by now. closing the gate after the horse has bolted… no doubt there is a little thank you gift in the don’s bank account received from an unmarked cayman bank account.

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