D.R. Congo to Sell Israeli Billionaire’s Oil, Gold, Iron-Ore Permits

Oil and mining permits worth billions of dollars are to be auctioned in the Democratic Republic of Congo after a deal was reached with the controversial Israeli businessman, Dan Gertler who owns them.

Initially sanctioned by the US in 2017, Gertler was accused of massive corruption in Central Africa – allegations he has always denied.

The DR Congo’s government and he reached a $2 billion settlement on Thursday, in which he agreed to relinquish control of certain assets but receive royalties from the rest.

The agreement will not shield Dan Gertler from the allegations weighing on him, said the anti-corruption group Congo is Not for Sale, which demanded the agreement’s full details be released.

Among the items in the deal are two oil blocks on Lake Albert close to Uganda’s border, Moku-Beverendi gold permits, and dozens of iron-ore permits. In addition to being reimbursed for some expenses, Gertler will retain lucrative royalties from three copper and cobalt projects. 

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At a briefing broadcast on Twitter Thursday, government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said the agreement would allow the government to promote and resell the assets. He explained that the government refused to release the full agreement because the two sides were still negotiating details and there are confidentiality clauses.

Originally from an Israeli diamond family, Gertler came to Congo in the late 1990s to trade gems while the country was at war. He helped finance the late Laurent Desire Kabila and became friendly with his son Joseph, who became president in 2001 when his father was assassinated. Kabila and Gertler became close, and Gertler sometimes acted as his emissary.

Gertler allegedly conducted business with Kabila, according to the U.S. government, which sanctioned him in 2017 to force him to step down. The U.S. Treasury Department said Gertler amassed a fortune through “hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of opaque and corrupt mining and oil deals” in Congo because of his “close friendship” with Kabila.

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A new government led by President Felix Tshisekedi is now trying to reclaim some of those assets. 

“Dan Gertler, as you all know, was one of the architects of a predatory system in this country,” Andre Wameso, Tshisekedi’s deputy chief of staff for economic matters, said.

“The assets of our republic were bought at very low prices by intermediaries, including by him, and were resold at a much higher value.” 

Despite never being charged, Gertler has always denied any wrongdoing. The details of the agreement were confirmed by his spokesman.

“The relentless scrutiny and criticism I have faced, culminating in the devastating U.S. sanctions placed on me and the recent allegations I have faced, have become intolerable, placing a huge burden on me, my businesses and above all my family,” Gertler said in the statement.

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 “It is neither in my interests nor the interests of the people of the DRC, for assets such as the Lake Albert blocks to be mired in international arbitration in perpetuity.” 

The government values the oil blocks alone at between $1.5 billion and $1.8 billion, Wameso said. 

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