Congolese businessman named in support of sanctioned Israeli mine tycoon Dan Gertler

The US Treasury Department Monday sanctioned a Congolese for supporting Dan Gertler, an Israeli businessman named for building a mining empire through close friendship with the former leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Alain Mukonda opened bank accounts and made more than a dozen deposits worth between $ 11 and $ 13.5 million for companies he had formed but ultimately belonged to Gertler and his family, according to the report. Treasure. He also relocated several of Gertler’s companies from Gibraltar and the British Virgin Islands to the DRC, the Treasury said.

“The Treasury is committed to supporting the anti-corruption efforts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by prosecuting those who abuse the political system for economic gain and unfairly take advantage of the Congolese state,” said Deputy Treasury Secretary , Wally Adeyemo, in a statement.

Gertler, an offspring of diamonds, leveraged his relationship with former DRC president Joseph Kabila to mediate mining sales in the country, the Treasury said. He was named in the annex of an executive decree at the end of 2017 which implemented sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, a law allowing the designation of persons involved in acts of corruption and human rights violations. A partner and more than a dozen companies were also sanctioned at the time.

In total, the DRC lost nearly $ 2 billion in revenue selling mining and oil assets to Gertler, according to a report released in May by a coalition of groups known as Congo Is Not for Sale. Gertler has long denied wrongdoing. Its oil permits are no longer valid, the DRC said in June.

The resource-rich country is at the center of a battle between the United States and China for control of its cobalt, according to a recent series of New York Times reports. The DRC produces more than two-thirds of the world’s cobalt, a key mineral needed for cleantech products such as batteries used in electric cars, according to reports. The chairman of the DRC state mining company was ousted on Friday after longstanding allegations of billions of funds missing.

Sanctions against Gertler have been tightened in June 2018, but in a brief episode at the end of the Trump administration, he was given a one-year license to conduct certain business transactions. The license was revoked in March; the authorization was “incompatible” with the foreign policy interests of the United States to fight corruption around the world, the United States State Department said at the time.

Mukonda was named Gertler’s “loyal long-time associate” in a July 2020 report by anti-corruption group Global Witness, who alleged he had worked for the mining tycoon for more than a decade, with the relationship growing closer and closer towards the end of 2017. Mukonda has denied being a partner of Gertler or ever acting for him, according to the report.

A few weeks after Gertler’s appointment, Mukonda had started re-domiciling some of Gertler’s companies in the DRC, according to the Global Witness report. And after the second round of sanctions, Mukonda created 10 new companies in the DRC that “would be ready to form the core of Gertler’s new Congolese business structure,” according to the Global Witness report. Several companies sanctioned on Monday shared an address in the DRC, according to a Kharon study.

Mukonda was seen carrying cash in suitcases at the Kinshasa branch of Afriland Bank, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported in July 2020 as part of a document leak known as the Congo Files. Ventora Global Services, one of the companies sanctioned on Monday, had received most of the funds, and the company “served as a launching pad” for transfers to various entities linked to Gertler, many of which were based in Israel, according to the report. Haaretz.

Recipients of Ventora Global Services funds included a well-connected Israeli lawyer, a lawyer who represented Gertler and a former media advisor to Gertler, Haaretz reported. The company also sent funds to a religious academy for married men, known as kollel, the newspaper reported. Mukonda directly sent $ 40,000 to family members of Pieter Deboutte, an associate of Gertler who was sanctioned alongside him in 2017, according to the report.

Mukonda received € 2.169 million from Ventora Global Services account on July 10, 2018, Haaretz reported in March. On the same day, a Congolese citizen named Zenon Mukuku deposited the same amount in a company named Western Financial Services, which was founded by an Israel-based business partner of Gertler’s mother, according to the March report.

“Corruption allows bad actors to abuse their authority and enrich themselves at the expense of others. It also fuels instability and conflict, undermines the rule of law and undermines efforts to achieve inclusive economic growth, ”said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

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