The Biden administration has revoked a sanctions waiver on Israeli mining magnate Dan Gertler that was issued in the last days of the Trump administration. Reimposing sanctions, the US Treasury said that the exemption was "inconsistent with America's strong foreign policy interests in combating corruption around the world," specifically in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Gertler secretly secured a one-year US Treasury licence that unfroze money he had deposited in financial institutions in the US, reported the New York Times. The licence effectively ended a prohibition on doing business through the international banking system after a series of corrupt deals that had short-changed the Congo of more than $1.3 billion in revenue from the sale of minerals.
Sanctions were imposed on Gertler in December 2017 and again in June 2018. The US Treasury accused the Israeli of using his friendship with the former President of the Congo, Joseph Kabila, to win sweetheart mining deals worth more than a billion dollars.
Gertler is a major player within the Israeli diamond industry, which is a cornerstone of the Zionist state's economy. "Israel turns over about $28 billion in diamonds a year," the Jerusalem Post pointed out. "The value of exported diamonds is so significant (about a fifth of total industrial exports) that the government reports its figures sans diamonds to ensure the gems do not skew the values."
The industry however has been beset by controversy. Members of the Kimberley Process diamond regulatory body have sought to reform it by expanding the definition of a "conflict diamond" in order to outlaw diamonds linked to human rights violations by government forces.
The decision to lift sanctions against Gertler provoked outrage. A month after Biden was sworn into office international rights groups and several US lawmakers called on the president to cancel Trump's easing of sanctions against the Israeli.
The State Department said yesterday that Gertler had "engaged in extensive public corruption" and that the Treasury, in consultation with the department, was reversing its action. "The licence previously granted to Mr Gertler is inconsistent with America's strong foreign policy interests in combating corruption around the world, specifically including US efforts to counter corruption and promote stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The United States will continue to promote accountability for corrupt actors with all the tools at our disposal in order to advance democracy, uphold international norms and impose tangible costs on those who seek to upend them."
Prominent American lawyer Alan Dershowitz is one of the most vocal supporters of the state of Israel. He represented Gertler in the push for the rollback of the sanctions. Expressing his disappointment with the Biden administration's action he said, "This decision was done unilaterally without an opportunity for Mr Gertler to present evidence that he has been complying with all the requirements and conducting himself properly."
Rights group have welcomed the decision, though. "Restoring the sanctions enables Congolese and US anti-corruption efforts to get back on track," said John Prendergast, a co-founder of The Sentry, a human rights group that was among more than a dozen that called on the Biden administration to revoke the licence. "Dan Gertler's corrupt partnership with former President Joseph Kabila cost the DRC dearly in terms of lost resources, lost services and, ultimately, lost lives."