New York hedge fund fined $400m for Congo bribes

The Democratic Republic of the Congo sits at number 176 on the Human Development Index

Hedge fund Och-Ziff has to be cough up $412 million after the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission found the New York-based firm violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Two executives, Daniel Och and CFO Joel Frank, also agreed to a financial settlement with founder Och ordered to pay a fine of nearly $2.2 million to settle SEC case.

According to Global Witness, a human rights organization, some of the key violations in the Och-Ziff case came in mining and oil and gas deals in Democratic Republic of Congo:

“In the course of its Congo deals Och-Ziff financed the Israeli billionaire mining and oil magnate Dan Gertler in his acquisition of companies and mining and oil assets. A “significant portion” of the loans paid to Och-Ziff’s “Israeli businessman…partner in DRC” were used “to pay bribes to high-ranking DRC officials to secure mining assets for Och-Ziff and its partner”, according to a document published by the SEC.

Gertler disputes any wrongdoing in his business dealings in Congo. His spokesperson has said prior to the release of the SEC document that the Och-Ziff case has “nothing to do with [Gertler’s] Fleurette”.

Gertler is the grandson of Moshe Schnitzer, Israeli diamond exchange founder, and arrived in the Congo in 1997 shortly after the military coup that put current president Joseph Kabila’s father in charge of the resource rich country which is almost the size of Western Europe.

Gertler is alleged to have used his relationship with the younger Kabila and his now late adviser Augustin Katumba Mwanke to bag mining projects “by stripping from others if necessary, only to sell them on at great profit.”

Now delisted Kazakh mining group ENRC, was forced to pay out $1.25 billion to Canadian mining firm First Quantum in 2012 after the DRC government expropriated First Quantum’s Kolwezi copper projects in the country only to sell them onto ENRC via Gertler.

ENRC acquired a 50.5% stake in Camrose, a company controlled by the Gertler family trust, for $550 million last year. Camrose owns Africo Resources, previously listed in Toronto, which partners with DRC’s state-owned Gecamines in various copper-cobalt, gold and iron projects and dominates the DRC diamond trade.

ENRC has been under investigation by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office since 2013.

Kabila has on occasion dispatched Gertler as special peace envoy for the DRC and Gertler answers his critics by saying he’s attracted $7 billion worth of much-needed investment to the war-torn country.