Democratic Republic of Congo’s state-owned copper and cobalt miner Gecamines is challenging a ruling by a local court that it owes Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler 151.9 million euros ($168 million) to repay a loan.
Gertler’s Fleurette Mumi Holdings Ltd. offered a 200 million-euro line of credit to Gecamines in October 2017, two months before he was sanctioned by the U.S. government for alleged corruption related to Congo deals, Gecamines said in a statement Monday. It borrowed 128 million euros before the U.S. decision, and was told by its lawyers it couldn’t pay Gertler back once he was sanctioned, the company said.
Fleurette Mumi has since changed its name to Ventora Development Sasu.
Last month, a Lubumbashi-based commercial court ordered Gecamines to repay the principal loan and interest to Ventora, one of Gertler’s companies singled out by the U.S. sanctions. Gecamines is appealing the verdict and hasn’t paid the money, the company said.
Gecamines took out the loan from Gertler to pay tax advances to the treasury, it said.
Two Gecamines officials, including Managing Director Jacques Kamenga, were prohibited from boarding a plane in Kinshasa, the capital, on Dec. 17, according to the statement. Two days later, a company official was called to the public prosecutor’s office to answer questions about the case, Gecamines said.
In an emailed statement Monday from an external spokesman, Ventora said Gecamines’ argument for not paying the loan was “fallacious” and that “it intends to recover its due.”
Congo Is Not For Sale, a coalition of nine local and international non-governmental organizations, asked why the original loan agreement wasn’t published and if the country’s lawmakers had traced how the money was used.
“It is generally not recommended to contract a loan” to pay taxes, the groups said in a statement. “It is stranger still to contract so large a loan to pay a tax advance.”
(By Michael J. Kavanagh and William Clowes)