Congo nears deal with Israeli billionaire to recover assets

Gertler, originally a diamond trader, amassed his fortune mostly by buying mining assets from the DRC at greatly discounted prices, and selling them at great profit. (Image: Screenshot from Bosolo Na Politik Officielle | YouTube.)

Democratic Republic of Congo’s government announced it is nearing a deal with Dan Gertler’s Fleurette Group to take back billions of dollars worth of its mining and oil assets in the country.

Companies owned by the Israeli billionaire, who is facing US sanctions for alleged corruption in Congo, control mining and oil permits throughout the Central African nation as well as lucrative royalty streams for some of the world’s biggest copper and cobalt projects run by Glencore Plc and Eurasian Resources Group Sarl. A spokesman for Gertler declined to comment. Gertler has denied all corruption allegations and he’s never been charged. 

A Congolese government commission is close to reaching a memorandum of understanding with Fleurette Group to recover oil and mining assets valued at more than $2 billion “as well as a substantial part of the Kamoto Copper Company royalties,” according to minutes from Friday’s council of ministers meeting read on national television by Augustin Kibassa, minister for post and telecommunications.

Kamoto Copper is managed by Glencore, which declined to comment.

A consortium of Congolese and international non-governmental organizations known as Congo is Not for Sale praised the deal as a “first step” in recovering Gertler’s assets in an emailed statement Saturday. It called on the government “to make the process and results of the negotiations more transparent.”

Gertler came to Congo to deal diamonds in the late 1990s when the country was at war. He built close ties to Joseph Kabila, who was president from 2001 to 2019. His businesses soon expanded to copper, cobalt, oil, gold and other minerals, often partnering with mining behemoths like Glencore. But his relationship with Kabila brought scrutiny from anti-corruption groups, which accused him of paying bribes and stealing money from one of the world’s poorest countries. He denies all charges.

The US sanctioned Gertler in December 2017 in part to force Kabila from power after he’d postponed scheduled elections. The Treasury Department has expanded measures against Gertler’s companies and associates twice more, including in December of last year. 

Since Felix Tshisekedi took over as Congo’s president in 2019, the government’s relationship with Gertler has cooled. Tshisekedi has made it a priority to take back two oil blocks owned by Gertler’s companies along the border with Uganda, which could be worth billions.

Friday’s announcement shows Tshisekedi’s government wants to claw back even more of Gertler’s empire. 

The country’s justice minister is now examining the proposed deal with Fleurette with the hopes of concluding an agreement that would “allow the Congolese state to fully take back possession of these mining and oil assets,” Kibassa said.

(By Michael J. Kavanagh and William Clowes)


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