Glencore is said to take Congo rift with Gertler to London court

The U.S. sanctioned Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler, one of the biggest individual mining investors in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in what it calls a clampdown on human-rights abusers and corrupt actors. (File Image)

Glencore Plc’s clash with former partner Dan Gertler over unpaid royalties at a key Congolese copper mine deepened as the legal battle spread to a London court.

The Swiss miner was on Tuesday granted a temporary injunction against the Israeli billionaire after petitioning the London court to rule against a Congolese judge’s decision last week to freeze assets at its Kamoto Copper project, people familiar with the matter said. Gertler is claiming $2.28 billion in damages and unpaid royalties, which Glencore stopped paying after he was sanctioned by the U.S. in December.

The dispute with Gertler is the latest problem the world’s biggest commodity trader is facing in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it’s the top producer of copper and cobalt. Glencore is challenging the government over a new mining code which raises taxes and royalties, while state-owned miner Gecamines last month accused the Swiss company of “draining” Kamoto of profit and asked a Congolese judge to dissolve the joint venture.

Under the terms of the royalty accord with Gertler, which is subject to English law, the Congolese court has no authority to freeze the assets, Glencore has said. Tuesday’s injunction prevents Gertler from taking further legal steps against Kamoto until the case is heard on May 11, but doesn’t yet constitute a decision on the asset freezes in Congo, which remain in place, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing an ongoing court process.

Glencore Shares

Glencore shares rose 2.9 percent in London, snapping a five-day drop, the longest run of losses this year.

Glencore and Gertler had invested together over the last decade in Kamoto and a second mining project in the country called Mutanda. While the Swiss company bought Gertler’s stakes in the mines last year in a near billion-dollar deal, it’s still obliged to pay him royalties, which he acquired from Gecamines in earlier agreements.

Making those payments has become complicated for Glencore since the U.S. sanctioned Gertler for alleged corruption. The penalties prevent the billionaire from dealing in dollars and make it difficult for Glencore to trade with him in any currency.

Congolese deals with Gertler turned Glencore into the world’s third-largest copper producer and top miner of cobalt, and helped the Israeli accumulate more than $2 billion in wealth, data compiled by Bloomberg show. They also brought scrutiny from advocacy groups that questioned the probity of Gertler’s operations in the country and his close relationship with Congo President Joseph Kabila. Gertler has denied any wrongdoing.

Gertler is also claiming a further $695 million in damages and unpaid royalties from Mutanda. The agreement between Mutanda and Gertler’s company is subject to arbitration in Hong Kong, Glencore said last week, adding that it will contest the order.

The Financial Times reported Tuesday that Glencore had obtained a temporary injunction against Gertler over the royalty claims.

Written by Tom Wilson.