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Potential lifting of sanctions against Dan Gertler, a blow to the fight against corruption

A decision that runs against the revelations of two Congolese whistleblowers sentenced to death

(Paris, 14 December, 2023) Despite revelations made by Gradi Koko and Navy Malela, two courageous Congolese whistleblowers, about the alleged sanctions circumvention system benefiting Dan Gertler’s circle, the Biden Administration is preparing to lift these coercive measures, said today the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF), member of the Congolese coalition “Congo Is Not For Sale”.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler has begun negotiations with the US authorities in order  to substantially alleviate the sanctions imposed against him and several of his companies since 2017 by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). At that time, he had been  sanctioned for his “corrupt mining and oil contracts estimated at several hundred million dollars” concluded in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In 2021, new sanctions were imposed against Alain Mukonda and 12 companies associated with Gertler, based in the DRC and Gibraltar, following the revelations of the two Congolese whistleblowers.

In 2020 and 2021, the two whistleblowers disclosed information that Israeli mining magnate Dan Gertler was pursuing his business activities in dollars, despite US sanctions, using the Afriland bank. This network would have allowed him to circumvent US sanctions, while acquiring new mining assets thanks to his Congolese associates, including Alain Mukonda. These revelations led to the publication of several investigations by RTS, Bloomberg, Africa Confidential, Haaretz, Mail & Guardian and RFI, and of an investigative report by PPLAAF and Global Witness detailing the money-laundering network.

According to the Wall Street Journal, these sanctions may soon be lightened. However, such a decision would clash with the very first national anti-corruption strategy recently adopted by the United States, which intends to “hold corrupt actors accountable”.

Similarly, the lifting of the sanctions would also be highly prejudicial and would go against the mobilisation of anti-corruption actors in the DRC witnessed over the past several years, as well as the considerable risks taken by Congolese whistleblowers Gradi Koko et Navy Malela.

Their denunciations have led to a heavy wave of reprisals against them. After being forced to flee their country, they were sentenced to death in absentia by the Congolese authorities in September 2020 in a sham trial.

“It is incomprehensible for us to see that the US administration would seek to lighten the sanctions against Dan Gertler without taking into account the sacrifices we have made,” said Gradi Koko and Navy Malela. “We were forced to go into exile, we have lost our jobs, we live in precarious conditions and we were sentenced to death. This is the price we are paying for denouncing a system of circumvention of US sanctions” (translated from French).

On this topic, Gabriel Bourdon-Fattal, Director of Programs at PPLAAF, also said:“Whether it’s lifting sanctions or simply giving Dan Gertler a licence allowing him to carry out certain targeted operations, it’s an affront to the risks taken by Gradi Koko and Navy Malela from the DRC,”. “This sanctions relief could discourage any future whistleblowers from coming forward with new evidence, notably concerning a sanctions-circumvention scheme.” (translated from French).

Alleviating the sanctions against Dan Gertler is all the more surprising given that it would come at the same time as Dan Gertler’s wide-ranging campaign to restrict civic space. Congo is Not for Sale, PPLAAF and its partners Haaretz and Global Witness have been – or are being – the subject of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) initiated by the Israeli billionaire with the aim of silencing them.

Dan Gertler, as reiterated by “Congo Is Not For Sale” is a man who has caused the Congolese treasury to lose billions of dollars through high-level corruption in the country. The Congolese state has already lost $2 billion.

PPLAAF is a non-governmental organisation established in 2017 to protect whistleblowers, as well as to advocate and engage in strategic litigation on their behalf when their revelations deal with the general interests of African citizens.

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