The administration of President Joe Biden on Monday reversed a move by the Trump administration to exempt Israeli businessman Dan Gertler from U.S. sanctions.Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI | License Photo
March 8 (UPI) -- The Biden administration late Monday said it revoked a special license granted by the former Trump administration to international businessman Dan Gertler that exempted him from U.S. sanctions, stating his participation in corruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo is inconsistent with U.S. values.
Gertler, an Israeli mining executive and billionaire, was quietly granted a special license by the outgoing Trump administration to exempt him from sanctions that were leveled against him in 2017 and in 2018 under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.
The Treasury has accused Gertler of amassing hundreds of millions of dollar's worth of "opaque and corrupt mining and oil deals" in the African nation through using his relationships with the country's president, Joseph Kabila, to act as a middleman to force international companies to go through Gertler to do business with the state.
From 2010 to 2012, the Treasury estimated the DRC lost $1.36 billion in revenues from underpriced mining assets sold to Gertler's subsidiaries.
The Trump administration granted Gertler the one-year license on Jan. 15, days before the Biden administration was to take over, permitting several U.S. financial institutes to unblock and return funds to the accused and his network.
After it was learned that the license was issued, human rights groups railed against it.
In an open letter dated Feb. 18, The Sentry, Freedom House, Human Rights First and other such groups called on the Biden administration to investigate the issuing of the license and reverse it.
On Monday, those groups cheered Biden's revocation of the license.
"This is a victory for Congolese and U.S. efforts to combat corruption, as Gertler has been at the heart of a kleptocratic system that has perpetuated poverty," Sash Lezhnez, deputy director of policy at The Sentry, said in a statement. "Fighting that system through accountability and reforms is essential to security, human rights and governance in the DR Congo and much more progress must be made."
The Sentry also called for the Biden administration to designate more companies believed to be part of Gertler's network.
"Sanctions and broader financial pressures need to be implemented and enforced in a consistent manner that inspires the confidence of financial institutions and our allies, which was undermined by this license," Brad Brooks-Rubin, general counsel at The Sentry, said.
Ned Price, the U.S. State Department spokesman, said the license was revoked as it was "inconsistent with American's strong foreign policy interests in combatting corruption around the world, specifically including U.S. efforts to counter corruption and promote stability in the Democratic Republic of Congo."
"The United States will continue to promote accountability for corrupt actors with all the tools at our disposal, in order to advance democracy, uphold international norms and impose tangible costs on those who seek to upend them," he said in a statement.