DRC: How the Congolese state is taking on Dan Gertler in court

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Monday, 29 November 2021 12:22

Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler in June 2012
Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler in June 2012. Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Congolese government has filed a request for arbitration against the Israeli tycoon, hoping to get two oil contracts cancelled and $150m in compensation. We obtained a copy of the document.

While he undertook a vast inventory of the main mining contracts signed under the Joseph Kabila era, Félix Tshisekedi also launched a legal battle against Dan Gertler, who remained close to the former president.

The oil assets of the Israeli billionaire, placed under sanction by the US Treasury in 2017 on suspicion of corruption, are also targeted.

The Congolese state mandated Rachida Dati, a former minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, and the Parisian law firm Oplus – founded by Olivier Pardo, also a lawyer of the polemicist Éric Zemmour and former counsel to the Equatorial Guinean state – to file a request for arbitration before the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris.

The case was referred to the ICC on 13 August.

For his part, Gertler has appointed French lawyers Jacques Bouyssou (Alerion) and Marc Pierre Stehlin (Stehlin&Associés, where former French minister Jean-François Copé also works).

Breach of contract

This arbitration concerns two companies the Israeli tycoon has a stake in: Caprikat and Foxwhelp.

According to the document, the dispute in question concerns an oil production sharing contract between the DRC and these two companies “for the conduct of reconnaissance, exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons in the area of blocks I and II of the Albertine Graben”, located in the province of Ituri (East), bordering Uganda with Lake Albert.

Signed on 5 May 2010, the five-year contract was renewed until its termination on 16 June 2021. It provided in particular that 15% of the interest would be allocated to the DRC, the same document states. According to Congolese authorities, “the work planned (notably the two test drillings) under this contract has not been carried out and the DRC has had no choice but to terminate it”.

The document states that Dan Gertler’s two companies cited “force majeure”, including the fall in oil prices, as the reason for the delay in 2020. They added that they had already invested 130 million euros in the project.

153.7 million dollars

When the two companies in a letter dated 16 July 2021 refused this termination, the DRC pushed this request for arbitration in order to obtain the validation of this break. The ultimate goal is to allow the two blocks in question to be granted to other operators.

The DRC also hopes to obtain significant compensation to repair the damage it believes it has suffered “as a result of the prolonged failures of Caprikat DRC SACA and Foxwhelp DRC SACA”.

The exact amount sought “will be precisely assessed during the course of the proceedings” but, “for the purposes of this application, it is provisionally assessed at USD 153,790,000”.

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