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Dan Gertler-linked contracts have already cost the DRC $2bn, says NGO

By Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala
Posted on Monday, 17 May 2021 10:51

Israeli businessman Dan Gertler in Kolwezi in 2012. Simon Dawson/ Bloomberg via Getty Images

While DRC President Félix Tshisekedi promises to review mining contracts, the NGO 'Le Congo n'est pas à vendre' (Congo is not for sale) claims that the contracts signed with the Israeli businessman close to Joseph Kabila have already cost the state "$1.95bn dollars in revenue".

The report is short (28 pages), but the figures are impressive. According to the calculations of the coalition Le Congo n’est pas à vendre (CNPAV), which has made Dan Gertler one of its main targets, the ‘dubious’ mining and oil contracts between Kinshasa and the Israeli businessman could result in a loss of revenue of at least $3.71bn for the Congolese state.

Hemorrhage

According to the investigators, who relied on an analysis of public financial data between 2003 and 2021, the DRC has already “lost $1.95bn in revenue”. If nothing is done to stop this haemorrhage, “an additional $1.76bn in royalties could be lost to the state between 2021 and 2039,” the report says.

A close friend of former President Joseph Kabila, Dan Gertler, who built his fortune in the Congolese mining sector — where his interests range from copper to diamonds — has been the target of numerous criticisms and accusations in recent months.

The sanctions decreed against him by Washington in 2017 and 2018 were certainly lifted by Donald Trump in the very last days of his mandate. But no sooner had Joe Biden taken over the White House, than the State Department deemed the easing of sanctions ‘inconsistent’ with ‘U.S. efforts to combat corruption and promote stability in the DRC.’

254,000 per day

At the beginning of 2021, the businessman did try, through a vast communication operation, to restore his image by putting forward the slogan Ya Biso meaning ‘it is ours’ in Lingala.

Those who come to exploit get rich, and we, the owners of the minerals, always remain poor. But these things are over!” said President Félix Tshisekedi.

Dan Gertler promised that “from now on, transparency and responsibility [would] be the foundations of [his] activities”, even assuring that he would “work hand in hand with all law enforcement institutions, civil society and international organisations”.

The argument seems to have failed to reach the ears of the investigators of ‘Congo is not for sale’. “Why are we still talking about Gertler? Because nothing has been done, and the money continues to flow at the expense of the people,” says Jean-Claude Mputu, one of the leaders of CNPAV.

“Squandered” sums

According to the report, Dan Gertler earns $254,000 a day from the exploitation of Congolese natural resources. That is 1.77mn dollars per week and 92.7mn dollars per year.

The authors of the document regret that these sums have been ‘squandered’. They have urged President Félix Tshisekedi to speak out on this issue and call for an investigation into the agreements made by the authorities with Dan Gertler over the past two decades.

CNPAV also relies on several previous reports analysing the exploitation of Congolese cobalt and copper, including those of the United Nations Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources (2007) and the Africa Progress Panel (APP), of the Kofi Annan Foundation (2013).

On the same day the text was presented, Dan Gertler responded to the accusations made by the coalition. Judging that these were “the result of misunderstandings by the extractive sector, reports biased by [with] a deliberate or unintentional manipulation of Congolese and international opinion”, he said he wanted to start a dialogue.

He has invited representatives of civil society to a round table “at a date and place to be determined by mutual agreement”, in order to clarify various misunderstandings and erroneous information” and “to discuss the future of the extractive sector so that it can best benefit the interests of the DRC and its people”.

In addition to relying on previous reports, whose figures have been updated on the basis of public data, the authors assure The Africa Report that they themselves sought to trace the source: the contracts.

“There are two kinds of contracts. The first is the price at which Dan Gertler acquired mining areas in Congo,” says Jean-Claude Mputu. The method was simple: Joseph Kabila or Albert Yuma [chairman of the board of Gécamines since 2010] sold them to him at very low prices, and he, without having made any investment, then sold them to multinationals at their real market price.”

Another type of contract concerned: those relating to royalties. “Dan Gertler acquired these royalties from Gecamines, some of which were acquired ‘free of charge’, i.e. on the basis of the value of an allegedly unpaid loan, whereas the loans contracted had indeed been repaid,” says Mputu.

Tshisekedi’s promises

On 13 May, Félix Tshisekedi, on a tour of the former province of Katanga, the country’s economic powerhouse thanks to its mining resources, announced his intention to clean up the sector. “It is time for the country to readjust its contracts with the miners with a view to establishing win-win partnerships,” the head of state said at a meeting in Kolwezi, the capital of Lualaba province.

The day before, as the report was being made public in Kinshasa, Tshisekedi had made a similar promise to the people of Lubumbashi. “Those who come to exploit get rich, and we, the owners of the minerals, always remain poor. But these things are over!” he said.

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