- Gertler, longtime friend of president, made billions on deals
- U.S. sanctions are squeezing Gertler’s ability to do business
A 20-year friendship that helped turn Dan Gertler into a billionaire has left the Israeli businessman with a lot fewer places to go.
The U.S. government accused Gertler of corrupt mining and oil deals in the Democratic Republic of Congo and said he acted as a middle-man to enrich his longtime buddy, President Joseph Kabila. The two have been close since Gertler arrived as a young diamond merchant during a civil war in 1997, and Congo -- one of Africa’s poorest countries -- is the main source of his wealth.
“Most of my business is in the Congo and my faith is in the Congo,” Gertler, 44, said in a rare interview on Dec. 21, just hours before the U.S. government imposed economic sanctions against him.
At the time, he remained defiantly optimistic about his businesses even as he was being singled out by American and British investigators conducting prolonged bribery and corruption probes related to some of his Congo deals. “I am a strong believer in the future of the Congo," he said. But doing anything inside and out of Africa has gotten a lot harder for him in the past two months.
Sanctions have shut Gertler out of the American financial system, halting access to the dollars that are the main currency used in Congo and in global raw-material deals. U.S. companies are banned from doing business with him. Former partners are distancing themselves.
“We started to invest in the early days -- when nobody else wanted to invest, when the country was at war, when the copper and cobalt prices were at the bottom,” Gertler said in the interview on the 12th floor of an office building in Tel Aviv where his grandfather founded a diamond exchange 70 years ago.