November, 6, 2017, One of the world’s largest firms loaned a businessman previously accused of corruption $45m and asked him to negotiate mining rights in a poor central African nation, the Paradise Papers reveal.
Anglo-Swiss company Glencore made the loan available to Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler, a notorious middle man with a close relationship with senior figures in the DR Congo government, in 2009.
Mr Gertler was asked to negotiate a new deal for a mining company in which Glencore had a significant stake, which campaigners say cost DR Congo hundreds of millions of dollars.
He and Glencore deny any wrongdoing.
Glencore agreed to pay Dan Gertler $534m (£407m) to buy him out of their shared mining interests in DR Congo in February this year.
The new details came to light in the Paradise Papers, a leak of more than 13.4 million documents, many from within Appleby, one of the world’s leading offshore law firms.
The central African country of DR Congo has been mired in violence and corruption for decades, leaving more than half of its population living below the poverty line.
But the country’s vast mineral resources are worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year for those that can access them.
This includes Glencore, a huge Anglo-Swiss mining and commodity trading company.
By some measures it is the 16th largest company on the planet.
For many years Glencore has been involved in mining in DR Congo, in particular the production of copper.
Mr Gertler’s notoriety in DR Congo goes back almost two decades. In 2001 the UN produced a report that accused him of exchanging weapons and military training in part of a deal to secure a monopoly on diamond mining rights.
In 2013, a report by the Africa Progress Panel, led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, suggested Dan Gertler’s companies had won mining rights in DR Congo at well below their true value. Lawyers for the Israeli businessman deny the allegations made in the 2001 and 2013 reports.
Last year, hedge fund Och-Ziff agreed to pay $412m to settle a case brought by US authorities accusing it of paying bribes in several African countries. Prosecutors described, but did not name, an Israeli businessman who they claimed paid “together with others, more than $100m in bribes to obtain special access to, and preferential prices for, opportunities in Congo’s mining sector”.
Dan Gertler denies that he did this. Perhaps most significantly, Mr Gertler was also known to be a close friend of a man called Katumba Mwanke, a key advisor to President Kabila before dying in 2012.
Daniel Blint-Kurti from the NGO Global Witness, which has been investigating the relationship between Dan Gertler and Glencore for several years, says the company should have been wary of working with the businessman.
“By hiring someone close to the Congolese president and pumping him with cash and mandating him as their man in negotiations they were running an extremely high risk,” he said.
Dan Gertler’s lawyers told the BBC that “[He] is a respectable businessman who contributes the vast majority of his wealth and time to the needy.”
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Paradise Papers explainer box
The papers are a huge batch of leaked documents mostly from offshore law firm Appleby, along with corporate registries in 19 tax jurisdictions, which reveal the financial dealings of politicians, celebrities, corporate giants and business leaders.
The 13.4 million records were passed to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Panorama has led research for the BBC as part of a global investigation involving nearly 100 other media organisations, including the Guardian, in 67 countries. The BBC does not know the identity of the source.
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