By RFIPosted on 30-12-2019Changed on 30-12-2019 at 22:25
Back on this new controversy in the Democratic Republic of Congo which splashes, once again, Gécamines, state mining company. Gécamines is accused, by civil society, of seeking to circumvent the sanctions of the American Treasury which strike Dan Gertler, Israeli businessman and friend of the former Congolese president.
Dan Gertler has been under US Treasury sanctions for two years already on suspicion of corruption. At issue: a loan contracted in October 2017 for which Dan Gertler requested payment by legal means.
In October 2017, the company Fleurette Mumi officially paid 128 million euros to Gécamines , a very short-term loan since it was due to expire in April 2018. However at the end of 2017, this company - like its owner, Dan Gertler - is subject to sanctions by the United States Treasury. Concretely, this means that the United States is liable to punish any person or company that pays money, particularly in dollars, to the Israeli businessman.
This loan had never been made public until Dan Gertler applied to the Lubumbashi Commercial Court to have this debt paid and won. He is not claiming this money on behalf of Fleurette Mumi, but of another of his companies - Ventura - created for the occasion, in August 2018, which would have seen the assets of Fleurette Mumi transferred.
Gécamines officially appealed this decision and claims to refuse to repay the loan because of the sanctions.
The other question that this whole question poses is what was the money used for. Originally, this had been presented as being used for development projects. Now, Gécamines says it used this loan to pay tax advances. However, since 2012, Gécamines - which is already experiencing serious financial difficulties - has advanced to the Congolese state, in exchange for tax credits, for almost half a billion dollars, which will deprive the DRC of precious recipes in the next five to ten years.
A suspicious legal claim
Dan Gertler, by claiming, through justice, via one of his companies, Ventura, the payment of this debt contracted towards another of his companies, Fleurette Mumi, was successful. Gécamines has appealed and says it refuses to pay this money to an individual or to companies under sanctions, but civil society continues to suspect the state-owned company of money laundering and believes that there are far too many areas of shadow in this case. First, why borrow money in October 2017, and in euros, from Fleurette Mumi, one of Dan Gertler's companies, at a time when his sanctions were already unofficially announced by the United States? And why do it?
Joined by RFI, Maître George Kapiamba, from the Congolese Association for Access to Justice calls on the Congolese authorities to investigate. " This is a montage that simply aims to get around, in reality, the sanctions that are imposed on Fleurette Mumi, " he said.
For Resource Matters, a foreign NGO specializing in the Congolese mining sector, this legal claim is all the more suspect since Dan Gertler has been looking for a long time for a financial arrangement to get paid royalties from the Swiss mining giant Glencore . However, Glencore has just announced the signing of an agreement with Gécamines on the sale of assets for an amount equivalent to the loan.
" The fear is that this money will not stay at Gécamines and be used directly to repay the loan from Dan Gertler, while he is under sanctions. In addition, we have seen in the past that Gécamines has already sold revenue, which it receives from Glencore, to Dan Gertler in rather controversial transactions. So the fear is that this type of practice continues despite the sanctions, ”Elisabeth Caesens, head of Resource Matters, told RFI.
What civil society fears is that the court decision will be confirmed on appeal and that Gécamines will be able to justify its payments to Dan Gertler with the United States Treasury.
On the same subject
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DRC: who controls Gécamines?
DRC: Gécamines responds to attacks by NGOs
DRC: Gécamines boss rejects criticism of mismanagement