The UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is investigating Israeli mining and diamond billionaire Dan Gertler over the acquisition of copper and cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Bloomberg and FT reports.
Gertler is under investigated along with four former Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. (ENRC) executives, a Kazakh-based mining company which withdrew from the London Stock Exchange in 2013 amid allegations of corruption.
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Congo is world’s largest lair of copper and cobalt. Its mineral potential is estimated at $24.5 trillion(£16.9tn) – the size of the US and European GDPs combined.
According to Bloomberg’s sources the SFO has asked the Congolese authorities to provide banking and business records relating to four Congo-registered companies in its investigation into ENRC and nine people including Dan Gertler.
The SFO’s probe, according to media reports, centers on three sets of transactions through which the Kazakh ENRC, then still listed on the London Stock Exchange, acquired five mining projects in Congo between 2010 and 2012.
The SFO claim that the Congolese state sold mining rights to Dan Gertler, a close friend of president Joseph Kabila for a small sum, then he sold the rights to the ENRC, for a sky-high price.
The Financial Times citing commentators say that these transactions “deprived a poor African nation of revenue to the benefit of Mr Gertler”.
The deals may have violated UK laws including the 2010 Bribery Act and the 2006 Fraud Act – offenses punishable by up to 10 years in prison or an unlimited fine.
The SFO told Bloomberg that it does not comment on a continuing investigation.
Gertler’s Fleurette Group said in a statement: “Mr. Gertler has always made it clear that his business dealings in the DRC (Congo) are entirely proper and appropriate. That remains the case. Beyond that, he is not able to comment on allegedly leaked documents.”