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19 Feb 2018

Natasha White (Global Witness), The Hill (USA)

Commentary: Mining companies cannot run afoul of US sanctions against Dan Gertler for corrupt oil & mining deals in Dem. Rep. of Congo

"Mining companies can't fall afoul of US sanctions", 18 Februery 2018

In December 2017, the U.S. Treasury issued sanctions against Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler and 19 companies linked to him under the 2016 Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. Despite years of reporting on Gertler’s controversial dealings in Democratic Republic of Congo, this is the first time a government institution has directly accused him of participation in high-level corruption...Any individual or company, even outside the U.S., that does business with Gertler risks being fined or even sanctioned by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)...The stakes are particularly high for two companies with existing relationships with Gertler: Swiss commodities giant Glencore and UK-based gold miner Randgold Resources. Glencore had a 10-year partnership with Gertler in Congo and, until at least December, paid him royalties. The company told Global Witness that it is “still considering its position in relation to its pre-existing contractual obligations to companies owned by Mr. Gertler.” It wrote that it “has not made any payments to entities owned by Mr. Gertler since (he) was designated” by OFAC and that it “respects and upholds all applicable sanctions.”

...Randgold, listed on the American NASDAQ stock exchange, has an agreement to fund and conduct exploration on the Gertler-controlled Moku-Beverendi gold project, whereby it would stand to gain 51 percent of Moku if it finds promising reserves. While Moku-Beverendi doesn't appear on the sanctions list, it automatically falls within the remit due to OFAC’s 50 percent ownership and control rule. Randgold did not respond to a request for comment from Global Witness. However Randgold’s CEO Mark Bristow told Bloomberg last week that the company had “called force majeure … we cannot entertain transacting with Moku in any form. We are a global company and we’re just not going to compromise that.” Randgold is “awaiting a response” from Gertler’s companies. Gertler's representatives at London-based PR firm Powerscourt said their client had no comment on the sanctions.Maintaining a business relationship with Gertler could expose Glencore, Randgold and their shareholders to great financial, legal and reputational risk.Randgold appears to be taking steps to end the relationship, but will Glencore? Both firms must fully comply with the sanctions, and should explain their plans to OFAC, their investors and the public.