Gertler, Dark Payments from Mining, Glencore, the IMF and President Felix Tshisekedi of the DRC

The International Monetary Fund arrived for its first talks with the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2015 as President Felix Tshisekedi seeks to repair relations with the Washington-based institution and fulfill a pledge to fight corruption.

Tshisekedi, who replaced Joseph Kabila after elections in December, last month told delegates while on a visit to Washington that he’d come “to untangle the dictatorial system which was in place.” He told another meeting that Congo’s endemic corruption had “discouraged serious investors.”

“We urge them to do a thorough audit at every level and not to be lenient,” Gilbert Mundela, an adviser to Tshisekedi, said in interview Thursday in the capital, Kinsasha.

Non-government organizations want the IMF to undertake “an independent audit into the management of public companies,” according to a letter addressed to Managing Director Christine Lagarde. They also called for unpublished mining contracts to be made public.

The fund halted a $532 million three-year loan program for Congo seven years ago after the government failed to publish details of a 2011 mining deal. “Opacity in the management of public companies has only increased” since the program ended, according to the letter.

Dark Deals

The local organizations singled out state-owned mining company Gecamines, saying its transactions with international investors “are done in darkness.” Advocacy groups such as the Atlanta-based Carter Center and London-based Global Witness say Gecamines failed to account for hundreds of millions of dollars paid to it by partners in copper and cobalt deals. Gecamines rejects the claims.

The 32 organizations are also “worried” about royalties paid to Israeli businessman Dan Gertler from two copper-cobalt mines controlled by Glencore Plc. The contracts enabling Gertler to acquire the royalty streams are unpublished, according to the letter.

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Glencore PLC, Loans to Gertler, Leveraging Companies, DRC and Kabila…

Glencore Gave Loans to Businesses Linked to Suspect Congo Dealings

Swiss mining giant Glencore GLNCY -0.60% PLC provided nearly $1 billion in loans and advances to companies associated with an Israeli businessman accused of having corrupt ties to government officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The loans, made over a roughly 10-year period starting in 2007, were designed in part to help finance investments by the businessman, Dan Gertler, in copper-mining operations in Congo alongside Glencore, the documents show.

The amount of the loans—more than previously reported—highlights the financial ties between Glencore and Mr. Gertler during their decadelong partnership in Congo. The relationship has been a focus of U.S. and Canadian authorities, who have been investigating the company’s Congo operations and ties to Mr. Gertler.

Glencore, the globe-spanning mining behemoth and trading house run by Chief Executive Ivan Glasenberg, for years has pushed back against complaints about its ties to Mr. Gertler. Mr. Gertler and his main company in Congo, Fleurette Group, have denied wrongdoing.

Analysts say mounting concerns about Glencore’s Congo operations have contributed to a decline in the Swiss company’s share price.

The details about the loans are contained in the Paradise Papers, a trove of documents from a Bermudan law firm obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, and shared with The Wall Street Journal. The papers first surfaced in late 2017.

Glencore has disclosed some of the lending to Mr. Gertler in broad strokes. A 2017 deal to buy out Mr. Gertler’s stakes in two Congo mines, for instance, folded in $556 million in debt—including $120 million in interest—that Mr. Gertler owed Glencore, the company said at the time. The cash payment in the deal was about $534 million.

The documents, though, detail a series of specific transactions in which Glencore helped to finance Mr. Gertler’s business interests in Congo. Glencore’s chief financial officer frequently signed off on documents associated with the loans.

The overall value of the loans and many of their details haven’t previously been reported.

A spokesman for Glencore declined to comment on the specifics of the loan agreements. In response to a 2014 report by London-based corruption watchdog Global Witness about Glencore’s mining deals in Congo with Mr. Gertler, Glencore said all transactions with the Israeli businessman’s companies “have been conducted on arm’s-length terms, and all public disclosure requirements applicable to us have been complied with.”

A spokesman for Fleurette Group said, “Loans made to Fleurette and its related companies were negotiated on arms-length commercial terms.” Any implication that the loans were improper is wrong, the spokesman said. “Fleurette has operated transparently and in line with all applicable laws during its interactions with Glencore,” he said, adding that all loans were used for legitimate purposes and were repaid.

Documents reviewed by the Journal show that in 2011 a company controlled by Mr. Gertler owed $300 million to a Bermuda affiliate of Glencore, Limajo International Inc., a previously undisclosed debt.

By the end of 2014, Mr. Gertler’s company owed Limajo $510 million, the documents show.

Glencore’s ties to Mr. Gertler date to the mid-2000s, when both invested in Nikanor PLC, a London-listed Congolese copper operator. In 2007, Glencore lent about $250 million to a company controlled by Mr. Gertler, and that company used the funds to purchase a stake in Nikanor, according to the documents.

Mr. Gertler later used about $61 million in Glencore funds to amass shares in another Congo mine operator, Katanga Mining Ltd. , after it merged with Nikanor, the documents show. Glencore invested in Katanga alongside Mr. Gertler and eventually came to control it.

In total, Glencore provided nearly $900 million in loans and advances to Mr. Gertler’s companies, according to the documents. Some of that amount likely included accrued interest on some of the loans, the documents show.

Glencore’s Katanga Mining, in addition, made about $80 million in advances to a company controlled by Mr. Gertler from royalties he was entitled to receive, according to Katanga’s public filings. Glencore purchased Mr. Gertler’s stake in Katanga in 2017.

The U.S. Treasury Department in December 2017 sanctioned Mr. Gertler, accusing him of trading on a friendship with Congo President Joseph Kabila to amass a fortune through “opaque and corrupt” deals on behalf of multinational companies seeking to do business in Congo. Mr. Gertler has declined to comment on the specifics of the allegations.

Last month, Canada’s main stock-market regulator said Katanga Mining hid from investors the risks associated with its reliance on Mr. Gertler. The Ontario Securities Commission said Katanga, which trades in Toronto, paid associates of Mr. Gertler “to maintain relations” with the Congolese government.

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DRC, Mineral Exploitation, Dan Gertler and Ebola

DRC’s worsening instability heightens critical minerals concern

by Greg Klein | December 28, 2018

Yet another postponement to already overdue elections can only aggravate the Democratic Republic of Congo’s humanitarian plight. To Westerners remote from danger, the conflict also emphasizes the precarious nature of critical minerals necessary to modern society.

DRC’s worsening instability heightens critical minerals concern

(Map: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency)

Rich in copper, gold and diamonds, as well as critical metals including cobalt, tin, tantalum and niobium, the country typically chooses governments through coup, rebellion or sham elections. Current president Joseph Kabila has ruled unconstitutionally since December 2016, when his mandate ended. He belatedly scheduled an election for December 23, then pushed it back a week, citing the destruction of ballots in a warehouse fire. On December 26 the government announced voting in the northeastern region would be postponed until March.

The additional delay sparked violent protests in a month that’s already experienced over a hundred deaths in ethnic warfare, as well as battles between police and protesters.

The government blamed its latest postponement on the northeastern region’s Ebola epidemic, the second-worst outbreak in history, the DRC’s tenth since 1976 and the country’s second this year. The previous epidemic, which killed dozens in the west-central province of Equateur, officially ended in July. Confidence in the excuse given for the latest voting delay wasn’t helped by the fact that the health ministry officially recognized the current epidemic on August 1.

Responsible for hundreds of deaths so far, this outbreak takes place amid violence targeting aid workers as well as the local population. Like other parts of the country, the region has dozens of military groups fighting government forces for control, and each other over ethnic rivalries and natural resources. The natural resources can be mined, often with forced labour, to fund more bloodshed.

In 2017 the DRC supplied about 58% of the world’s cobalt, 34.5% of tin and 28.5% of tantalum, the U.S. Geological Survey reports. Both a critical and conflict metal, DRC tantalum presents an especially troubling example for the often unknown origins of its supply. Neighbouring Rwanda, another strife-torn source of conflict minerals, supplied 30% of 2017 global tantalum supply.

Katanga’s failure to disclose the risks related to the nature and extent of its reliance on the Gertler Associates is unacceptable. Investors cannot be given anything short of accurate and truthful disclosure.—Jeff Kehoe,
director of enforcement,
Ontario Securities Commission

Some of the major companies operating in the DRC have failed to rise above the country’s endemic problems. In mid-December Glencore subsidiary Katanga Mining TSX:KAT and its officers agreed to pay the Ontario Securities Commission a settlement, penalties and costs totalling $36.25 million for a number of infractions between 2012 and 2017.

The OSC said Katanga seriously overstated copper production and inventories, and also failed to disclose the material risk of DRC corruption including “the nature and extent of Katanga’s reliance on individuals and entities associated with Dan Gertler, Gertler’s close relationship with Joseph Kabila, the president of the DRC, and allegations of Gertler’s possible involvement in corrupt activities in the DRC.”

A member of a prominent Israeli family of diamond merchants, Gertler has been said to act as a middleman between Kabila and mining companies operating in the DRC. Kabila and his family hold interests in over 80 companies and businesses, according to a 2017 study by New York University’s Congo Research Group and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.