U.S. revokes sanctions waiver for Israeli mining magnate Gertler

March 8, 2021 5:14 PM EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Monday revoked a sanctions waiver for Israeli mining magnate Dan Gertler that was issued in the last days of the Trump administration.

The Treasury Department said exempting Gertler from sanctions was "inconsistent with America's strong foreign policy interests in combating corruption around the world," specifically in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The action came after Congolese and international human rights groups and several U.S. lawmakers last month called on the Biden administration to reverse a last-minute move by Biden's Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.

Treasury imposed the sanctions in December 2017 and June 2018, accusing Gertler of using his friendship with Democratic Republic of Congo's former president, Joseph Kabila, to win sweetheart mining deals worth more than a billion dollars.

The Trump administration eased the sanctions in a secret action in its last week in office in January, a license granted by the Treasury Department showed.

The original designation of Gertler under the Magnitsky Sanctions program made clear "Mr. Gertler engaged in extensive public corruption," Treasury said in a statement Monday.

The sanctions had prohibited Gertler from doing business with U.S. citizens, companies or banks, effectively barring him from doing transactions in dollars.

Gertler has denied wrongdoing and argued that his investments in Congo bolstered the country's development.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, lead author of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, said Gertler should not have been granted "an eleventh-hour permit" to do business with U.S. banks and companies.

"If well-connected international billionaires like Gertler think there is a chance they can get away with their corrupt actions, then they will not be deterred," Cardin said.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Eric Beech; editing by Richard Pullin)

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