The Biden administration has revoked a controversial reprieve from US sanctions afforded to Dan Gertler, the Israeli mining billionaire, during the final days of Donald Trump’s presidency.
The state department announced the decision on Monday, saying it had been reached in consultation with the Treasury department after a weeks-long review of the waiver issued to Gertler on January 15.
“The license previously granted to Mr Gertler is inconsistent with America’s strong foreign policy interests in combating corruption around the world, specifically including US efforts to counter corruption and promote stability in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” the state department said in a statement.
The move to ease sanctions on Gertler just five days before Trump left office marked an unusual reversal, after the administration imposed restrictions on him in 2017 under the Global Magnitsky Act for alleged corruption in the DRC.
It triggered an uproar among anti-corruption advocacy groups and Democratic politicians in the US, who immediately put pressure on Biden and top officials including Janet Yellen, Treasury secretary, and Antony Blinken, secretary of state, to reverse it.
The US administration’s stance in the Gertler case had been closely watched as a litmus test for Biden’s approach to using sanctions as a punitive measure against individuals and entities involved in alleged corruption around the world.
“The United States will continue to promote accountability for corrupt actors with all the tools at our disposal, in order to advance democracy, uphold international norms, and impose tangible costs on those who seek to upend them,” the state department added.
A spokesperson for Gertler said he had no immediate comment.
Gertler became one of the most prominent investors in Congo’s mining industry since arriving in the country in the late 1990s, securing access to some of its most prominent mineral assets through a friendship with former president Joseph Kabila.