Dan Gertler: The Israeli Diamond Tycoon and Controversial Businessman

Dan Gertler: The Israeli Diamond Tycoon and Controversial Businessman -

Dan Gertler's life and business career are marked by extraordinary success and controversy. As a diamond tycoon, his ventures have spanned continents and generated significant wealth. However, allegations of corruption, exploitation, and sanctions have clouded his legacy, making him a figure of intense scrutiny in both the business and political worlds. Gertler's ability to navigate these challenges and continue his business activities remains a subject of interest and debate.

In the world of business and diamonds, one name stands out prominently – Dan Gertler. Born in 1973, this Israeli entrepreneur and gemstone magnate have made headlines for his immense wealth and controversial business dealings. Beyond his business ventures, Gertler has also held the honorary position of Consul of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Israel. As of April 2021, Forbes estimated his net worth at a staggering $1.2 billion.

Early Life and Background:
Dan Gertler was born into a family of Israeli diamond merchants. His grandfather, Moshe Schnitzer, served as the President of the Diamond Exchange and imparted the intricacies of the diamond trade to his grandson. His father, Asher Gertler, worked as a security guard for Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Growing up in Tel Aviv, Gertler attended "Lev David" high school. After completing his service in the Israel Defense Forces as a computer operator, he embarked on a journey of religious exploration, beginning shortly after his Bar Mitzvah. He married a secular woman named Anat in 1997, and their union marked the beginning of his foray into the diamond business.

Business Ventures:
In 1997, at the age of 22 and armed with initial capital from his family, Dan Gertler founded "Dan Gertler International" (DGI), a company specializing in trading rough diamonds. Over the years, his business expanded to various countries, including Russia, Angola, and England.

While Gertler initially faced setbacks in the 1990s, attempting to initiate mining ventures in several African countries, his business breakthrough came in the early 2000s when he established lucrative connections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He forged a close relationship with the newly-instated leader, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who granted Gertler exclusive rights to export diamonds from the DRC in exchange for $20 million. Gertler also provided Kabila with security consulting, involving former Israeli military personnel such as Avigdor Ben-Gal and Meir Dagan.

Gertler's interests extend beyond diamonds, as he holds ownership in Canadian construction companies, "Green Park" and "Green Mount."

Controversies and Allegations:
Dan Gertler has faced numerous allegations and controversies throughout his career. In the late 1990s, he unsuccessfully attempted to initiate mining ventures in several African countries.

The crux of Gertler's business activities has centered around the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). His business dealings with DRC's leadership, notably Laurent-Désiré Kabila, raised allegations of exploiting the country's resources. A report by the African Progress Panel (APP) claimed that the deals secured by Gertler caused the Congolese government to lose revenue totaling $725 million.

In response to Gertler's activities, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) halted financial support to the DRC, which had amounted to billions of euros. Gertler defended himself, arguing that the transactions occurred during a period of political instability in the DRC when few investors were willing to enter the country.

In 2013, Gertler sold one of his oil companies, Néstor, to the Congolese government for $150 million, a company he had acquired in 2006 for half a million dollars.

Public Involvement:
Beyond his business pursuits, Dan Gertler has been a consistent contributor to various educational and charitable organizations. He regularly donates to the "Migdal Ohr" educational network under the leadership of Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, as well as to Chabad organizations and the "Daily Page Lights" initiative led by Rabbi Chaim David Kovalsky.

He was closely associated with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, as well as with his father, Rabbi Yaakov Yisachar Baer Rosenboim. Furthermore, he supported the efforts of Rabbi Dovid Chai Abuhatzeira and contributed millions of shekels to AIDS-related charities.

Allegations of Wrongdoing and Sanctions:
In December 2017, the United States imposed sanctions on 52 individuals and entities, including Dan Gertler, for their alleged involvement in human rights abuses and corruption, particularly in the DRC.

These sanctions froze Gertler's assets within the U.S. jurisdiction and prohibited Americans from conducting business with him. According to the White House statement, Gertler had amassed his wealth through corrupt mining and oil deals in the DRC, facilitated by his close relationship with President Joseph Kabila.

In July 2017, Canadian authorities initiated an investigation into the Swiss-based corporation Glencore over payments exceeding $100 million made by a subsidiary to a company owned by Gertler. The suspicion was that these payments served as bribes to officials in the DRC. However, no charges were filed.

In January 2018, the U.S. government requested Switzerland to release Gertler's banking records, a move that led to legal action in Swiss courts. The court determined that Switzerland should cooperate with the U.S. investigation into "serious crimes." According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, transactions involving mining licenses, in which Gertler had a stake, caused cumulative harm of $1.36 billion to the DRC government between 2010 and 2012.

Impact on Business and Lifestyle:
As a result of these sanctions, Gertler faced significant challenges in continuing his business activities both in Africa and beyond. The sanctions cut him off from the U.S. financial system, and American companies refrained from doing business with him.

His key partner in the DRC, Glencore, was expected to pay him $200 million over the following two years, but it remained uncertain how this transaction would occur. Additionally, the U.K.'s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was reported to be investigating other allegations of Gertler's involvement in underpriced purchases of minerals from the DRC.

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