Gertler in the DRC

Dan Gertler seems to be an old-fashioned evil capitalist:

At age 22, Gertler started buying rough diamonds so he could work with larger volumes, he says. Gertler flew between war-torn nations such as Liberia and Angola and the major diamond centers in the U.S., India and Israel, buying and selling gems, he says.

Since he’s 38 now, that means he was in the middle of the blood diamonds trade.

Gertler’s love affair with Congo began in 1997, when the country was one of the top five producers of diamonds in the world. In May of that year, insurgents led by Laurent Kabila, the father of the current president, overthrew the corrupt regime of Mobutu Sese Seko, a U.S. ally who had ruled for 32 years. After taking Kinshasa on May 17, Laurent Kabila declared himself president and renamed the country Democratic Republic of Congo.

A few days later, Gertler’s plane touched down. Shlomo Bentolila, chief rabbi of Kinshasa’s Chabad-Lubavitch center, arranged for the young diamond merchant to meet Kabila’s son Joseph, the new army chief, at the InterContinental hotel, Gertler says.

A company based in the British Virgin Islands, Straker International Corp., bought state-owned Gecamines’ 25 percent stake in the Comide project in 2011, according to Comide board minutes from June 29, 2011. Gertler controls Straker, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The full details of the sale weren’t published, in breach of the terms of the IMF’s loan agreement with Congo, resulting in the Fund’s decision this month to cancel its program with the country, the IMF says. Gecamines Chairman Albert Yuma says he wasn’t aware of the sale. Gertler refuses to discuss it.

In another deal, in June 2010 and March 2011, state-owned miner Societe de Developpement Industriel & Minier du Congo, or Sodimico, sold more than 30 mining licenses, including those for two copper projects, to Gertler-linked companies based in Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands for a total of $60 million. Numis Securities and Oriel Securities estimated the two projects to be worth $1.6 billion, though their valuations included ore- processing plants as well as the licenses.

And in the DR Congo, he makes friends with the leader and somehow makes lots of money. I wonder how he does it?

He is, of course, religious:

Gertler broke with his family’s secular tradition when he and Anat decided to adopt an ultra-Orthodox lifestyle. They’ve banned television and computers from their five-story, terraced house in Bnei Brak, whose crisp stone finishing and verdant shrubbery lining each floor contrast with the neighbors’ concrete apartment buildings.

I’m not quite sure how that goes with his life.

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