The huge story about bribery by a New York hedge fund in Africa should have been on the front page, but the New York Times buried it in the financial section. And the paper did not even name one of the men at the heart of it, the billionaire Israeli businessman Dan Gertler.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the poorest countries in the world, parts of it torn by chronic violence, and Dan Gertler is one of the people most responsible for its awful state. But the New York Times has never sent any of its army of reporters to look into the crimes of Dan Gertler.
Here’s what just happened: a $39 billion New York hedge fund, Och-Ziff Capital Management, pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe African officials, and agreed to pay a $413 million fine. The U.S. government prosecution brief did not directly name bribers and bribees. But broad hints in government documents made it clear that Gertler, on behalf of the hedge fund, had given $100 million, some of it in cash, to, among others, the DR Congo president, Joseph Kabila, for investment opportunities in diamonds and mining. Other media, including Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, were not squeamish about naming Gertler. The Journal‘s running coverage of the Och-Ziff/DR Congo story has repeatedly put Gertler at front and center of the corruption.
The revelations in the bribery case are earth-shaking. Although rumors of mega-corruption in DR Congo are nothing new, Jason Stearns of the respected Congo Research Group points out it is the first time that “we have a solid paper trail proving that the senior Congolese officials including the Congolese president himself were direct beneficiaries of over $100 million in bribes from foreign companies.”
The 42-year-old Gertler is a notorious shadowy figure in the poor central African nation. He befriended President Joseph Kabila two decades ago, and he is widely suspected of snapping up mining concessions at bargain prices and promptly selling them to mining companies at enormous profit.
One estimate, a few years ago, was that the Congolese people have been cheated out of as much as $5.5 billion — a significant sum anywhere, but especially painful in a poor nation whose entire government budget for everything one year was as little as $7.2 billion.
It is worth noting that none of the $413 million in fines the Och-Ziff hedge fund is paying will go to the Congolese people, who are the real victims of the criminal looting.
Sources in Israel report that Gertler is nearly unknown there, even though he maintains his primary residence in Tel Aviv and reportedly flies there from Africa nearly every weekend for the Sabbath.
Isn’t it time the Israeli government tried to protect its international reputation by investigating Dan Gertler?