Dan Gertler, the criminal Israeli billionaire who is responsible for untold misery in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of the poorest nations on earth, has an influential new supporter: Alan Dershowitz. In a front page report in today’s New York Times, Dershowitz speaks up for Gertler, who was sanctioned last year by the U.S. government, as “a very good person.”
In fact, Dan Gertler is too corrupt for even the Trump administration to accept. Here’s what the Treasury Department said a year ago about why the U.S. was punishing him under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act:
Gertler is an international businessman and billionaire who has amassed his fortune through hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of opaque and corrupt mining and oil deals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Gertler has used his close friendship with DRC President Joseph Kabila to act as a middleman for mining asset sales in the DRC, requiring some multinational companies to go through Gertler to do business with the Congolese state. As a result, between 2010 and 2012 alone, the DRC reportedly lost over $1.36 billion in revenues from the underpricing of mining assets . . .
The U.S. Treasury Department’s language is accurate but too clinical. What it means more vividly is that Gertler and Kabila have stolen hundreds of millions that the DR Congo could have used to create a professional army to replace the current bands of unpaid, uniformed looters who kill and rape civilians with impunity; to invest in education and health; and to reduce the 70 percent rate of malnourishment. Nearly 6 million of the nation’s 81 million people have been displaced by repression and fighting, and the DR Congo is still the greatest ongoing humanitarian disaster since the end of World War 2.
Meanwhile, Gertler’s crimes have apparently raised no alarms in Israel itself, even though he reportedly flies home regularly from central Africa. So far, the Israeli government is not investigating him, and he remains basically unknown there.
Gertler’s anonymity in Israel (and in the U.S.) is unfortunately routine in reports about corruption in the Global South, which are often marred by unconscious racism. Visiting Western journalists will dwell at length on the grotesque wealth of certain African leaders like Joseph Kabila, but forget to even name the big oil companies, mining giants and hedge funds that pay them.
Back to Alan Dershowitz. Dan Gertler is far from the first unpopular person he has championed. Dershowitz defends his choices by arguing that a just legal system means that everyone is entitled to a vigorous defense. Somehow, though, Professor Dershowitz never seems to step up and represent people like the millions of Congolese civilians who continue to flee for their lives.
H/T Patrick Connors