Four Lawmakers Denounce Plan to Ease Sanctions on Mining Executive

Four Lawmakers Denounce Plan to Ease Sanctions on Mining Executive

A bipartisan group of four congressional lawmakers have objected to the Biden administration plan to boost access to metals needed for electric vehicle batteries by easing sanctions on an Israeli mining executive accused of corrupt practices in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The objection came as the Biden administration moves to allow Dan Gertler, an Israeli billionaire, to sell his financial stake in three mines in Congo as part of an effort to remove him from the mining trade there.

Senior Biden officials have argued this will help Congo, the largest producer of cobalt in the world, by enticing more Western-leaning investors. They say investors have been skittish of doing business there because Mr. Gertler has been accused of relying on personal ties to government officials in Congo to get mining concessions at below-market prices, creating a cloud of corruption over its entire mining industry. Mr. Gertler has said that all his investments in Congo were aboveboard.

But the four lawmakers — two senators and two House members — disputed that, saying the Biden administration was wrong to propose allowing Mr. Gertler to profit as he sells off his holdings in Congo.

“We fear that if sanctions are removed, Mr. Gertler will profit massively off his ill-gotten assets to the detriment of the Congolese people,” said the letter, signed by Representative Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina, and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, the co-chairmen of the United States Helsinki Commission, a federal agency that promotes human rights issues globally. “Such an event would significantly undermine efforts to combat transnational corruption and U.S. foreign policy and national security interests.”

The other signers of the letter were Representative Steve Cohen, Democrat of Tennessee, and Senator Roger F. Wicker, Republican of Mississippi, the ranking members from their party on the Helsinki Commission.

The letter, addressed to Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, argued that Mr. Gertler had not paid restitution to Congo for the more than $1.3 billion in revenue that American officials estimate the nation lost out on as a result of corrupt deals.

Most of the cobalt-producing sites in Congo are Chinese-controlled mines. The last large American-owned mining company pulled out of Congo in 2020, just as the electric vehicle revolution was taking off. Cobalt is important in longer-range electric vehicles, because it helps the batteries hold a charge longer.

The State Department, White House and Mr. Gertler did not immediately respond Tuesday afternoon to requests for comment.

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