Trump Admin lifts sanctions on organized crime figure Dan Gertler

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The Trump administration lifts sanctions on Dan Gertler, an Israeli billionaire whose crimes cost the citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo billions in revenue and kept a corrupt leader in power two years past his term.

“Letting Dan Gertler off the hook sends a message to the world’s most corrupt businesspeople that the U.S. will let them walk free after a bit of lobbying,” said Sasha Lezhnev, the deputy director of policy at The Sentry, a nonprofit group that tracks African war criminals and foreigners who try to profit off them.

The New York Times

The effort was initially led by Gertler’s attorney, Alan Dershowitz, and former FBI Director Louis Freeh. But according to reporting by The New York Times, the decision to lift sanctions on Gertler was made after he reached out to the Treasury himself in December. Gertler said he would agree to have independent agencies (which can be bought off) track his business and submit reports on his financial transactions in return for the financial reprieve.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded to his request and launched a process to help Gertler that defies federal norms. At no point in the process did Mnuchin or Pompeo provide justification for the decision or consult national security officials. They also didn’t care that Gertler hired Dershowitz and Freeh to represent him, even though “Treasury rules generally prohibit people under sanctions from spending money on lobbyists in the United States.”

Israel also compelled US ambassador David Friedman to tell Mnuchin and Pompeo that he supports Gertler’s request. (One of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attorneys, Boaz Ben Zur, is also Gertler’s attorney.)

Today, the sanctions were lifted for a one-year period. Now Gertler has access to money frozen in US banks and can return to doing business with institutions around the world.

The Treasury Department’s decision to grant Mr. Gertler a special license was based in part on an assertion that there was a “national security interest” for the United States in Mr. Gertler’s business dealings in Africa, lawyers involved in the effort and Israeli officials said. But some State Department officials were skeptical that his security value could outweigh the human, economic and moral damage contained in the allegations against him.

The New York Times

Alan Dershowitz is a former attorney for Jeffrey Epstein who has been accused by multiple victims of sexual assault. Like Epstein, some have claimed that Dershowitz is an agent of Mossad, Israel’s spy agency. Dershowitz represented Trump in his first impeachment trial.

Louis Freeh is a former federal judge and FBI director. Since leaving the agency, he has represented a variety of transnational organized crime figures.

Mr. Gertler as of October 2018 had hired Mr. Dershowitz and Mr. Freeh, as well as Gregory A. Paw, a former federal prosecutor, to work on the matter, with the team then targeting the Treasury and State Departments to try to get the changes made, lobbying disclosure reports show. Also registered to lobby on the matter is Gary Apfel, a lawyer who like Mr. Dershowitz was involved in several successful pardon appeals to Mr. Trump in recent months.

The New York Times

Freeh is a personal friend and colleague of another Trump attorney, Rudy Giuliani. “America’s Mayor” was on Freeh’s payroll as recently as 2018, when Freeh was first hired by Gertler.

Around the same time, Freeh was representing a company called Prevezon, a Russian oligarch family’s conduit for money laundering. Another attorney hired by Prevezon was Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer at the infamous Trump Tower meeting. Freeh and Veselnitskaya worked together on the case.

Freeh was promoted to the FBI by William Barr during the George H.W. Bush administration. While there, he became friends with Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar bin Sultan and handpicked future FBI Director James Comey to prosecute one of the biggest cases of his career. Freeh’s primary focus when Bill Clinton took office was finding a reason to remove him, which would instantly make him an ally in Donald Trump’s eyes years later.

External Sources

New York Times 1 (Archived)

New York Times 2 (Archived)

Associated Press (Archived)

The Daily Beast 1 (Archived)

The Daily Beast 2 (Archived)

Photos: Public Domain

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