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Seeking Access to Congo’s Metals, White House Aims to Ease Sanctions

Three years after Biden administration officials tightened sanctions on a billionaire Israeli mining executive for corrupt business practices in the Democratic Republic of Congo, they have reversed themselves and are offering the executive a deal they hope will bolster the supply of a metal vital to electric vehicles.

The plan would allow the executive, Dan Gertler, to sell off his remaining stakes in three giant copper and cobalt mining operations in Congo.

Once Mr. Gertler sells his positions, the Biden administration hopes Western-leaning companies will be more willing to invest in Congo, perhaps delivering a greater supply of cobalt to the United States as automakers race to increase domestic production of batteries.

But certain State and Treasury Department officials strongly opposed the effort, saying that Mr. Gertler should not be allowed to profit from his deal-making, which the Biden administration earlier argued had cheated the citizens of Congo out of more than $1 billion in mining revenues.

The son of one of Israel’s biggest diamond dealers, Mr. Gertler started to invest in Congo nearly three decades ago. He eventually became one of the biggest holders of mining rights in the central African nation and the target of accusations that he had enriched himself at the expense of a population that is among the world’s poorest.

Mr. Gertler did not respond to a request for comment through his lawyer. However, Mr. Gertler has long disputed corruption allegations, arguing that his Congo investments were above board, providing the country billions in taxes and creating thousands of jobs.

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