Secretive gems trader with friends in the highest places

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The Independent Online

At the centre of the battle for the Kolwezi copper mine is the secretive character of Dan Gertler, an Israeli diamond trader who has befriended some of the most powerful men in Africa.

Thanks to those connections, the ultra-orthodox Jew has built up a personal fortune of around $1bn from buying and selling mining concessions, mainly in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He has never given an interview. But reports of his career suggest that he inveigled himself into the trust of the now-President of the DRC, Joseph Kabila, back in the late 1990s, when his father, Laurent Kabila, was seeking money to fund his struggle against rebels in a civil war. Mr Gertler is said to have provided as much as $20m.

He was granted a two-year monopoly on non-industrially mined diamonds and although that contract was cancelled under pressure from the UN, the Kabila-Gertler relationship continued with other contracts.

To renovate a flooded copper mine in Katanga he tapped the City of London for $400m, the first of several dealings he had in the City, culminating in the sale to ENRC of the First Quantum mine that triggered yesterday's costly settlement.

Amid all the negative comment about this father of eight, Kabila's ministers praise him for bringing jobs and investment to the country. Whichever side of the fence you sit, you can be sure his dealmaking will last for as long Kabila's regime holds strong.