Real Heist Stories: The Great Mining Robbery

A Billionaire Heist Without Solution?

Often, people talk and write about the great heists that happened decades ago, especially between the 30s and 90s when several took place to the point of being listed as the most infamous heists in the world. 

However, the reason why the old ones overshadow some recent heists isn’t that they aren’t as relevant as them but rather because, somehow, society is a bit used to robberies and crimes nowadays. 

This is why even when you listen to the news or read them about big heists happening in your country or maybe worldwide, you are a bit “ignorant” or do not pay enough attention as people would do a few decades ago. 

With this in mind, the big robbery we will be covering today is quite recent since it was set up a decade ago in 2010. 

We’re confident this will be a bit of fresh hair considered the latest heist stories we have reviewed, but we promise it won’t be disappointing but rather the opposite: More fascinating. 

After all, the great mining robbery is a big deal, and you will be surprised how everything unfolded. 

Bringing Up the Context: The Great Mining Robbery

Although we would like to start from the beginning, it can be a bit confusing without giving you a short resume of what this heist was about. 

Anonymous shell companies bought mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (also mentioned as République Démocratique du Congo), which is known for its “gold curse” and how it has affected the country despite being a huge resource for more budget and finances. 

Going back to the main part, the mines (located partially in eastern Congo) were bought for 1-16th of the actual value and then resold at their full price, siphoning money that should have gone to the state.

The great issue lies in the fact that only five deals involving mines were responsible for at least $1.36 million in revenue loss to the DRC between 2010 and 2012, which is where this great mining robbery takes us. 

Considering this amount was almost double the combined annual budgets of education and health for 2012, it was one of the biggest deals to this date in the country. 

When you have a look at the UN ranks, the DRC is at the bottom in its Human Development Index. It has the worst malnutrition, and it has the sixth-highest child mortality rate. There are also more than 7 million children who have not been to school ever. 

Usually, this heist is misunderstood by others that took place in the country since this was not the first (and won’t be the last) time an African country had its minerals stolen. After all, multinational companies have land and mining rights in Africa. It seems that offshore companies will extract every cent possible from a country to undervalue its mineral resources.

Finally, before jumping to how the robbery took place and the mines were lost, we have Dan Gertler, an Israeli billionaire, as the main suspect in the heist.

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A Bit of History & Building the Case

To understand the extension of how this robbery can even take place, we will need to continue reviewing some parts of the history and the details of the mines all over Africa. Thus, bear with us for a bit more. 

Many mineral exporters from Africa often undervalue their exports to avoid paying mineral royalty taxes or to steal as much revenue as they can, which is why the countries that prosper with these mines are constantly stolen from money that should be assigned to the budget for services and some areas in the nations. 

One of the main countries that have this phenomenon is Guinea. According to Reuters, BSGR made a 3,000% profit in 2010 when they sold a 51% stake to earn $2.5 billion. 

The numbers for profits and earnings usually exceed the budgets for the country, and Guinea isn’t the exception but rather the central place where royalties stolen are more than what the country has for its citizens and services. 

This is why several ministers, countries, organizations, and entities are setting new investigations since 2018 to go over the companies, multinationals, and individuals involved in the robbery of finances and avoiding royalties to the point of exceeding a country’s budget. 

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (which we will be naming DRC from now on) is part of the top countries that is near Guinea with the robberies and royalties missed from those events. 

With this in mind, we can finally jump to the reconstruction of the robbery.

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With the amount of money set before (over $1 billion) and the time between 2010 and 2012, this was discovered by Transparency International that reported the deals of the five mines that were sold for their full price and how they were orchestrated by Dan Gertler who was also a partner with Glencore mining company. 

Gertler, who was friends with President Joseph Kabila, was able to serve as a middleman in mining asset transactions. According to africanews, the DRC could have lost between $1.36 and $1.95 billion in revenue by purportedly undervaluing cobalt, and copper Gertler handled.

The mining assets were worth approximately $1.63 billion. However, they were only sold for $275 million, which is one-sixth their market value.

Offshore companies then sold concession rights at a high rate of return. They averaged 512%, and they would rise to almost 1000%. 

The concept of the robbery is quite “basic” due to how the evasion and usual plans for buying underprice and selling at a much higher percentage. However, this was not the end of the robbery. 

The real reason why this is considered as The Great Mining Robbery is that, between 2021-2039, it is estimated that $1.76 billion more will be lost from royalties and would result in the DRC to have been robbed at least $4 billion by Gertler’s alleged “dubious contract.”

According to The Africa Report, Gertler had over 50 licenses for extractive oil, cobalt, and diamonds in 2013. He also owned a number of companies he established in tax havens, and this would involve more possibilities of evasion, royalties loss, and repercussions for the country’s budget.

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Where Is Dan Gertler Today? – Consequences

Usually, you would think that an obvious heist would bring the criminals and people behind it to justice. Sadly, this isn’t the case for this case. 

The first time that Dan Gertler was allegedly robbing the DRC was reported in May 2013 when the Africa Progress Report was released. 

According to the report, the revenue from the five deals would have amounted to more than twice the budget for education and health in 2012, which takes us back to what we mentioned about a country’s needs and budget. 

The report also stated that the loss due to underpricing was likely to be a small part of the total losses besides the additional $1.76 billion the country is set to lose during the following years. 

Since then, the country and continent have been investigating Gertler’s movements and trying to resist his advances in the mining business to avoid more losses. 

Following the situation in the DRC, The United States Treasury placed Gertler in sanctions in 2017. He was banned from doing business with US dollars and cannot have any connections to US businesses.

According to DW, the sanctions were lifted in Jan 2021 but were reimposed in March 2021, which means they continue to this date. 

As for the situation in the DRC, it seems that the nation is slowly resisting Gertler’s advances to steal more of the royalties designed for the country with the shady businesses. 

For starters, the Congolese government declined to renew exploration permits for Lake Albert’s two oil zones, which Gertler had been holding since 2010. 

Unfortunately, the mining sector isn’t supporting the matter since it refuses to act against Gertler despite the obvious robberies and actions. This is mostly due to the relationship between Albert Yuma Mulimbi with former President Joseph Kabila and the fact the latter is connected with the criminal for this heist.

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A Breaking Point: Conclusions 

We have pretty much mentioned everything we needed regarding this great mining robbery, and if there’s something we are actually sad about, it doesn’t look like the only one that will take place in the following years. 

You see, it is quite difficult for countries in Africa and, in this case, the DRC, to control what happens with the mining industry, especially with the involvement of the former president, Kabila, who served until 2019. 

However, with his close friend Albert Yuma involved in the heist and still holding documents of the mining robbery, it is almost impossible to come up with justice. 

Current President Felix Tshisekedi isn’t much better, and with a government that doesn’t really worry about its citizens, it is hard to conclude the situation. 

In case you got a bit lost about everything, yes, the government (a corrupt one) is involved in the heist, and it is how Gertler was able to commit the robbery in the first place. 

Although international institutions and organizations have taken part in solving some of the situations in the entire continent, it is hard to see where this issue will go. 

The USA is the only country taking major measures with sanctions and bans to the criminals and some of the politicians in countries like Guinea and the DRC.

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5 Facts You Can’t-Miss About the Great Mining Robbery & the DRC

  • The country’s mining industry is the main supplier of cobalt, copper, diamond, tantalum, tin, gold, and other minerals by covering over 55% of the global production of cobalt alone and other natural resources. 
  • The country has a large reserve of diamonds, which is presumptively the next goal for Gertler and the corrupt politicians: Take great parts of the diamonds for sale. 
  • Congo’s civil war affects over one-third of the population, which makes poverty be present throughout the country. 
  • Instead of $1.73 billion, current numbers set that the DRC will lose over $2 billion due to the heist in the upcoming years. 
  • Dan Gertler reportedly continues to rob large sums of money from mining deals throughout the continent, especially in southern Africa.

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Written by Dame Cash

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