The U.K. Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is investigating Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler and four former Eurasian Natural Resources Corp (ENRC) executives as part of its three-year probe into the Kazakh company’s acquisition of copper and cobalt mining projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The SFO asked the Congolese authorities to provide banking and business records relating to four Congo-registered companies in its investigation into ENRC and nine individuals.
They include ex-Chief Executive Officer Felix Vulis; the former head of its Africa unit, Victor Hanna; two other ENRC executives; Gertler and two of his associates, according to a letter from the SFO to the Congolese government. The letter has not been released publicly.
The SFO’s investigation relates to three sets of transactions through which ENRC, then listed on the London Stock Exchange, acquired five mining projects in Congo between 2010 and 2012.
The deals may have violated U.K. laws including the 2010 Bribery Act and the 2006 Fraud Act, for which individual offenses carry penalties of as long as 10 years in prison or an unlimited fine, the anti-fraud agency said in a letter dated 2 September. It was signed by SFO Director David Green.
The SFO declined to comment on a continuing investigation. Vulis through his lawyer, declined to comment. Hanna, through his lawyer, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.
Gertler’s Fleurette Group said it wouldn’t comment on the SFO investigation. “Mr. Gertler has always made it clear that his business dealings in the DRC are entirely proper and appropriate. That remains the case. Beyond that, he is not able to comment on allegedly leaked documents,” the company said by e-mail.
While the SFO investigation is public, many of the details of the probe have remained undisclosed until now.
ENRC and Gertler’s activities in Congo have come under regular scrutiny since the International Monetary Fund in 2012 cancelled a $532-million loan accord with the country. It pulled the loan because state-owned miner Gecamines didn’t disclose the transfer of its stake in another ENRC project to a BVI-registered company controlled by Gertler.
Gecamines declined to comment on the matter at the time, while Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu said the government had published all the information the IMF requested about the project and called its decision to halt the loan program “unconsidered.”