In The News

Tough Sanctions, Then a Mysterious Last-Minute Turnabout

The New York Times

21 Feb 2021

John Smith spoke to the New York Times about the Trump administration’s decision to ease sanctions imposed in 2017 on Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler, who had been punished by the Treasury Department for corrupt and abusive mining practices in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I am astounded by this,” said John, who served as the director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control at the time the sanctions were imposed. “It appears to be an abuse of the process.”

The Treasury Department traditionally agrees to revoke sanctions only after individuals have proved they have already changed their behavior, not simply agreed to make such changes in the future, John added. Yet despite not providing such evidence, the Trump administration granted Mr. Gertler a special one-year license that would unfreeze his assets in U.S. banks and allow his corporate entities to once again do business with U.S. financial institutions.

“This is a unique, one-of-a-kind response that you don’t see with the United States government,” John said. “It is the most shocking license I have ever seen in a few decades of working on economic sanctions.”

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