The head of Israeli spy agency was expelled from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2019 after the country’s president grew suspicious that Mossad may be planning a regime-change conspiracy against him, Israeli publication Haaretz reported on Tuesday.

The meetings were part of efforts to do away with sanctions on Dan Gertler, an Israeli billionaire suspected by the US, British and Swiss authorities of corrupt dealings connected to his diamond interests in DR Congo.

Cohen is said to have flew to the DRC twice in 2019 in a private plane to meet with its former president, Joseph Kabila, without telling incumbent President Felix Tshisekedi. When Tshisekedi found out, he told Cohen he was not welcome in the DRC for such meetings.

In the end, the Trump administration rescinded some of the sanctions on Gertler, enabling him to pay money he owed to various Israelis, among them apparently his lawyer, Boaz Ben Zur, who also represents Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The sanctions were recently reinstated by the Biden administration.

But a former senior Mossad official expressed surprise at the meetings. “It’s a strange story and on the face of it seems unacceptable. Why meet with a former president without the current president’s knowledge? I don’t recall an instance like this, in which a Mossad chief acted on behalf of a specific businessman. In the past, there were cases of the Mossad’s getting help from all kinds of companies and businessmen. But businessmen are meant to help us, not us help them.”

According to Haaretz, the general public did not know the name of the Mossad chief until 1996. Even when Israeli media would report about him and the head of the Shin Bet security service, they would only use the first letter of their first names. Even after the ban ended, Mossad heads kept a low public profile.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2022

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