KINSHASA, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Israeli billionaire businessman Dan Gertler sold one of his Congo-based oil companies to the government last year for $150 million - 300 times the amount paid for the oil rights - in a deal criticised by transparency campaigners.
Gertler, an influential figure in Democratic Republic of Congo's mining and oil sectors with close links to the Kinshasa government, denies any wrongdoing in the sale of Nessergy Ltd, which paid a $500,000 signing bonus for its block in 2006.
The block lies near some of neighbouring Angola's most productive oilfields. At the time it was acquired by Nessergy, the block was located in an area at the heart of a maritime border dispute between Kinshasa and Luanda.
However, the two countries have since created a zone of common economic interest in an attempt to settle the border row. Last year, Congo sought to buy back the rights from Nessergy to allow it to negotiate a new production sharing agreement with Angolan state oil company, Sonangol.
According to the contract for the April 2013 transaction seen by Reuters, Sonangol financed the deal, paying Gertler's Fleurette Group $150 million for the rights to the block. Congo will repay Sonangol out of future oil revenue.
Fluerette has been paid the fee but cannot access the money until a deal between the national oil companies of Congo and Angola is finalised.
A Fleurette representative said no major drilling had taken place in the Nessergy block due to disputes over development rights. He said the $500,000 signing bonus was the standard amount companies paid to Congo for oil rights at the time the contract was agreed.
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