FILE PHOTO: The logo of commodities trader Glencore is pictured in Baar
THE UK’s white-collar crime prosecutor is preparing to open a formal bribery investigation into Glencore and its work with Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler and the leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

Investigators at the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) plan to seek formal approval for a full probe into Glencore’s dealings in the DRC, said the people, who declined to be identified because the matter isn’t public. Since Glencore is based in Switzerland, the prosecutor would have to show it has jurisdiction, because the company’s shares are traded in London.

The DRC was “absolutely calm” about the matter, said government spokesperson Lambert Mende.

“We are ready to take all the blows and we are ready to fight back,” Mende said on Friday. Any final decision on whether to proceed with a formal probe will be up to a committee of SFO senior staff, including interim director Mark Thompson. Spokespersons for the SFO, Glencore and Gertler declined to comment.

Glencore shares fell 17.50pence, or 4.4percent, to 380.35p at 4.37pm in London on Friday, after falling as much as 8.7percent.

“The uncertainty of the fraud investigation that could come is just that, uncertain,” Hunter Hillcoat, a mining analyst for Investec, said. “I don’t know where this is going to end up. It hasn't even started yet. This wasn’t priced in, but I don’t think it will weigh on the share price unless there’s more smoke to add to the fire.”

Gertler and his close friend, DRC President Joseph Kabila, have been implicated in previous British and US bribery investigations. The US imposed sanctions on Gertler in December, saying he’d used his friendship with Kabila to corruptly build his fortune. - Bloomberg