TRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder V
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Translation: Fairpress

Author: Munir Podumljak

Trump’s business relationship with Russia
With the collapse of the Russian economy in 1998, Russian oligarchs who had made their fortunes buying up formerly state-owned assets sought to stash their money in international real estate. From 1998 onwards, several Trump-branded projects received significant financing from sources with ties to Russia.[1] The timeline below of Trump’s known business and private relations with Russia is collated from a range of media sources[2]:

TRUMP’S BUSINESS AND PRIVATE RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA:

1987 Trump was invited to Moscow by the Soviet ambassador to the United States to discuss luxury hotel developments. Russian emigrés purchased a number of apartments from Trump’s NY real-estate business.
1996 A number of Trump’s businesses went bankrupt. Continuing talks with Russian business representatives led to a new business model:  Trump would give licensing agreements and sell ownership stakes in properties that bore his name but would not need to put up any of his own money.
2000s The Trump Organization developed several projects internationally, many of them involving financing with Russian origins.
2007 Trump debuted his Trump Super Premium Vodka at the Millionaire’s Fair in Moscow. In 2009, the project ended (according to the NYT)[3].
2008 Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., told investors in Moscow that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets”. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” The very same year Dmitry Rybolovlev, a Russian oligarch close to Putin bought the Palm Beach Florida mansion owned by Donald Trump, paying double the market price at the time and $13 million more than the most expensive Palm Beach mansion sale prior to that date.[4]
2010 Trump SoHo in New York was built with partner Bayrock Group. Bayrock was founded by Tevfik Arif, a former Soviet official, and Soviet emigres Felix Sater (a convicted mob associate) and Tamir Sapir, who maintains close ties to Chabad and ‘Putin’s Rabbi’ Berel Lazar, and are indirectly linked with some of Putin’s most trusted oligarchs  Lev Leviev and Roman Abramovich, according to Politico.[5] According to Politico, Trump’s daughter has a close relationship Dasha Zhukova (who was then the wife of Roman Abramovich; they divorced in 2017[6]).

2013 Trump brought the Miss Universe Pageant to Moscow, funded by $20 million from Russian billionaire Aras Agalarov (one of the key contractors for the 2018 FIFA World Cup) and a trusted Putin-linked oligarch whose work to build a university campus in the Russian Far East had earned him an Order of Honor bestowed by Putin himself at a Kremlin ceremony in 2012. Agalarov has more recently come to light as having brokered meetings between the Trump organization and Russian lobbyists and members of intelligence service, according to the Washington Post.[7] The Post also reports that Agalarov engaged in a “strategic cooperation agreement” announced in 2013 with the state-run Sberbank to finance a $3 billion Crocus Group development, with a possibility that this project would also include a Trump Tower in Moscow.

There are several important issues here. In US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 US presidential election, many close friends of President Trump, professional associates of the Trump organization and members of the presidential campaign are being investigated,  as well as his close family – particularly his son Donald Jr, daughter Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner. The Washington Post reports that Jared Kushner is suspected by the FBI of meeting with the 48-year-old chief executive of Vnesheconombank, Sergey Gorkov, during the presidential transition phase in late 2016. Gorkov is a graduate of the academy of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and had been appointed by Putin to the post at Vnesheconombank less than a year before his encounter with Kushner.[8] According to numerous reports on the meeting, Kushner and Gorkov discussed ways of distributing ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton, prior to the US election. At the same time, the WP reports, Kushner was soliciting a loan to cover a troublesome investment of his in Manhattan. Kushner and Gorkov also spoke of establishing a “secret communication channel” between the White House and Kremlin to facilitate discussion after Donald Trump had settled in the White House.

Trump’s presidential campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has been indicted on tax fraud and money laundering charges stemming from his work for former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. According to Time magazine, Manafort accepted the job of election consultant for Viktor Yanukovych in 2006, despite the candidate having low chances of winning at the beginning of the race. Manafort described his role as “seeking to further democracy and to help the Ukrainians come closer to the United States and to the EU”, as presented by his lawyer at the time.[9] This was far from the truth. Candidate Victor Yanukovich did not speak proper Ukrainian, had a criminal past and known connections to Russia; it was widely understood in Ukraine that Yanukovych was the preferred candidate of Vladimir Putin.

During Ukraine’s presidential election campaign in 2006, Manafort met another individual important to understanding the links between Trump’s team and Vladimir Putin: Ukrainian natural gas magnate Dimitry Firtash, who made his fortunes by partnering with Russian state company Gazprom. The FBI had accused Firtash of benefiting personally and professionally from an association with one of the world’s most powerful organized crime figures, Semion Mogilevich, who has appeared on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.[10] This relationship put Manafort in turn under suspicion of being connected with Semion Mogilevich”.[11]

Read more in the next article

This article was created with the support of the Fund for the Promotion of Pluralism and Diversity of Electronic Media within the project “Media Reality” – Developing and Encouraging the Media Literacy Programme

 

 

Connected articles: TRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder IVTRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder IIITRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder IITRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder I 

 

[1] Norris, J., Kenney, C. (2017) Trump’s conflicts of interest in Russia. The Moscow Project, [online]. Available at: https://themoscowproject.org/reports/trumps-conflicts-interest-russia/ [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[2] Dorell, O. (2017) Donald Trump’s ties to Russia go back 30 years. USA Today, [online]. Available at: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/02/15/donald-trumps-ties-russia-go-back-30-years/97949746/ [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[3] Twohey, M., Eder, S. (2017) For Trump, Three Decades of Chasing Deals in Russia. The New York Times. [online]. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/16/us/politics/donald-trump-russia-business.html [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[4] Clough, A., Pacenti, J. (2017) Why did a Russian pay $95M to buy Trump’s Palm Beach mansion? The Seattle Times, [online]. Available at: https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/why-did-a-russian-pay-95m-to-buy-trumps-palm-beach-mansion/ [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[5] Schreckinger, B. (2017) The Happy-Go-Lucky Jewish Group That Connects Trump and Putin. Politico, [online]. Available at: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/04/the-happy-go-lucky-jewish-group-that-connects-trump-and-putin-215007 [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[6] Ward, V. (2017) Roman Abramovich splits from third wife Dasha Zhukova. The Telegraph, [online]. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/08/07/roman-abramovich-splits-third-wife-dasha-zhukova/ [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[7] Helderman, S. R., Leonnig, D. C., Hamburger, T. (2017) The Trump Organization executive asked Putin aide for help on business deal. The Washington Post. [online]. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/top-trump-organization-executive-reached-out-to-putin-aide-for-help-on-business-deal/2017/08/28/095aebac-8c16-11e7-84c0-02cc069f2c37_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.162a56e6b894 [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[8] Filipov, D., Brittain, A., Helderman, R. S., Hamburger, T. (2017) Explanations for Kushner’s meeting with head of Kremlin-linked bank don’t match up. The Washington Post, [online]. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/explanations-for-kushners-meeting-with-head-of-kremlin-linked-bank-dont-match-up/2017/06/01/dd1bdbb0-460a-11e7-bcde-624ad94170ab_story.html?utm_term=.2b1196c89c28 [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[9] Shuster, S. (2017) How Paul Manafort Helped Elect Russia’s Man in Ukraine. Time, [online]. Available at: http://time.com/5003623/paul-manafort-mueller-indictment-ukraine-russia/ [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[10] Kolker, R. (2017) Will Trump Rescue the Oligarch in the Gilded Cage? Bloomberg Businessweek, [online]. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-02-16/will-trump-rescue-the-oligarch-in-the-gilded-cage [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[11] “[H]e used a company called Lucicle Consultants Limited to wire millions of dollars into the United States. The Cyprus-based Lucicle Consultants Limited, in turn, reportedly received millions of dollars from a businessman and Ukrainian parliamentarian named Ivan Fursin, who is closely linked to one of Russia’s most notorious criminals: Semion Mogilevich.”

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