Friday, June 30, 2017

Trump's businesses -- connections to foreign money-laundering?

Paul Blumenthal, writing for HuffPost,  tackles the complex world of Trump real estate investments and the many laws he has seemed to violate.    Blumenthal first covers Trump's many business partners -- and potential partners -- in Indonesia, India, Azerbaijan, Brazil, and Georgia, who were under investigation for money laundering, bribery, and corruption.

Trump did not go through with all of these deals that he explored with them, and he especially became somewhat more circumspect once he began running for president.  Here's one example, as described by Blumenthal:

"The Trump Organization spent a lot of time promoting the future Trump Tower in Baku, Azerebaijan before canceling the deal in December 2016.   The deal involved licensing the president's [Trump's] name to an Azerbaijani development company run by Anar  Mammadov, the son of  that country's president.   A 2017 report in the New Yorker revealed suspicions that the tower benefited from investment that appeared to be part of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard money laundering scheme. . . .

"The deal . . . only became untenable once Trump faced the added scrutiny that comes with being the president of the United States.

"But Trump is no stranger to the same kind of investigations, lawsuits, and accusations of money laundering or other wrongdoing that his former and current business partners face.   Trump's businesses have paid large fines and settlements for fraud and money laundering, although he has rarely admitted guilt."

Blumenthal cites Trump's settlement with the Treasury Department for $477,000 in 1998 and a $10 million fine in 2015 for violations having to do with money-laundering at his Taj Mahal casino.

He also had deals to finance the Trump Soho Hotel and Condos with the Bayrock Group, an investment firm with ties to organized crime and money laundering.  There were also allegations that a Kazakh billionaire, accused of stealing money from a Kazakh city's treasury, laundered the money "through luxury condo purchases at Trump Soho and the Fort Lauderdale Trump property," according to Blumenthal's research.

Shruti Shah, an expert in due diligence for the anti-corruption nonprofit Coalition for Integrity, told HuffPost that some of these deals were especially troubling "because the business partners are closely associated with government officials. . . [and he explained that]  . . .  the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act forbids U.S. firms from providing benefit to a foreign government official as part of a business deal, even if they claim they were unaware they provided such a benefit."

Shah also said that "Doing adequate due-diligence would have revealed these issues."

Now I cannot independently say that any of these Trump business deals, if tried in court, would result in convictions for Trump himself.   But there's a lot of smoke, and it does seem, at the very least, he has operated in the murky grey areas of suspicious international money-laundering.   And who needs a way to clean up corrupt money more than all those Russian oligarchs? -- especially the ones to whom Putin gave away the Russian people's natural resources and monopolies?

And Trump was always in need of money to finance his next project, or to bail him out of debt on his last failing project.   So paying him triple market value for a multi-million dollar estate on the beach, for example, would be a good way to launder some of that Russian, corrupt money.   Or buying a whole bunch of condos in the Trump Soho Hotel and Condos for way more than they were worth.

Follow the money-trail.  It leads to Russia . . . .


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