Thursday, May 4, 2017

Money Laundering: Trumps real Russian connection

The list of Donald Trump's Russian connections just keeps getting longer and longer and longer.

It's no coincidence that Donald Trump has very deep financial ties to Russians going back decades. This may explain why he is hesitant to release his tax returns. 

This is also why the Treasury Department financial crimes division is looking into charges of money laundering. Here is how I believe it works: Russians deposit large sums of money to the bank of Cypress and subsequently the money was transferred to offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and other offshore tax havens. They then buy real estate thru the shell companies and use that to secure millions in loans.

The New York Times reported Wednesday night that investigators are looking into a specific type of connection: money laundering. If they find evidence that members of the Trump team received money from Moscow and then tried to hide it, the implications would be hugely significant. It would show there were money transfers worth hiding — and you don’t do that if what you’re doing is lawful.

Let’s first be clear about what money laundering is. Money laundering, in its simplest form, is making it seem like money that comes from X place actually comes from Y place. It can help make an illegal money transfer appear like it was a run-of-the-mill, everyday exchange. Without laundering, the illegal money transfer would connect the lawbreaking parties, making it easier for law enforcement to identify the wrongdoers.

 It appears Robert Muller has recruited an experienced Justice Department trial attorney, Lisa Page,  whose résumé boasts intriguing hints about where Mueller's Russia investigation might lead. Page has deep experience with money laundering and organized crime cases, including investigations where she's partnered with an FBI task force in Budapest, Hungary, that focuses on eastern European organized crime. That Budapest task force helped put together the still-unfolding money laundering case against Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash, a one-time business partner of  Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort. News reports speculate that Mueller could be investigating potential money-laundering by Trump team members.
Dmitry Firtash: This Guy looks guilty..
Dmitry Firtash: Manafort's Business partner
Donald Trump's son mentioned to reporters that the Russians were "pouring money into his golf courses". In 2008, Donald Trump Jr. tells a real estate conference, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” During the speech, Trump Jr. says he traveled to Russia six times in the previous 18 months.
Donald Trump Jr.
Donald Trump Jr.
Trump received a hundred million dollar in payments for a house in Florida that he bought for 50 million dollars just two years earlier. That Mansion was subsequently bulldozed to build a new property. Another Russian with mob connections bought 6 condos from Donald Trump at Trump Towers in New York City in another 100 million dollar sale.

This was another Russian connection. 

Wilbur Ross, Trump and Mike Pence
Wilbur Ross, Trump and Mike Pence
Donald Trump's Commerce Secretary is Wilbur Ross, the former head of the Bank of Cyprus with close financial ties to Russians.Wilbur Ross joined with a Russian oligarch and a former KGB official to run a bank in Cyprus. Ross has been a business partner with Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian billionaire oligarch and Putin ally. Vekselberg is one of the richest men in Russia, in a major financial project involving the Bank of Cyprus, that country’s largest and most significant financial institution. A financial crisis in 2013 led to the bank’s collapse and eventual bailout. The bank had held billions in deposits from wealthy Russians—some of it presumably dirty money or funds deposited there. During its restructuring, a large amount of these deposits were converted into shares, giving Russian plutocrats a majority ownership (on paper) of the bank. Cyprus is known to be awash in dirty Russian money as they tried to bypass sanctions on their bank called VBE. Wilbur Ross oversaw the Bank of Cyprus. In October 2014, Wilbur Ross unveiled a new board of directors for the Bank of Cyprus. He would be one of the members of the board and so would Maksim Goldman, a Renova executive representing Vekselberg’s interests. (Vekselbergs’ conglomerate, the Renova Group, had become the bank’s second-largest shareholder.) Also on this board was Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, a previous board member whom Russia Today a year earlier had identified as a Putin associate and former KGB official. Ross and Vekselberg also recruited Josef Ackermann, a former head of Deutsche Bank, to come in as chairman. Ross is been involved with this oligarch for the past two years in an arrangement involving over $1 billion.
Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian billionaire.

Vladimir Strzhalkovsky
Bank of Cypress and Maksim Goldman

Vladimir Putin and Exxon Mobil Chief Executive Rex Tillerson attend a meeting outside Moscow, Russia April 16, 2012.

Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, is our  new Secretary of State, with one major connection to Putin and Moscow. He boasts a long-term relationship with Putin and has cut huge deals with Russia for ExxonMobil. Tillerson is the long-time director of a US-Russian oil company based in the tax haven of the Bahamas. He has opposed US sanctions against Russia that get in the way of more oil deals between ExxonMobil and Putin, like the Kara Sea project. Exxon Mobil stands to regain access to huge reserves of oil if the United States rolls back sanctions on Russia. Tillerson has experience negotiating deals in Russia, and he got to know Putin while chief executive of the world's biggest integrated oil and gas company.
Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, Vladamin Putin, and Rex Tillerson
The U.S.' relationship fell apart after Russia took Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and then intervened in civil wars in Ukraine and Syria. ExxonMobil's yearly losses from the halted ventures: $1 billion. As Exxon's chief executive, Tillerson's priority has been to his shareholders, and he has sought to protect the company's substantial interests in Russia. Tillerson has criticized U.S. sanctions on Russia. Exxon Mobil is pursuing a waiver from Treasury Department sanctions on Russia to drill in the Black Sea in a venture with Rosneft, the Russian state oil company.

Exxon's operations in Russia represent only a fraction of its global oil and gas production, but a joint venture with Russian state-controlled oil giant Rosneft to explore and produce fossil fuels in Arctic waters represents a big part of Exxon's potential future production growth. Those projects have been on ice since 2014, when the United States imposed sanctions on Russia for its incursions into Ukraine. Exxon said in a filing after the sanctions were put in place that its "maximum before-tax exposure to loss from these joint ventures" totaled $1 billion through the end of 2015.

Exxon and Rosneft entered the joint venture in 2012 to develop offshore reserves in the Arctic Kara Sea and the Black Sea, as well as onshore assets in Siberia. The following year, they advanced their strategic alliance by adding seven more blocks in the Chukchi, Laptev and Kara seas.

Exxon's holdings in Russia's Arctic waters and the Black Sea, which are not producing for the energy giant due to the sanctions, totaled 63.6 million acres. By comparison, Exxon holds 85,000 net acres across its main Russian venture, an offshore project called Sakhalin, which was in place before the sanctions. Rosneft estimates there are 87 billion barrels of oil lying in the three blocks of the Kara Sea covered by its joint venture with Exxon Mobil. The first exploration well in the Kara Sea in the icy Arctic waters above Russia yielded a discovery of 730 million barrels of oil. U.S. sanctions on Russia have prevented Exxon Mobil from exploring assets covering 63.6 million acres. The relationship fell apart after Russia took Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and then intervened in civil wars in Ukraine and Syria.

President Trump’s personal lawyer and a former business associate met privately in New York City in Feb. 2017 with a member of the Ukrainian parliament to discuss a peace plan for that country that could give Russia long-term control over territory it seized in 2014 and lead to the lifting of sanctions against Moscow. The meeting with Andrii V. Artemenko, the Ukrainian politician, involved Michael Cohen, a Trump Organization lawyer since 2007, and Felix Sater, a business partner who worked on real estate projects with Trump’s company.
 Andrii V. Artemenko

Felix Sater

Tevfik Arif 
Arif is chairman of the New York real estate company Bayrock Group

Trump has dismissed the assessment, reached unanimously by 17 U.S. intelligence services, that the Russian government directed cyber attacks on the United States to interfere with the U.S. election process. Coincidence? I don't think so.

So far there has been several individuals associated with Donald Trump with deep financial ties to Russian connections:

Campaign Manager Paul Manafort

National Security Adviser Retired General Mike Flynn

Attorney general Jeff Sessions

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross

Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer

Carter Page

Erik Prince

Roger Stone

Jared Kushner

Looking into money laundering around Trump is like investigating moisture in the middle of the ocean.
If that’s not enough money laundering for an investigation, read this last:
A Financial Times investigation has found evidence that one Trump venture has multiple ties to an alleged international money laundering network. Title deeds, bank records and correspondence show that a Kazakh family accused of laundering hundreds of millions of stolen dollars bought luxury apartments in a Manhattan tower part-owned by Mr Trump and embarked on major business ventures with one of the tycoon’s partners. The FBI did wiretap Trump Tower to monitor Russian activity, but it had nothing to do with the 2016 Presidential election, it has been reported.
Between 2011 and 2013 the Bureau had a warrant to spy on a high-level criminal Russian money-laundering ring, which operated in unit 63A of the iconic skyscraper — three floors below Mr Trump's penthouse.
The plaintiffs in a 2015 racketeering case against Bayrock, Sater, and Arif, among others, alleged in the civil lawsuit that: “for most of its existence it [Bayrock] was substantially and covertly mob-owned and operated,” engaging “in a pattern of continuous, related crimes, including mail, wire, and bank fraud; tax evasion; money laundering; conspiracy; bribery; extortion; and embezzlement.” Although the lawsuit does not allege complicity by Trump, it claims that Bayrock exploited its joint ventures with Trump as a conduit for laundering money and evading taxes. The lawsuit cites as a “Concrete example of their crime, Trump SoHo, [which] stands 454 feet tall at Spring and Varick, where it also stands monument to spectacularly corrupt money-laundering and tax evasion.”
Money laundering is what Trump does.

1 comment:

James Dillon said...

The art of the deal, indeed.