Author’s note: three-quarters of a year later, Giuliani is still Trump’s point man on Russia and has not been asked the necessary questions raised by my exploration below. Also, Prevezon/Katsyv lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was just charged by SDNY earlier this month for obstruction of justice in the Prevezon/Magnitsky case… I even sat on this information for over eight months before self-publishing in June, 2018; I could not then, and still do not now, understand the shocking degree of myopia among editors at major news outlets who would not take this piece in one form or another.
How a longtime political ally of Giuliani’s own ties to the Trump-Russia network fit in key ways to an already overflowing number of shady ties and criminal dealings
January 27th, 2019. Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse June 3, 2018
AMMAN — A longtime supporter and even government partner of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is part of the network of mafia and Russian government operatives that has long been, and is increasingly, raising questions about collusion or manipulation of Donald Trump and those close to him.
This man, Ukrainian Semyon “Sam” Kislin, also had important and questionable ties to Trump. Such connections, while not proving that Giuliani did anything wrong or illegal, raise questions about his role representing Trump on matters related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into all things Trump-Russia.
Kislin was a prolific repeat donor to Giuliani’s mayoral campaigns to the tune of $46,250. In 1998, Kislin and his wife were even listed as “co-chairs” of one of Giuliani’s fundraising events, and Kislin was also listed as a co-chair of one of Giuliani’s fundraising events that brought in $2.1 million for his abortive U.S. Senate campaign.
But the relationship hardly ended with financing.
Giuliani as mayor would appoint Kislin to the Mayor’s Council of Economic Advisors in 1994, and he remained on it until 2001, serving every year Giuliani was mayor. In 1996, Kislin would also fill a political spot on the New York City Economic Development Corporation board.
But there seems to have been a much darker side to Kislin.
By at least the time he was appointed by Giuliani to the Mayor’s Council, U.S. authorities believed Kislin had helped launder millions for the Russian mafia, had helped bring in a man named Anton Malevsky who was believed by the FBI to be a Russian mafia hitman, and specifically had been linked by the FBI to Vyacheslav Ivankov’s Russian mob crew based in Brighton Beach as a “member or associate.”
Ivankov—then one of the Russian mafia’s top men in America—lived in Trump Tower, had the Trump Organization’s private contact numbers in his address book, and also loved frequently spending time (along with other Russian mobsters) at Trump’s Taj Mahal casinoin Atlantic City, NJ. He reported to Russian mafia “boss of bosses” Semion Mogilevich, perhaps the most powerful mobster in the world today, a financial mastermind for long-term schemes, a top concern of the FBI for decades, and an ally of Vladimir Putin, who shields him to this day from U.S. authorities.
Mogilevich is seen as the central money launderer for many years in a byzantine plot by the Kremlin to twist Ukraine’s political system to Putin’s will using natural gas contracts and proceeds, one that began at least before the Orange Revolution and precipitated the (Euro)Maidan Revolution, Ukraine’s civil war, and Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. Central to this effort was Trump’s future Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, who, along with his deputy Rick Gates, ran the political operations of Putin’s preferred candidate in Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, and his political party, the Party of Regions.
Both Manafort and Gates find themselves now in considerable trouble with Special Counsel Robert Mueller as a result of these activities and others involving work on behalf of Putin and his allies, and Putin’s Ukraine operation has a surprising amount of overlap with his 2016 American plot.
As for Kislin, he also has important ties to Donald Trump. In the 1980s, Donald Trump bought 200 televisions for one of his hotels from an electronics store run by Kislin and Kislin’sbusiness partner, Tamir Sapir, from the then-Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia. Their store was a known hot-spot for senior government officials, spies, and politicians from the Soviet Union.
Sapir himself may have (once) been part of—or even come to the U.S. secretly working for—the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs (at whose academy he had apparently studied), and rumors swirled about the sources of his extremely unlikely and massive wealth. One of his major business partners even pled guilty to longtime scams with the Gambino crime family.
Even after the AP, New York Post, and Moscow Times reported on Kislin’s alleged Russian mafia connections in 1999, in the early 2000s, Kislin brokered a deal for Trump for a condo in Trump World Tower for buyer Vasily Salygin, who would soon become an official in Ukraine’s Party of Regions at the same time Manafort was its chief political strategist.
Around this time, Kislin’s old partner Sapir—who now owned a $5 million apartment in Trump Tower, with Trump calling Sapir and his family “great friends”—introduced Trump to Bayrock, ostensibly a real-estate firm located in Trump Tower. Bayrock’s then-COO was Felix Sater, who a U.S. Supreme Court petition for a writ of certiorari alleges is the son of a Mogilevich Russian mafia lieutenant. In addition, according to testimony for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee of Glenn Simpson (a Fusion GPS opposition research lead investigator on numerous Russian cases including Trump’s connections to Russia and the infamous Prevezon/Magnitsky case), Sater has his own strong ties to the Mogilevich crew, though the specifics on which basis Simpson is alleging this are not clear.
When Sater began with Bayrock he was a convicted felon from a suppressed case with ties to Russian organized crime and money laundering (conducted in the 1990s from a Trump-owned property, to boot), but he ended up being point-man for a series of potential and actual deals with Trump, most of which ended famously in disaster, failure, lawsuits, and scandal, culminating in hundreds of millions in losses. The most famous of these was the Trump SoHo, and Sapir was one of the main financiers. That and the other deals were alleged in a just-recently settled long-running lawsuit of being RICO money-laundering scams.
Sapir’s daughter married one Rotem Rosen at a ceremony at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago getaway, hosted by Trump himself. Rosen is friends with longtime Trump lawyer and less-than-successful “fixer” Michael Cohen, who has also been friends since his Brighton beach childhood days with Sater. Rosen was also at the time of his marriage the longtime right-hand man of Lev Leviev, a famous Israeli diamond oligarch from the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan. Leviev is close to and apparently friends with Putin, the Sapirs, Russian aluminum oligarch Roman Abramovich (himself close to Putin and apparently being the first to recommend Putin to then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin as a successor), and Oleg Deripaska, also very close to Putin and strongly tied to Manafort in multiple expensive pursuits of Kremlin interests.
Ivanka Trump at this time became very close with Dasha Zhukova, Abramovich’s wife.
When former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was assassinated in the UK in 2006 (not that different from Russia’s recent attempt to murder the Skripals using a chemical nerve agent), he was helping both British and Spanish intelligence look into money laundering and organized crime ties surrounding Abramovich.
Abramovich owns the popular UK club football team Chelsea, and until recently resided in the UK, but, on the heels of this poisoning international incident, Abramovich’s UK visa was declined for renewal by the UK and he just made aliyah to Israel, becoming that nation’s wealthiest citizen overnight.
As for his friend Leviev, whose company’s U.S. operations were headquartered at Trump’s 40 Wall St.property (where Sater ran his massive laundering scam), Leviev was a business partner of Denis Katsyv, scion of a Putin ally, through Prevezon in dealings that were at the heart of the whole Prevezon/Magnitsky money laundering and Russian sanctions saga and that led to the infamous June, 2016, Trump Tower meeting hosted by Manafort, Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump Jr. with variety of Russian operatives with deep Kremlin connections. Leviev later did a major business deal with Kushner, and financing from Deutsche Bank related to this deal is under scrutiny from federal authorities and perhaps even Special Counsel Mueller; Deutsche also helped finance the Prevezon deal between Katsyv and Leviev that later became the subject of a settled civil case from the local U.S. Attorney’s office and is still the subject of a criminal probe there.
That last leg may have been a bit confusing and overwhelming, part of the much larger overall Trump-Russia mega-puzzle.
But what is clear is that Sam Kislin is close to the center of a web of sketchy relationships between Team Trump and Team Putin, with many key threads passing through Kislin over the years.
And while Giuliani is not implicated in any of these (alleged) crimes, given his longstanding relationship with Kislin and the cast of shady characters involved in the Trump-Russia saga in Kislin’s orbit, there are only more questions that need to be answered by everyone, including Giuliani. At the very least, Giuliani’s new position of point man for Trump on Russia deserves a much higher level of scrutiny than has thus far been applied, and a good starting point for this scrutiny would be Rudy’s Kislin connection.
© 2018 Brian E. Frydenborg all rights reserved, permission required for republication, attributed quotations welcome
Brian E. Frydenborg in an American freelance writer, academic, and consultant from the New York City area currently based in Amman, Jordan. The views here represent only his own You can follow and contact him on Twitter: @bfry1981
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