(Russian/Русский перевод) Perhaps the main problem with coverage of Trump’s Russia ties is that many of the various actors’ less salient ties to each other are missed, with much time and complexity often separating these (sub-)connections that greatly increase the level of Team Trump’s incrimination, redefining how this entire scandal needs to be discussed and understood.
Sometimes seeing the bigger picture requires enough steps back to realize there are parts you didn’t even know were there, and in an age of 140-character Tweets, information overload, fake news, short attention spans, and a frequency and scale of scandals unheard of in the history of Western democratic politics, seeing that big picture can be harder than ever, even with the most-covered story in the world.
Yet in Putin’s cynical salsa with Team Trump, when so many people connected to Trump and Putin are involved in similar money laundering schemes involving Russians and the Russian mafia and each other and Trump properties, we pass out of the realm of allowing for reasonable doubt and suspicion to the point where the crimes become so obvious that what remains to be answered is no longer “if” but simply “how much” these people are guilty and/or stupid.
Below you have the deepest exploration of the big picture of Trump’s crooked Russian business ties you can get from any single account, with a significant amount of information reported here not reported in this context by anyone else, and every detail is from a publicly available, credible, and cited source.
January 23rd, 2019. Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse July 27, 2017 (over 77,000 unique views) and republished by Ir.net March 15, 2018 (over 36,000 unique views); many major updates in my Nov, 2020, eBook A Song of Gas and Politics, available for Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook (preview here)
Built on part on these earlier pieces from: July 30/31 2016: Trump, Putin, Russia, DNC/Clinton Hack, & WikiLeaks: “There’s Something Going on” with Election 2016 & It’s Cyberwarfare & Maybe Worse
Also, see his related piece from December 7, 2016: The (First) Russo-American Cyberwar: How Obama Lost & Putin Won, Ensuring a Trump Victory
Support Brian’s work by donating here
AMMAN—This story of 1.) DONALD TRUMP, 2.) VLADIMIR PUTIN, and their operatives is exceedingly complex, so I ask readers’ patience in going through this historic tale of political cunning and intrigue, conspiracies and crimes.
1990s: Laying Foundations
Russian mafia “boss of bosses” 3.) SEMION (Semyon) MOGILEVICH makes moves in North America. Throughout this piece, remember that MOGILEVICH, also known as “the Brainy Don,” has an economics degree and is famous for designing elaborate financial schemes that are extremely difficult, even impossible, to detect, the planning and setup of which can take years and involve a wide range of people in various positions of power whose roles/identities are sometimes never even discovered.
MOGILEVICH starts up a fake company called YBM Magnex International in Pennsylvania in 1995 that would be used to perpetrate a massive stock fraud worth $150 million on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The ostensible “CEO” of YBM was 4.) Jacob (Yakov) Bogatin. His brother, 5.) David Bogatin, had served in the Soviet Army in an anti-aircraft battery in North Vietnam during the Vietnam War, targeting U.S. aircraft; in the mid-1980s, Donald 1.) TRUMP had personally sold David five apartments in I.) Trump Tower, and by the 1990s, he was, like his brother, a key figure in MOGILEVICH’s mafia organization’s presence in the U.S. Another major MOGILEVICH lieutenant who would rise to be one of the senior Russian mobsters in America, 6.) Vyacheslav Ivankov, also lived in I.) 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 VIII.) Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, NJ.
Another alleged (according to an apparently uncorroborated U.S. Supreme Court writ of certiorari) 3.)MOGILEVICH lieutenant, 7.) Mikhael Sheferovsky (aka Michael SATER), had a son named 8.) FELIX SATER (sometimes Satter), who ended up having, predictably, ties to the Russian mafia; FELIX SATER was involved in an at least $41 million (and up to $60 million) stock fraud and money laundering scheme and ran it in the mid-1990s from an office in II.) 40 Wall St., another TRUMP-owned property. We know this scheme involved the Russian mafia, but the details of that case remain sealed because SATER later cooperated with the U.S. government on national security issues (there is currently a court fight to get this information released on the grounds that it is a national concern, now that TRUMP is president, and some details about SATER have been released in previous court fights, including his father’s alleged link to MOGILEVICH, which I was the first to report). It must also be mentioned that—as 3.) MOGILEVICH was already heavily engaged in money laundering with the Russian mafia in North America and he was already very powerful in that very hierarchical organization, already had a history of close Russian mafia associates linked to TRUMP-owned entities, and would already have known 8.)SATER if hewas the son of one of his own mafia captains as a U.S. Supreme Court writ of certiorari alleges—it would be far more likely than not that MOGILEVICH was somehow involved in 8.) SATER’s scheme.
3.) MOGILEVICH was also connected to a Russian émigré living in Canada, 9.) Boris Birshtein, who ran a number of ostensible businesses under the Seabeco name that were staffed heavily by Russians and others from former Soviet republics. In 1995, Birshtein hosted a meeting in Tel Aviv at which 3.) MOGILEVICH and another major Russian mafia godfather—10.) Sergei Mikhailov (Mikhaylov), also a close business partner of Birshtein and who would later develop his own relationship with Russia’s political elite—were present, as were other Russian and former-Soviet-republic mob bosses. They discussed joint plans for their Ukrainian operations, plans that may have set the stage for much of what is discussed below and that would likely have included MOGILEVICH’s moves that acquired influence over significant chunks Ukraine’s economy, particularly the energy sector. This was all related to corrupt relationships and arrangements with Ukraine’s president—then 11.) Leonid Kuchma, close with 2.) PUTIN—and other major Ukrainian politicians, including some $5 million sent by Birshtein and his Seabeco associates to Kuchma’s campaign manager, 12.) Oleksandr (Alexander) Volkov, known for his ties to Russian organized crime. Two men who would come to dominate large parts of Kazakhstan’s natural resource sector and forge very close ties with that country’s corrupt political leadership as two members of a Kazakh “Trio” of oligarchs, 13.) Alexander Mashkevich (sometimes Machkevich)and 14.) Patokh Chodiev, would meet at Seabeco and work for it throughout the 1990s. At the same time, Russian-born Canadian 15.) Alexander Shnaider (Shneider) began working for Seabeco in 1991 while in law school; he would eventually marry his boss’s daughter, 16.) Simona Birshtein Shnaider, and he rose quickly in Seabeco’s steel sector. Shnaider and a partner founded a company, Midland Resource Holdings, which began aggressively buying up the Ukrainian government’s shares in Ukraine’s fourth largest steel mill, Zaporizhstal; they were clearly well-funded and well-connected to be able to do so.
Another Ukrainian, 17.) Dmitry (Dmytro) Firtash, went into business in post-Soviet Ukraine and quickly amassed a fortune through his commodities business, KMIL. This would eventually bring him into the region’s natural gas business by the late 1990s, when he began trading commodities for gas. At this time, Firtash’s KMIL was struggling and would be absorbed into the soon-to-be-Cyprus-based Highrock Holding, a front for none-other than 3.) MOGILEVICH; one Ukrainian associate of MOGILEVICH, who was a senior executive in his YBM front, was also helping to run Highrock in the late 1990s: the Ukrainian 18.) Igor Fisherman. Firtash came to direct Highrock in 2001, running it along with MOGILEVICH, who also controlled a significant chunk through a shell company run by his ex-wife until Firtash took that over, too, in 2003, giving him a strong majority control of Highrock.
As Firtash was transitioning to Highrock, Ukrainian businessman 19.) Viktor Topolov ran a construction company, Kyiv-Donbas, that by the late 1990s employed multiple Russian mobsters, including 20.) Leonid Roytman, a 3.) MOGILEVICH hitman, who is employed as a vice-president and who said that the company regularly functioned to set up mafia meetings. It seems Topolov was also involved in a scandal involving money laundering and embezzling with Ukrainian state gas company Naftogaz, the Russian state gas company Gazprom, and a Ukrainian football team CSKA Kiev, which he ran at the time before handing the team off to 21.) Andrii (Andriy/Andrey) Artemenko in 1999, who was also involved in, and later took much of the fall for, the scandal.
2000s: Advanced Plots in Motion
By at least 2000, 11.) Kuchma seemed to tacitly approve of, or at least not try to block, whatever designs 3.) MOGILEVICH & co. had for Ukraine (designs that had apparently been discussed in Tel Aviv). At this time, Kuchma was also aware that MOGILEVICH had a relationship with 2.) PUTIN that went back years, and that the two were already plotting together for some time (even today, PUTIN is shielding MOGILEVICH in Russia from U.S. and other international authorities’ extradition requests).
17.) Firtash was also rising in his gas role. It was he who established (with 3.) MOGILEVICH’s lawyer 22.) Zeev Gordon aka Vladimir Averbukh) and ran Eural Trans Gas (ETG) in 2002, a joint project with Gazprom and Naftogaz (Naftogas/Naftohaz), the state-run gas companies of Russia and Ukraine, respectively; immediately after ETG’s creation, it played the role of the dominant intermediary for Russian/Eurasian gas deals for Ukraine, a role previously played by the company ITERA, whose leader, 23.) Igor Makarov, would now be a partner of Firtash’sin Highrock.
Also of note: in the years immediately after this, MOGILEVICH enlisted the lawyerly services of 24.) William Sessions (a Republican who was the only FBI director to be fired until TRUMP fired James Comey, firing him in relation to an investigation into what is discussed herein) in an effort to get his criminal charges cleared with the U.S. Government; the middleman for that effort was consultant 25.) Neil Livingstone , whose firm GlobalOptions was heavily staffed by Russians and people from former Soviet republics (fun/suspicious fact: Livingstone ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for Montana’s 2012 governor’s race with 26.) Ryan Zinke, now the TRUMP Administration’s Secretary of the Interior, as his running mate); two-time Mississippi governor and major Republican operative 27.) Haley Barbour founded a consulting firm that introduced Livingstone’s GlobalOptions to Highrock, which engaged GlobalOptions in at least two contracts, one of which was mysteriously referenced in a lawsuit involving an unnamed member of Ukraine’s government (notice how MOGILEVICH and Firtash are working hand-in-hand, just a bit removed from each other).
As (pro-Russian) President 11.) Kuchma’s second term was coming to end, he made a major deal with his ally 2.) PUTIN in 2004 to replace ETG with a new company, Swiss-registered RosUkrEnergo (RUE), to facilitate an ostensibly joint venture between the countries to bring in gas from Turkmenistan and in much the same role as ETG, but, in reality, the shady deals around this were orchestrated by Gazprom, the gas would pass through Gazprom-owned pipes and Russian territory, and 50% of RUE was owned by Gazprom, with 45% was owned through a complex arrangement of shell companies owned by Firtash acting, in part, as a front for MOGILEVICH.
But as I’ve detailed repeatedly before, this was about far more than gas.
While RUE was being set up, Kuchma was also grooming a potential successor in 28.) Viktor Yanukovych, Kuchma’s already-scandal-mired prime minister.
Enter 29.) PAUL MANAFORT, who had already done informal work for TRUMP at the turn of the century as a partner of Nixon devotee Roger Stone in controversially lobbying against a Mohawk casino that would have competed with TRUMP’s casinos, lobbying that TRUMP failed to properly disclosed and for which he was fined; MANAFORT was an old-hand Republican operative with a specialty for consulting for unscrupulous Third World dictators. At this point, MANAFORT was ostensibly in Ukraine to do work for 30.) Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man for much of the past decade and major patron of Yanukovych; in reality, he was there to run the political campaign of Yanukovych and his political party, the pro-Russian Party of Regions, also heavily backed by Akhmetov. In the process, MANAFORT would become acquainted, and partner with, a whole host of Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs and operatives connected to PUTIN and working for Yanukovych, including 3.) MOGILEVICH and 17.) Firtash.
As is now famously known, Kuchma tried to fix the 2004 election for Yanukovych through widespread fraud; the people rose up and took to the streets and Ukraine’s Supreme Court demanded a redo, one which Yanukovych would lose in what would become known as the Orange Revolution. But MANAFORT would stick around, trying to rehabilitate Yanukovych over the years and work his political magic for Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. In these efforts, MANAFORT brought in his protégé, 31.) Richard “Rick” Gates.
On multiple projects, 29.) MANAFORT would partner with Russian aluminum oligarch and close 2.) PUTIN ally 32.) Oleg Deripaska, who has his own history with organized crime that has prevented him from getting a U.S. visa (even with 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole lobbying on his behalf); one scheme involved a shady effort trying to bend Montenegro to Moscow’s will, another one of their projects involved Deripaska paying MANAFORT millions for promoting PUTIN’s and Russia’s interests, and another, which involved 31.) Rick Gates, involved laundering millions for 28.) Yanukovych and his inner circle, who were living astoundingly exorbitant lifestyles with the funds.
On one level, MANAFORT and his protégé Gates ran the politics for 28.) Yanukovych and his Party of Regions working with various Yanukovych and PUTIN allies; on another level they all worked with 17.) Firtash and 3.) MOGILEVICH in one of the most elaborate and complex money laundering schemes in history, and perhaps the one with the most far-reaching consequences. If it seemed strange that RUE was so strongly controlled by Gazprom and Firtash, there was a reason for that: Gazprom sold gas at a relatively low price to Firtash via RUE, who then sold the gas directly to Ukraine at a much higher rate; the profits were then used to bribe and control Ukrainian politicians to bend them PUTIN’s will and get them to back Yanukovych and the Party of Regions, and while Firtash was the public face of RUE and other related shell companies, MOGILEVICH was moving the money behind the scenes. Billions were laundered in this way in order to hide the money being used to corrupt Ukraine’s political system and pull Ukraine towards Russia.
17.) Firtash was also given billions in credit from 2.) PUTIN-linked banks so that Firtash could buy up valuable sectors of industries that controlled Ukraine’s natural resources, allowing him and his allies to further tighten their grip on Ukraine and wield even greater influence. Other allies of 28.) Yanukovych and/or PUTIN, like 30.) Akhmetov, were also moving to make big acquisitions in important sectors of Ukraine’s economy at the time.
Obviously, this arrangement did not sit well with many Ukrainians, and politicians not in PUTIN’s pocket resisted. This led to a major dispute over the gas deals in January, 2006, in which Russia shut off the flow of gas into Ukraine. A new deal was struck that would make RUE the exclusive, direct supplier of all Russian and Central Asian gas imports, one that would, along with Gazprom and Gazexport (Gazprom’s subsidiary selling non-Russian produced gas), sell to a new joint venture between RUE and Naftogaz called UkrGazEnergo (or UkrGaz-Energo) that would sell all gas going to Ukraine’s industrial customers while RUE would sell to Naftogaz to sell to Ukraine’s residential and municipal customers. This dramatically increased the markup opportunities and laundering involving Ukraine’s gas.
Another part of the deal—which I was the first, and apparently only journalist, to point out in the context of this larger scheme—involved the major Russian state-owned power company RAO UES: RAO would pay for and import Ukrainian-generated electricity to sell in Russia; Ukraine would provide this power from the gas Ukraine was paying RUE for that had been bought by UkrGazEnergo to sell within Ukraine; Ukraine would deliver the electricity to RAO in return for the gas needed to generate it, with RUE or another Firtash company, apparently, buying the gas from UkrGazEnergo and the gas then being sent to Ukrainian power plants, which would then generate the electricity that would go to RAO, which would then sell that electricity in Russia. Obviously, this scheme would give Firtash additional points at which he could mark up prices and generate a profit, and it is telling that gas already being transited by Russia’s Gazprom pipelines into Ukraine through RUE—itself half-owned by Gazprom—was being used, after it was paid for by Ukraine for a high price, to generate electricity that would be used in Russia. This makes no logistical sense, as it would be easier for Russia to just bring gas from Gazprom to RAO through Russia, but when viewed through the prism of generating illicit funds used to dominate Ukraine politically, then it makes sense.
An American named 33.) Carter Page is key here: he moved to Moscow in 2004 to set up Merrill Lynch’s office there, working there until 2007. During this period he advised both Gazprom and RAO on major deals, and, despite his warped worldview, he is clearly steeped in knowledge of the energy sector and regional geopolitics, possessing a master’s degree and a PhD from highly prestigious universities; he very likely knew what was going on, at least to some degree, with the whole Eurasian gas scheme detailed above, as he was advising not just one but two major entities involved on opposite ends of the corrupt process.
As two Americans on different sides of this, did MANAFORT and Page connect at this time? As both men became involved in the 1.) TRUMP campaign in 2016 and since we still aren’t sure who hired Page to work for TRUMP’s presidential campaign, this question is certainly a valid one to ask.
14.) Chodiev and the third member of that aforementioned Kazakh “Trio,” 34.) Alijan Ibragimov, had already partnered with Gazprom, too, and, the most famous member of the “Trio,” 13.) Mashkevich, had, since his days at Birshtein’s Seabeco, risen to be close to Kazakhstan’s ruling family and to be a kingpin himself in the world of Kazakh natural resources as head of Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC), including the realm of gas for a time when a lot of business was going down with 23.) Makarov’s ITERA, just before Makarov handed off that role to 17). Firtash and joined him at Highrock; this was also a time when newly-elected-PUTIN was having Gazprom set the stage for deep relationships with the Kazakh and Central Asian gas industries. At the time, Mashkevich and the rest of the “Trio” came under investigation by Belgian authorities for money laundering related to gas deals in a longstanding case that was eventually settled. Mashkevich was also a dominant player in aluminum, and orchestrated a huge deal with 32.) Deripaska in 2004.
Jumping to 9.) Birshtein’s son-in-law 15.) Shnaider: by 2001, he, along with his partner, had acquired a 93 percent stake in Ukraine’s Zaporizhstal steel mill for some $70 million; he managed to do this at a time when steel was Ukraine’s biggest industry, accounting for about 25% of the country’s GDP, and by 2006, Shnaider was turning down a $1.2 billion offer for the mill.
There is another set of Ukrainian business dealings that are of interest to our narrative here for multiple reasons. Let us return to 19.) Topolov, who ran into problems, along with 21.) Artemenko, with a money laundering scheme involving Gazprom and a Kiev football team at the turn of the century, as previously described. Topolov had a “longtime” business partner named 35.) Alex Oronov, whose daughter, 36.) Oksana (Oxana) Oronov Cohen, was at this point married to 37.) Bryan Cohen. And Bryan was brother to 38.) Michael Cohen (also married to a Ukrainian), whose uncle ran a catering establishment once popular with the Russian mafia. Before his rise, Michael was a personal injury lawyer who also ran a taxi business. He helped run a failed casino boat business in Florida that ended in dozens of lawsuits and whose lawyer, David Goldstein, was well-connected to the mob. One of Cohen’s major partners, Ukrainian Arkady Vaygensberg, ran another casino, and among the managers were 39.) Tatiana Varzar and her husband Michael Varzar; Michael had served prison for mob-related activity, while Tatiana was a Russian immigrant and a pillar of the Russian immigrant community in America who ran nightclubs in Brooklyn and South Florida that are hubs for that community; her restaurant in Brighton Beach—an area notorious for its Russian mafia presence—burned down in highly suspicious circumstances in 2003; New York State found her guilty of tax evasion worth over $230,000 for the years 2004-2006; and 1.) TRUMP himself is known to have patronized one of her clubs in Florida, while she also opened a catering service in one of his Florida properties.
Back to 38.) Michael Cohen: Beginning in 2001, he started buying sets of apartments in multiple TRUMP properties, got his family to buy TRUMP condos as well, and was a big fan of TRUMP, having read his The Art of the Deal twice. As is generally the case with TRUMP, he warmed up to an admirer and brought Cohen in to help with a dispute he was having in 2006 with some of the owners in one of his buildings. Cohen was so helpful that TRUMP quickly brought him on officially as a key advisor, giving him an office close to his own inside I.) Trump Tower, and he has been with TRUMP ever since. Also at this time, Michael and 37.) Bryan joined Bryan’s father-in-law, 35.) Oronov, in a Ukrainian ethanol business venture, one in which 3.) MOGILEVICH-linked 19.) Topolov—now a powerful Ukrainian politician—was Oronov’s co-partner; in 2006, the Cohen brothers tried to get Americans to invest in building a factory for the business and failed to do so (but they met Topolov in the process), but others funded the investment to the tune of millions, which is rather strange considering no ethanol was ever produced by the ensuing factory.
38.) Michael wouldgo on to be an important public face of 1.) TRUMP’s presidential campaign (remember the infamous “Says who?” incident?, and two days after it, Cohen’s vehement denials were shown to be hollow) and was named in a partially unverified dossier compiled by ex-British MI6 intelligence official Christopher Steele as having met one or more Russian officials in Prague during the 2016 campaign season to discuss the Russian hacking efforts against TRUMP’s opponents. Cohen would also carry out unofficial diplomacy for TRUMP after he was inaugurated president: 38.) Cohen teamed up with 8.) SATER (whose relationship with TRUMP had already mushroomed, as noted below) and 21.) Artemenko in a meeting in Manhattan organized by none other than 35.) Oronov, who was also a major “partner, mentor, teacher and friend” to Artemenko, as Artemenko described him one month later, this March, after Oronov had mysteriously died. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss a “peace” plan for Ukraine with support from senior 3.) PUTIN aides, one that would cede to Russia official control over Crimea for a 50 or 100-year “lease.” At the meeting were also discussed ways to undermine Ukraine’s current anti-PUTIN president, Petro Poroshenko. Cohen personally delivered the proposal to National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, shortly before Flynn resigned because of his own Russian entanglements.
Going back to the ethanol venture, it is important to remember that 35.) Oronov’s partner 19.) Topolov had strong ties to 3.) MOGILEVICH and was already linked to a money-laundering scheme involving Gazprom, and that when 38.) Michael and 37.) Bryan Cohen met Topolov, MOGILEVICH was actively trying to launder billions involving Gazprom as part of his Ukraine/Eurasian gas scheme; at the very least, the money involved in the ethanol venture and all profits Michael made from it—including any he may have invested in TRUMP properties—need to be traced, if possible.
As for all the gas scheme money going to fuel the rise of 28.) Yanukovych and the Party of Regions, his now extremely well-funded Party was winning more and more seats under 29.) MANAFORT’s leadership, taking power away from pro-Western, pro-US politicians. This did not sit well with the pro-Western Yulia Tymoshenko, who rose to be Ukraine’s Prime Minister in 2007 and directed her oversight powers against her rivals Yanukovych and 17.) Firtash, trying to close off the spigot of corrupt Russian money and influence that was twisting her country’s political system. With her using her office to fight this scheme, laundering its funds became even more integral to said scheme’s success, and anyone doing business with its perpetrators could have been involved, knowingly or not.
29.) MANAFORT and 31.) Gates were also personally involved in laundering money as part of this overall gas scheme through several deals in 2008 involving Manhattanproperties, one involving the b.) Drake Hotel and another the c.) St. John’s Terminal. These deals would never be finalized, but would easily serve their main purpose of laundering money away from Ukrainian and other authorities, and MANAFORT may even have engaged in additional money laundering, which may have included his cash purchase of a multi-million I.) Trump Tower apartment in 2006.
In fact, those Manhattan money laundering scams fit a pattern of transactions that included other shady deals that exploited lax regulations in the U.S. and Canadian real estate markets and that involved 1.) TRUMP and Russians at a time when he was finding other investors and investment hard to come by. As I have noted before, by the mid-2000s, TRUMP had been abandoned by every major Wall Street bank as an unreliable and difficult partner, and was hurting for money, especially after he had to declare a bankruptcy for one of his businesses in 2004; the one exception to the Wall Street bank boycott was Deutsche Bank, which would later be involved in massive Russian money laundering scandals (see below).
By 2008, 40.) Donald Trump Jr. was able to publicly remark that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets” and that “we [the Trump Organization] see a lot of money pouring in from Russia;” yes, this was a time when TRUMP was aggressively courting Russian business.
Apart from the aforementioned 5.) Bogatin, 6.) Ivankov, and 8.) SATER from before the 2000s, other notables as far as our tale is concerned later rented apartments from TRUMP: 41.) Vasily Salygin, who would later become an official in Ukraine’s Party of Regions at the same time 29.) MANAFORT was advising it, would buy an apartment in New York City’s IX.) Trump World Tower in a deal orchestrated by another Ukrainian, 42.) Semyon “Sam” Kislin, who had done business with Trump decades earlier.
In fact, a report from Reuters from March noted nearly $100 million was invested by Russians (some “politically connected” elites) in seven Trump properties in South Florida, and that over a third of the units in the seven properties were owned by LLCs often designed to mask their owners’ identities.
Over part of the last decade, 43.) Igor Zorin, a Russian government official, once owned three units in Trump Palace in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, valued at some $5.4 million, which, with his modest government salary, screams money laundering; two were likely paid for in cash and one unit was mysteriously transferred to him by former F.S.B. intelligence officer 44.) Svyatoslav Mangushev, who does business with Zorin and who helped found a Russian biker group named after Russian Spetsnaz special forces and that was trying to associate with a PUTIN-linked biker group active in hostilities in Ukraine known as the Night Wolves and subject to U.S. government sanctions; Zorin seems to have transferred that condo to one of Mangushev’s relatives for $1.5 million, and Mangushev was arrested for beating his wife in 2014, though charges were later dropped.
Other deals were far more complex, far more scandalous, and involved TRUMP far more directly; here we get into the next phase of 1.) DONALD TRUMP’s relationship with 8.) FELIX SATER, of multiple deals with Sater’s company, Bayrock, which I have discussed in great detail before.
TRUMP had been acquainted with 45.) Tamir Sapir, from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, who had decades ago established ties to numerous important Soviet officials after immigrating to the U.S., who may have very well (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), whose sources of his extremely unlikely and massive wealth had long been objects of rumor-fueled suspicion, and whose former business partner had pled guilty to racketeering conspiracy charges spanning 13 years with the Gambino crime family. Sapir had done some business with 1.) TRUMP decades ago, selling him some 200 televisions with then-business partner 42.) Kislin. By the 2000s, Sapir would own a $5 million apartment in I.) Trump Tower and TRUMP would call Sapir and his family “great friends.”
It was 45.) Sapir who introduced 1.) TRUMP to Bayrock, ostensibly a real-estate firm led by 46.) Tevfik Arif, an ex-Soviet government official from Kazakhstan whose rise to fortune is at least somewhat questionable, where 8.) SATER was then Chief Operating Officer and eventually the dominant force within Bayrock, the office of which was even in I.) Trump Tower itself. SATER repeatedly directly partnered with Trump throughout this period, trying to help him land real estate deals in Moscow, even showing 47.) Ivanka Trump and 40.) Donald Trump Jr. around the city in 2006 and introducing the Trumps to influential Russians. None of these potential Moscow deals ever went through, but some spectacularly scandalous deals did go further in the U.S.
One of Bayrock’s partnerships with TRUMP in Fort Lauderdale was originally conceived of as V.) the Trump International Beach Club; an initial $2 million in capital was provided by 46.) Arif in 2003, and from that point, 8.) SATER and Arif conned a friend of Arif’s who was also SATER’s landlord, Elizabeth Thieriot, lying about the value of the club, hiding their own investment in the project, and convincing her to provide a $1 million investment for a mere 4% of the Club, 12 times what they had paid for that percentage and allowing them to make a 1,125% profit on her investment; they illegally labeled the investment a loan to avoid paying taxes on it and were using their fraud to hide skimming $1 million off the top; on top of that, when there was income finally generated in 2005, they defrauded their partner Thieriot of her rightful share; eventually Theiriot figured out some of what was going on and sued her scammers in court in 2006, and they pulled similar scams on other investors/members in the Club. The project was apparently eventually reconceived of as the Trump Las Olas Beach Resort, but was suspended in a declining market by TRUMP himself in October 2007.
Bayrock’s most famous partnership with 1.) TRUMP was an infamous deal to develop a SoHo property in Manhattan. The deal was concocted in 2006 by TRUMP, 8.) SATER, 46.) Arif, and 45.) Sapir. In a move specifically approved by Trump, it turns out that the SoHo deal had a significant portion of its SATER/Arif facilitated financing—some $50 million for it and three other projects—flow from a firm in Iceland—FL Group—linked to the Panama Papers revelations and apparently a hub for money of wealthy Russians “in favor with Putin.” Financing for these projects was also secured from 13.) Mashkevich, whom we may recall from earlier: was connected to 9.) Birshtein, 15.) Shnaider, and possibly 3.) MOGILEVICH through his work at Seabeco, had a history of money laundering related to gas deals, and had done business with Gazprom and 32.) Deripaska. Besides the above financing, some of the transactions involving the property were clearly carried out by shell corporations for the purpose of laundering money and from which Trump profited. Specifically, there was investment for the purpose of money laundering linked to Mashkevich involving the family of prominent Kazakh politician 48.) Viktor Khrapunov. Furthermore, the III.) Trump SoHo deal was structured to cheat authorities out of tens of millions in taxes, as the investments were illegally set up as loans to avoid paying hefty taxes on them, loans that would also give FL Group a big chunk of theoretical future profits over time. In the end, the deal went terribly for 1.) TRUMP, who was sued for fraud along with his children 49.) Eric Trump and 47.) Ivanka, who had inflated the level of interest in order to attract buyers, and in a 2011 settlement, Trump refunded 90% of the deposits for the building’s condos; the property went into foreclosure in 2014.
Even as construction on Trump SoHo began in 2007, a second of the TRUMP/Bayrock projects with the FL Group financing was rising in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; this one, the IV.) Trump International Hotel & Tower, would also result in disaster and lead to over a dozen lawsuits, with over 100 condo buyers suing for $7.8 million. The project was supposed to have been completed by the end of 2007 but fell way behind schedule; 8.) SATER and his Bayrock partners secretly and seemingly cashed out their stakes in this project and the three FL Group-linked others—including the SoHo project—in an arrangement made with FL Group for $50 million, equal to the initial “investment”/”loan.” 1.) TRUMP eventually pulled his name from the project, and when its buyers learned this in May, 2009, this only increased their outrage and added to lawsuits already in motion accusing TRUMP and Bayrock of fraud. As in the SoHo deal, confidential settlements, this time with dozens of buyers, ensued, and TRUMP refused to accept any responsibility, blaming the problems on the economic crises. Florida courts declined to rule that TRUMP or his partners had committed fraud, including a state appeals court just last year. The project finished years late, cost some $200 million, and was eventually sold for merely $115 million at a foreclosure auction. And while the evidence of money laundering in this case is not as explicit or solid as the information publicly reported on in the SoHo deal, it is still a similarly structured deal with the same partners that led to a similarly dubious result, making it more likely, not less, that similar laundering was taking place.
A third deal among the four which received FL Group financing was a failed project that never even got off the ground in Phoenix, Arizona. 1.) TRUMP began eyeing the Camelback area of Phoenix, Arizona, for a luxury residential tower back in late in 2003, a project similar to the others; Trump’s team, and then TRUMP himself, met with the mayor, who wasn’t impressed with TRUMP, and at a meeting in January, 2005, when plans were unveiled, local residents showed up to argue against the development, yet by September, the appropriate city bodies had approved the plans. It seems 8.) SATER’s people organized intimidation, bribery, and deception as tactics to deter residents from gathering enough signatures to force a public referendum that could have overridden the city bodies’ approval; under this pressure, the city council voted to reverse its decision and pressed the developers and the neighborhood association to reach a compromise, at which point TRUMP himself abandoned the project, not wanting to be part of anything that would be scaled down any further in scope and ambition. Ernie Mennes, the owner of the VI.) Camelback propertywho had gone into a partnership with the Bayrock/TRUMP developers, sued Bayrock in 2007 in federal court, accusing SATER of both threatening to “cut off his legs and leave him ‘dead in the trunk of his car’” and of stealing money from the project. The judge oversaw a settlement and the case was sealed, likely because of SATER’s special relationship with the government. This property was part of the $50 million pseudo-offloading to Iceland’s FL Group, and by June of 2009, Bayrock was relieved of the property, which it had left $36 million in debt, when it was “sold out from under” the company at a trustee auction for a mere $10 million.
The final in the group of four projects of Bayrock tied to the $50 million “investment” of FL Group was a.) a Waterpointe property in Queens that apparently did not involve TRUMP beyond his approval of the FL Group financing but is still illustrative of the rest of their deals. Bayrock bought the property in 2008 for $25 million, but the soil was contaminated and had to be replaced, which Bayrock did with other soil that was even more contaminated and thus was fined $150,000 for doing so; when Bayrock defaulted on a loan in 2011, the lender took over Waterpointe and sold it for roughly $11 million, less than half what Bayrock had paid for it.
As for FL Group, it failed in spectacularly 2008, along with Iceland’s other major banks/funds and many others in the world during the great global financial meltdown.
In a lawsuit filed with the NY State Supreme Court in May of 2013 rising from a process that began in 2008 in Delaware, former business partners of SATER’s at Bayrock—Jody Kriss and Michael Ejekam—sued 8.) SATER and his accomplices for damages and nonpayment related to SATER’s hiding of his past and his use of Bayrock primarily as a criminal organization for criminal activities, especially money laundering and fraud; in this suit, 1.) DONALD and 47.) Ivanka Trump and the Trump Organization are named as defendants and the federal government is accused of illegally concealing SATER’s past and crimes in a way that defrauded previous victims from his 1998 Wall Street scam—including Holocaust Survivors—and subsequent victims of his other schemes discussed above of many millions in restitution. The NY State Supreme Court removed the Trumps and their Organization from the suit; they had been the lowest levels of defendants and the plaintiffs had only sought declaratory relief in regards to them, i.e., they asked the court to determine what liability, if any, the Trumps had in regards to the case, and they were removed “without prejudice,” meaning that the removal was in no way a comment on their guilt, responsibility, or innocence and that the plaintiffs were free to sue them on the same grounds in the future. A version of the lawsuit is still an ongoing case in federal court.
For the same earlier-discussed reasons that it would be a smart bet to consider it likely that 3.) MOGILEVICH was linked to SATER’s 1998 scam, we can also make the same bet in regards to the Bayrock deals with 1.) TRUMP but for several additional reasons, namely that these deals were going down at a time when 3.) MOGILEVICH and his people involved in the Ukraine gas plot(including 29.) MANAFORT, who had his own history with Trump) were eager to launder billions of dollars out of Ukraine as part of that scheme and at a time when they were facing increased scrutiny from Prime Minister Tymoshenkoand her allies in the Ukrainian government; under such conditions, why wouldn’tMOGILEVICH reach out to SATER, who had: experience in real estate and laundering money, such a close alleged family connection in his father, his father’s penchant for organized crime, and the protection of the U.S. Government? It was also clear at this point that Trump and the people around him were hardly rigorous vetters, let alone eager to turn down deals coming in from people with suspicious business practices and questionable, even criminal pasts, so selecting Trump as either an unwitting or even willing conduit for money that needed to be laundered was pretty much a no-brainer, especially since his playboy celebrity status made it much easier to attract additional partners (or dupes).
What is even more incriminating for 1.) TRUMP is that after 8.) SATER left Bayrock in 2008, none of this stopped him from being brought into the Trump Organization in 2010 as a “SENIOR ADVISOR TO DONALD TRUMP” even after TRUMP was made aware of SATER’s criminal past, and circumstantial evidence points to SATER still being connected to the Russian mafia. For his part, Trump has issued his typically contradictory and slippery statements—more aptly called lies—in regards to these dealings and, in particular, his relationship to SATER, with TRUMP lying repeatedly about it and his ties to Bayrock in an attempt to falsely minimize them. And there is no distancing TRUMP from Bayrock: one of Bayrock’s flagship presentations from as late as 2008 lists three of the Trump-named projects discussed above before all others, lists the Trump Organization as its first “strategic partner” (followed by FL Group), and lists DONALD TRUMP as its first “reference” and “I.) Trump Tower” in New York as its address.
It was also recently discovered this March that 8.) SATER owns three shell companies—Global Habitat Solutions (GHS), United Biofuels Company LLC, and Sands Point Partners GP LLC—that are apparent fakes that “sell no products and have no customers,” ideal for being used to launder money; GHS had collaborated with another company named Titan Atlas in promoting itself, a company co-founded by 40.) Donald Trump Jr. and in which Trump Jr. also invested; SATER used promotional images from Titan Atlas’ website for GHS’s own after Trump Jr. introduced him to Titan Atlas’ other co-founder, Jeremy Blackburn (with an unsurprisingly troubled corporate past), and Titan is now owned by another company controlled by the Trump Organization, run by Trump Jr. since his father became president.
8). SATER even donated the maximum amount allowed to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign before he was selected to help run back-channel Ukrainian “diplomacy” in 2017, as mentioned before. He is also currently engaged in a nasty fight with 46.) Arif over legal fees, and threatened to reveal dirt both about Arif’s relationship with 8.) TRUMP (“The headlines will be, ‘The Kazakh Gangster and President Trump,’” wrote SATER) and Arif’s ties to organized crime.
As for 46.) Arif, he was arrested in Turkey in September 2010 when he was at a sex party with both 13.) Mashkevich and apparently underage girls on board a yacht (which had been once belonged to none other than Atatürk) under suspicion of running a complex prostitution and human trafficking ring in a scheme of which it seems Mashkevich was also a part, though Arif was later acquitted under mysterious circumstances and Mashkevich was not charged.
Another major scandalous deal would involve a major property development in Toronto. But to understand this, we must first go back to Ukraine, where we left 15.) Shnaider (son-in-law of 9.) Birshtein,who had in the past partnered closely with 3.) MOGILEVICH, other Russian/Ukrainian mafia figures, and also with 13.) Mashkevich), in charge of Ukraine’s huge Zaporizhstal steel mill. In 2007, Shnaider and 1.) TRUMP began building the VII.) Trump International Hotel and Tower, Toronto. And in 2008, FL Group, interestingly, loans Shnaider €45.8 million for a yacht. After investors were hit hard during the ensuing global financial crises, Shnaider sought to sell his company’s near-total stake in Zaporizhstal to help finance his TRUMP project, which he did in 2010 for some $850 million through five shell companies to an ?.) unknown Russian buyer acting on behalf of the Russian government, who, in turn, was funded by the Russian state-run bank VEB (Vnesheconombank), whose chairman of its board at that time was none other than 2.)PUTIN. Of course, this fit into PUTIN’s scheme of trying to extend Russian influence over Ukraine’s industry and natural resources in tandem with the likes of 17.) Firtash and 30.) Akhmetov. And, like the other deals just discussed, it fell into the same pattern of coming apart amid scandal and lawsuits from dozens of investors saying they were misled and who are suing both 1.) TRUMP and 15.) Shnaider. Late in 2016, the property was placed into bankruptcy receivership, and just last month Trump’s stake in the project was totally bought out, his name taken off the building about a week ago. Akhmetov had also apparently narrowly missed out on acquiring Zaporizhstal from Shnaider back in 2010, but was able to gain majority ownership in July, 2011, when he was a sitting member of Ukraine’s parliament with the Party of Regions; Akhmetov, though, now seems caught in the middle of the war in Ukraine, with Zaporizhstal itself becoming a flashpoint.
One must wonder why FL Group and their very likely Russian investors and VEB were so eager to invest so much in these projects, and if it was more of an excuse to launder money, rather than an actual investment, as was the case with the Manhattan deals led by 29.) MANAFORT and aided by 31.) Gates for 3.) MOGILEVICH, 17.) Firtash, and 28.) Yanukovych; that MANAFORT Manhattan model would seem to be repeated by Bayrock again and again in deals involving 1.) TRUMP and seems also to fit the mold of 15.) Shnaider’s ill-fated venture, even if his intent may be less suspect.
Actually, the performance of these partners was so bad, one would not be faulted for concluding they cared little about performance. And that could be right on the mark: it seems, if anything, these schemes were designed to move large amounts of money, often Russian-tied, into temporary projects that never came to fruition and that would benefit 2.) SATER, 46.) Arif, 1.) and/or TRUMP, but rarely the partners they recruited outside their circle; it seems these other swindled partners and especially TRUMP would lend an air of respectability to clearly criminal schemes. When you look at these deals as if their primary impetus was for RICO money laundering (in the complaint against Bayrock, the word “launder” or one of its derivatives appears 39 times), these deals that were once seemingly mind-bogglingly stupid and miserably executed all of a sudden make a lot of sense. Furthermore, since FL Group was a stupendously bad performer even by the standards of the 2008 financial crisis, and given its close ties to Kremlin-connected Russian money, one could also be forgiven for thinking that they were acting more out of Kremlin interests than business ones.
Taken together, these examples amount to a clear pattern of catastrophic losses, colossal mismanagement, gross negligence, and stupendous incompetence of 1.) TRUMP and his partners at best; he might have been aware of some of what was going on and turned a willful blind eye or he might have been in on it, and though there is no evidence to support this other than his considerable and risky efforts to obstruct investigations into these dealings, the sheer number of them is enough to suggest some level of complicity on TRUMP’s part personally, the only other reasonable explanation being that he is a gigantic fool.
There is yet another case of Russian money laundering would be tied to 1.) TRUMP, albeit in different ways. The roots of the case go back over a decade to Russia, and for a thrilling read on its origins, you can pick up Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder and One Man’s Fight for Justice, by Bill Browder. Browder was running the wildly successful Hermitage Capital Management in Russia throughout the late 1990s and the 2000s. But when he fell out of favor with the Russian Government for trying to take on the corrupt system of doing business in Putin’s Russia, 2.) PUTIN started playing hardball, having Browder deported in late 2005 through the hands of the F.S.B. and labeling Browder, essentially, an enemy of the Russian state. In 2007, Hermitage’s Moscow offices were raided, one of its employees roughed-up; soon after, Browder’s intrepid lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, eventually helped to uncover a massive $230 million tax refund fraud scheme in Russia, the largest tax scam in Russian history and one carried out through collusion between senior Russian government officials and members of the Russian mafia. Together, they conspired to use profitable companies like Browder’s by seizing control of them on false legal pretexts, throwing a bunch of fake lawsuits at them, and then erasing the companies’ profits from the books and claiming the taxes those companies had paid as a refund since the profits generating those taxes had magically disappeared.
Naturally, it made sense for the culprits to launder this money in order to hide it, and that they did; the U.S. government was able to find enough evidence to accuse a Cyprus-based apparent real estate company Prevezon Holdings of being one of the beneficiaries of the $230 million Russian tax scheme. In charges filed by then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara in a lengthy complaint submitted in September, 2013 (final amended complaint here), the U.S. Government affirmed Magnitsky’s findings and accused Prevezon of receiving, through a convoluted series of transactions involving shell companies through 2007-2008, at least (roughly) $2 million (possibly more) of the $230 million of Russian scam money related to what Magnitsky had uncovered, some of which Prevezon then laundered through the purchase of luxury Manhattan real estate properties.
If the name Preet Bharara sounds familiar, it should: he was fired by TRUMP this March, and rather controversially, as TRUMP had told Bharara that he would not be firing him. As I have written before, a number of past, current and potential cases involving Trump fell, fall, and would fall under Bharara’s jurisdiction, and Bharara had a solid history of going after corporate crime, the Russian mafia, and Russian government operatives—including a whole spy ring—while a U.S. Attorney, and that history involved the arrest of Russian mobsters in I.) Trump Tower. In this case, 3.) MOGILEVICH-associated Russian mafia boss and apparent all-around celebrity 50.) Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov was overseeing an illegal high-stakes international gambling ring for wealthy clientele that in part operated out of I.) Trump Tower in New York. Among other prolific activities, Tokhtakhounov had gained notoriety for apparently fixing 2002 Olympic ice skating matches to help get a gold medal for a fellow Russian, as well as one for a pair of French skaters in exchange for a French visa, but was soon after in Russia and safe from prosecution. The gambling ring connected to Trump Tower, run by two of his capos, 51.) Vadim Trincher and 52.) Anatoly Golubchik, was popular with Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs in both Russia and Ukraine, and besides the gambling ring, they also engaged in some $100 million in money laundering. Trincher himself in 2009 bought an apartment in Trump Tower just below an apartment owned by 1.) TRUMP himself, in which he nearly held a fundraiser for Newt Gingrich (later enthusiastic TRUMP supporter) two years later, but had to cancel because of a mold problem and a water leak; it was from this apartment that Trincher ran a branch of said gambling ring. Another linked gambling/laundering ring was run by one of Trincher’s sons, who owned an entire floor in Trump tower, and another son of Trincher’s ran multiple illegal poker rooms throughout New York City. 52.) Golubchik owned a unit in a TRUMP building in Florida, where 53.) Michael Sall, a Russian mobster in the very same outfit, also owned a unit. An indictment naming 50.) Tokhtakhounov and his people was filed by Bharara that led to a 2013 raid on 51.) Trincher’s I.) Trump Tower apartment, and arrests made there and elsewhere nabbed 29 suspects. A mere seven months after he was indicted, a nonchalant Tokhtakhounov was a red-carpet VIP guest at 1.) TRUMP’s 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow, a city where, to this day, he is regularly seen at trendy public places.
Going back to Magnitsky, he was arrested for his efforts on trumped-up charges, and, once in custody, was beaten by guards and denied medical care in Russian prison, dying from his wounds and deliberate lack of medical attention in 2009. Magnitsky’s death turned Browder into a crusader to expose 2.) PUTIN and his operatives and to honor Magnitsky’s memory; in 2012, when a Russian whistleblower named Alexander Perepilichnyy who had already moved to the UK to escape persecution in Russia began working with Browder to help, he mysteriously died while jogging near his home, almost certainly the victim of a Kremlin operation, with an investigation into his death still underway. This mirrored the death and murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former K.G.B./F.S.B. operative who turned on PUTIN and the Kremlin when he began speaking out against them and exposing some of their dirty deeds; in particular, he elaborated on tape about 2.) PUTIN’s “good relationship”with 3.) MOGILEVICH, about whom Litvinenko “knew too much;” because of this, in part, he was poisoned by radioactive polonium-210 by Kremlin agents in November 2006 and died later that same month; he and Perepilichnyy are just two of fourteen suspected hits by Russian government operatives on UK soil in recent years alone.
Browder bravely continued his efforts by pushing the U.S. Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act in 2012, allowing for harsher punishments and sanctions of Russian officials involved in these crimes, and pushing the EU to pass a similar law in 2014. This infuriated 2.) PUTIN, and when the U.S. applied sanctions to dozens of Russians under the authority of the new law in 2013, he responded by banning Americans from adopting Russian children and barring 18 U.S. current and former officials, including Bharara. And among those who would end up helping Bharara with his case against Prevezon’s money laundering was Browder. The lawyer working against the Kremlin on behalf of Magnitsky’s family, Nikolai Gorokhov, was thrown out of his fourth-story Moscow apartment window on March 21st of this year, just one day before a major Russian court appearance concerning the same crimes (such “accidents” are not uncommon with Putin critics); Gorokhov suffered severe head injuries, but has since vowed to fight on; he had provided key evidence for Bharara’s prosecution team and was set to be a star witness in the trial that was to start May 15th. Unsurprisingly, Bharara and his team were actually very concerned that something exactly like this would happen to Gorokhov and submitted a formal letter expressing that concern to the presiding judge back in October 2015.
Keeping all this I mind, I noted at the time (in a piece censored in Russia!) that it was odd that Bharara’s successor had chosen, just two months after Bharara’s firing and not even three full days before the trial would have started, to settle with Prevezon for a small fine and no admission of wrongdoing; I didn’t (and don’t) question his motives, but I did and still do want to know the exact reasons why that was the decision and if anyone in the Trump Administration pressured or suggested this move when, after people had been murdered or nearly murdered by Kremlin agents to obstruct this investigation and related ones, it is hard to imagine Bharara settling after so much effort, cost, blood, and risk.
There is also the number of related “coincidences” that involve the Prevezon case that get to be a bit astounding: the essential head of Prevezon is 54.) Denis Katsyv, the son of 55.) Petr (Pyotr) Katsyv, a former Russian government minister who currently helps to run Russia’s state-owned Russian Railways, which until recently was led by 56.) Vladimir Yakunin, a close PUTIN ally with a history of corruption who began publicly backing TRUMP’s presidential candidacy since at least June 2016; Yakunin and Petr Katsyv ran Russian Railways together for about a year. 56.) Yakunin had also partnered with 54.) Denis Katsyv and Republican Congressman 57.) Dana Rohrbacher in 2016 to lobby against a stronger version of the Magnitsky Act under consideration that would expand to cover any government officials around the world involved in human rights abuses, with this version known as Global Magnitsky; the efforts to fight it included promoting a controversial “documentary” trashing Magnitsky and Browder and accusing them of orchestrating the tax fraud, which is Russia’s official version of who is responsible for the $230 million fleecing of Russian taxpayers. Rohrbacher was even specifically given instructions from the office of Russia’s Prosecutor General 58.) Yury (Yuri) Chaika, a point-man for the Kremlin’s anti-Magnitsky/Browder efforts, as to how to proceed in these tasks. Rohrbacher also met this May with an old Soviet military counterintelligence officer-turned 1.) PUTIN lobbyist named 59.) Rinat Akhmetshin (not to be confused with 30.) Rinat Akhmetov) and specifically discussed the Prevezon case with him; the two had also worked with 54.) Katsyv on opposing Global Magnitsky. Just a few days ago, Browder actually filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) against 57.) Rohrbacher and one of his staffers, Paul Behrends, for violations of the Magnitsky Act.
Additionally, one of the Katsyv family/Prevezon lawyers was a woman named 60.) Natalia Veselnitskaya, who is very active as an anti-Magnitsky lobbyist and who has strong ties to the Russian government, including having the F.S.B as a client, a friendship with 58.) Chaika, and a former marriage to 61.) Alexander Mitusov, who was big in Russian law enforcement circles before serving as deputy to 55.) Petr Katsyv. When Veselnitskaya had that infamous June, 2016, meeting with 40.) Donald Trump Jr., then-TRUMP-campaign-manager-29.) MANAFORT, and 62.) Jared Kushner (1.) TRUMP’s son-in-law and top advisor and 47.) Ivanka’s husband), it was Chaika who seems to have provided the supposed information on Hillary Clinton that Veselnitskaya was offering; she was also accompanied by 59.) Akhmetshin and 63.) Ike Kaveladze, from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, who has been linked by a U.S. congressional investigation to major money laundering efforts from a few decades ago. And literally just before that meeting, 60.) Veselnitskaya was at a courthouse in New York for legal proceedings of the Prevezon case. Trump Jr. repeatedly lied about the meeting with Veselnitskaya, and both MANAFORT and Kushner failed to previously mention the meeting in interviews and/or disclosure forms. The meeting itself arose from 1.) TRUMP’s relationships with Russian real estate oligarch 64.) Aras Agalarov and his son, pop star 65.) Aras Agalarov, who are close to 1.) PUTIN and who partnered with TRUMP to bring his Miss Universe Pageant to Moscow in 2013, with Emin’s publicist Rob Goldstone reaching out to Donald Jr. about the Veselnitskaya meeting.
Also of interest are that 62.) Kushner has notable contacts with both Deutsche Bank and VEB (the two banks have a “cooperation agreement” with each other)¸ as well with famous Israel diamond oligarch from the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan 66.) Lev Leviev.
Leviev is close to and apparently friends with 2.) PUTIN and was also close with 45.) Sapir and his family: Leviev’s “right-hand man,” 67.) Rotem Rosen, married Sapir’s daughter, 68.) Zina Sapir, in 2007; the wedding was held at 1.) TRUMP’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, hosted by TRUMP himself; the next year, TRUMP and 62.) Kushner attended the couple’s bris for their newborn. Leviev and Russian aluminum oligarch 69.) Roman Abramovich were two of the world’s largest supporters of the Jewish organization Chabad and had cooperated in helping 1.) PUTIN gain influence over Russia’s Jewish community, with Abramovich being particularly close to PUTIN, having gifted PUTIN a $35 million yacht and even helping PUTIN in his rise to power, apparently being the first to recommend PUTIN to Boris Yeltsin as a successor. Abramovich himself rose to fortune in part through shady dealings with Russia’s underworld, his relationship with PUTIN, and the bloody “aluminum wars” of post-Soviet Russia. He is also close with and a major business partner of PUTIN-linked 32.) Deripaska, who came out even more on top after the “aluminum wars.” Not incidentally, when Litvinenko was assassinated in the UK in 2006, he was helping both British and Spanish intelligence look into both money laundering and organized crime ties surrounding Abramovich. 47.) Ivanka Trump and 62.) Kushner would marry in 2009, and while she would become very close with 70.) Dasha Zhukova, 69.) Abramovich’s wife, during this period, Kushner would cultivate ties to Leviev. Leviev, whose company Israel Africa Investments’ U.S. operations were registered as being at TRUMP’s II.) 40 Wall St. property, was a business partner of 54.) Katsyv through Prevezon, with Prevezon buying stakes in some of Leviev’s subsidiaries and Leviev selling to Prevezon some condos in Manhattan at d.) 20 Pine St., condos that the U.S. said Prevezon was using to launder the Magnitsky money; this would mean that PUTIN had allies in Katsyv and Leviev on BOTH sides of that transaction that was used for money laundering that helped the Russian government cover up a massive crime; both Prevezon’s stakes in Leviev’s subsidiaries and the condos Leviev sold to Prevezon were held by authorities while Prevezon was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s office until the settlement was reached a few months ago. Prevezon was also able to go through with the Magnitsky-related laundering partly because of $90 million in financing from Deutsche.
66.) Leviev and a partner company, Five Mile Capital, also sold 62.) Kushner a major piece of Manhattan real estate in May, 2015, for $296 million, one month before Trump announced his run for the presidency; the sale price was suspiciously below what Leviev had paid for it back in 2007, and Deutsche would provide Kushner a suspiciously generous $285 million loan a month before the 2016 presidential election as part of a refinancing effort for the property that amounted to $74 million more than what was paid for it; 62.) Kushner initially failed to disclose the loan when he joined the Trump Administration. When Leviev and Five Mile sold to Kushner in 2015, they were represented by Trump lawyer 71.) Marc Kasowitz’s firm, which also represents Russia’s largest state-owned bank, Sberbank and from which another firm partner, David Friedman, was chosen as the U.S. Ambassador to Israel and another partner, Edward McNally, is apparently under consideration to replace the fired Bharara. In fact, it seems Kasowtiz was personally instrumental in having 1.) TRUMP fire Bharara, with Kasowitz telling TRUMP “This guy is going to get you” and bragging to his friends about getting Bharara ousted. At the time, Bharara was said to be looking vigorously into Deutsche’s dealings, particularly those involving Russian money laundering.
Deutsche had been 1.)TRUMP’s sole major Wall Street lender for years, and has loaned TRUMP over $300 million since 2012, a sum that is still owed. This amount presented a major conflict of interest for the newly inaugurated President TRUMP in late January 2017, because Deutsche was under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) for orchestrating $10 billion in illegal fake trades from 2011-2015 that seem to have been part of a massive Russian money laundering scheme; U.S. and UK officials levied $630 million in massive fines against Deutsche at the end of January 2017, separate from DoJ’s investigation. Deutsche is also under pressure to allow an independent investigation into its TRUMP family accounts.
It was revealed just this March that Deutsche was also involved in another major laundering scam of Russian money for some $24 million, including the specific division that Trump owes $300 million, part of a massive global Russian laundering scheme with many banks involving $20-$80 billion from 2010-2014; among those involved in the scheme include Russian oligarchs and the F.S.B., and some of the money in the scheme was apparently being used to further PUTIN’s and Russia’s interests.
62.) Kushner had also met in December, 2016, with then-VEB Chairman 72.) Sergei (Sergey) Gorkov—a graduate of the F.S.B.’s academy—in New York, at a time when the Russian state-owned bank was under U.S. sanctions because of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, a meeting which, like the meeting with 60.) Veselnitskaya, the Deutsche loan, and many other things, he had initially failed to properly disclose; in his recent disclosure, Kushner noted “I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector;” relied, of course, does not mean he did not receive any Russian funds…
While many of TRUMP’s deals were falling apart and while Prevezon was laundering money from Russian’s massive tax scam, the MOGILEVICH-MANAORT-Firtash-led efforts in Ukraine to serve 28.) Yanukovych, his Party of Regions, and 2.) PUTIN were coming to fruition. Despite some success for Tymoshenko in cracking down on those efforts, early in 2010, Yanukovych won the presidential election, defeating Tymoshenko in the runoff, the culmination of years of work with 29.) MANAFORT and the whole gas scheme crew. Not long after, Tymoshenko lost her position as prime minister in a vote of no-confidence. Meanwhile, in the wake of his victory, Yanukovych worked to restore the gas scam and undo many of the Orange Revolution reforms. Most notably, in December, 2010, Tymoshenko was retroactively charged with abusing her power during her recent stint as prime minister, and, after a widely condemned (including by the U.S.) politically-motivated show trial, was sentenced to prison in October 2011.
29.) MANAFORT and 31.) Gates actually lobbied U.S. lawmakers on behalf of 28.) Yanukovych’s government from 2012-2014, defending the imprisonment of Tymoshenkoand trying to discredit her, as well as trying to improve the image of Yanukovych and Ukraine, lobbying paid in part by 30.) Akhmetov; they did this without disclosing their lobbying activities as required by U.S. law. But the spirited Tymoshenko would fight back; during her trial and from prison, she filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Manhattan in April 2011; in it she names 17.) Firtash, 29.) Manafort, 31.) Gates, 3.) MOGILEVICH, 28.) Yanukovych, and others, arguing that the proceeds from their crimes, including the Manhattan real estate scams, were used to harm her, resulting in her defeat and imprisonment. A fourth and final version of the suit was rejected in September, 2015, on largely jurisdictional grounds and that the higher-than-average RICO standards were not met, but in a longer ruling, it was noted that “the Court accepts as true the allegation that some of the money that passed through the U.S. Enterprise was ‘funneled back to Ukraine’ — albeit by unidentified actors — and somehow used as ‘financing’ for Tymoshenko’s ‘persecution.’”
Interestingly, after 28.) Yanukovych was ousted in the 2014 (Euro)Maidan protests—the grassroots reaction to the years of successful schemes described above—17.) Firtash fled Ukraine to Austria and is wanted by U.S. authorities for other crimes, but the U.S. is competing with Spain, which also wants to try Firtash; it would be very interesting to know just how hard the Trump Administration is trying to extradite Firtash.
In the end, 29.) MANAFORT came to run 1.) TRUMP’s campaign during the crucial stretch where TRUMP closed out the primaries, clinched the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, and began the general election against Clinton; he also brought with him 31.) Gates, who infamously ended up being in charge of Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention speech, which was largely plagiarized from a speech Michelle Obama gave at the 2008 Democratic National Convention; this was after both men had been working for years in Ukraine and on Russia-related work, and though both were forced to eventually resign from their Trump work because of these ties, both men seem to, one way or another, still have access to TRUMP. After advising two major Russian companies involved in the Ukraine gas scam, 33.) Carter Page was one of a handful of foreign policy advisors TRUMP was able to name in 2016, and Page, whose views are closely aligned with the Kremlin’s, was under a FISA-warrant FBI surveillance investigation, having had numerous meetings with Russian officials while attached to TRUMP’s campaign. That campaign was the most pro-Russian campaign of any major party nominee since the end of WWII, and the only changes that it insisted be made to the 2016 Republican Party Platform were to weaken statements of support for Ukraine in relation to its conflict with Russia. 38.) Michael Cohen and 71.) Marc Kasowitz, each with numerous ties to the issues in question, are both still representing TRUMP. And, since coming to power, the Trump Administration has pushed for policies favorable to Russia and PUTIN’s agenda, even when seemingly going against U.S. interests.
Taking a step back and knowing what we know about “the Brainy Don,” it seems that 3.)MOGILEVICH had been making moves to control Ukrainian gas with Gazprom and money laundering that could at least go back to the late 1990s with 19). Topolov and 21.) Artemenko and their Kiev football team and would seem to go back even earlier, which lends credibility to the idea that the 1995 Tel Aviv meeting hosted by 9.) Birshtein—in which he, MOGILEVICH, and other top Russian and Ukrainian gangsters met to discuss their Ukraine plans—was a catalyst for the events discussed above (you don’t put that many wanted men in one place at the same time except for something big). That big Ukraine scheme would unfold all while MOGILEVICH-linked mobsters were engaging TRUMP.
That is hardly to suggest that in 1995, a plot to install Trump in the White House was hatched. But it does seem that around then, a massive plot was hatched that came to pass over time in Ukraine, and that to some degree the machinery and personnel behind this plot devoted some of its collective energy to engaging TRUMP, laundering money through his businesses and, eventually, trying to infiltrate and/or manipulate and/or collude with him and/or some of his senior associates during his presidential campaign and/or later during his presidency.
We can be sure that Special Counsel Mueller is digging into all of this…
What’s important to keep in mind here is that viewing these components apart, you miss the real story; they must be seen as a whole, a massive series of related plots, part of something between an overall conspiracy and a targeted strategy in which Trump was a prime target along with Ukraine. In this light, the overall picture paints a dramatically darker, far more incriminating portrait that erases all doubt that something massive and nefarious was going on involving both Trump and Putin. Clearly, Trump is either breathtakingly stupid or is less stupid than that and is guilty of some degree of treason.
Yes, this is an overwhelming number of ties, deals, relationships, and criss-crossing threads, incredibly confusing and complex, not easy to understand or explain in a tweet or a soundbite; at first glance, it all sounds insane. Yes, the forces that prevailed in these plots bet not on our ability to be able to sift through the noise but on our ability to be consumed by it. Though initial skepticism would be a sensible responsible reaction to such a story and it takes a lot of effort to understand or explain it, the day we lose the ability to overcome these challenges to understand the truth is the day we lose our right to be respected as worthy of our free institutions, for the day we allow complexity to deter us from the path of truth-seeking is the day we surrender the very sovereignty of our minds and, in essence, our nation to those cynically betting on our laziness and credulity, whether agents of Putin’s Kremlin or our own agents of chaos, cynicism, disinformation, and misinformation.
Correction appended to note the alleged nature of the claim that Sater’s father was tied to Mogilevich- 11/30/2018
For some of the latest in Brian’s analysis putting related pieces together, see his eBook from late 2019, A Song of Gas and Politics: How Ukraine Is at the Center of Trump-Russia, or, Ukrainegate: A “New” Phase in the Trump-Russia Saga Made from Recycled Materials, available for Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook (preview here) and its related articles: Ukrainegate Proves the Media Has Learned Almost Nothing from 2016, The Untold Story of the Bidens and Burisma, and Time to Play Hardball with Russia
Also see my eBook, A Song of Gas and Politics: How Ukraine Is at the Center of Trump-Russia, or, Ukrainegate: A “New” Phase in the Trump-Russia Saga Made from Recycled Materials, available for Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook (preview here), and be sure to check out Brian’s new podcast!
If you appreciate Brian’s unique content, you can support him and his work by donating here
Feel free to share and repost this article on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. If you think your site or another would be a good place for this or would like to have Brian generate content for you, your site, or your organization, please do not hesitate to reach out to him!
Support Brian’s work by donating here
© 2017 Brian E. Frydenborg all rights reserved, permission required for republication, attributed quotations welcome