Thursday, 13 July 2017
move along, no dons here
Somebody told me there’s a trail of Russian dealings literally right at Mr Trump's feet.
They said that it started when, back in 1987, a Russian bought five of Trump’s condos in Trump Tower in one go. He was a Russian named David Bogatin and worked for some Russian oligarchs.
Suspecting fake news, I looked it up. It turned out to be true and Mr Trump was even at the deal closure in person. Now it all happened when the old Soviet Union had broken apart and the Russian mafia were taking their rake-offs from Russian state companies, like oil and transport.
They needed somewhere to park money as well as a way to launder it. Trump was one of the first to permit confidential buyers of his building assets. He wouldn't know anything about the other back-story.
Curiously, it is also said that the same Bogatin was later convicted as a gasoline bootlegger. I checked this too and and indeed the FBI did take back his five condos which were being used both to hide assets and from money laundering. Oh well, we live and learn.
I remember times in Russia when I’d see the small scale end of the gasoline bootlegging, with literally trestle tables piled with cheap fuel on sale in the street.
Now to keep things interesting, it turns out that Bogatin’s brother was also dicey and part of a $150m stock scam, working for none other than Semion Mogilevich, a tip-top Russian mobster, at the time expanding his empire in New York.
There’s no direct connection to Trump in any of this, of course. If he happened to sell some condos to a Russian mobster, it could just as easily have been someone else making the deal.
Something similar emerged when Trump Tower then became the host for another Russian mobster. This time Vyachelsav Ivankov set up as Moglivich's enforcer in another anonymous condo in the Tower.
Fair enough, but that’s not all. It turns out that the entire floor below Trump became used for illicit gambling and money laundering. Eventually the FBI raided it. Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, ran this operation and the FBI identified him as another Russian mobster linked with Semion Mogilevich.
Just because it's the floor below Trump's in one of his towers doesn't prove any link.
It's about now that Alexander Litvinenko, pops up. He’s the Russian intelligence agent who defected to London and was murdered by allegedly Kremlin agents with tea laced with radioactive polonium. I strongly remember this because I was one of the people British Airways called up for having used the same plane seat that Litvinenko had used. The relevant piece here is that Litvinenko linked Mogilevich with Putin, saying they had a good relationship since around 1994.
So now it's three times there's been a Russian mobster using Trump's tower to conduct business and each time there's a link an FBI most wanted mobster who is also a good relation of Putin.
I know, it's all circumstantial and coincidental. It’s just unfortunate that Moglevich’s name comes up in the background of Trump deals. Surely these mobsters are just using Trump’s organisation as an unwitting patsy? And treating Trump property as a kind of home away from home?
The same probably for Trump’s Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, which was fined for money laundering under the auspices of Vyachelsav Ivankov. It was the biggest fine to that date, some $10 million, but could almost be regarded as a cost of doing business to the mobsters. Worse was Ivankov’s fate later, being gunned down in Moscow.
Oblivious to all of this, Trump's own business fortunes were struggling. At the end of the 1990s he owed billions of dollars and created that famous personal guarantee deficit of around $900 million, which became the basis of his ongoing tax write-downs "Because I'm smart", as he put it.
It was at the same time that Russia’s economy nose-dived and the oligarchs all needed to move money fast. A particular type of recipient became various lumps of Trump real estate, via Russian buyers and shell companies, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.
It’s all circumstantial and just unfortunate that these things have been happening around Trump’s properties.
And I doubt Trump even knows anything about any of it. Oh No. Very No.