Trump tied to Dutch money-laundering scheme
We’re shocked – SHOCKED – to hear that Donald Trump may be associated with a money launderer! Okay, we’re not.
The American real estate development company Bayrock, through which Donald Trump constructed hotels and apartment complexes, used Dutch letter box companies in a network suspected of being involved in money laundering. A ZEMBLA investigation suggests that Bayrock siphoned off $1.5 million dollars by setting up a corporate structure in the Netherlands in 2007. In New York, Bayrock also stands accused of large-scale tax fraud.
This incriminating information could place Donald Trump in an extremely difficult position, claims attorney F. Oberlander, who is prosecuting Bayrock on behalf of the State of New York: “The maximum jail term would be 30 years. So you’re in really serious trouble.”
In 2005, Donald Trump became 18% owner of an hotel-condominium known as Trump SoHo. Bayrock, the other owner, is accused of perpetrating fraud on a grand scale through, among other things, Trump SoHo. According to US law, this means that Trump is jointly liable for Bayrock’s criminal activities. Oberlander concludes:
“Anybody running a business through a pattern of crime is guilty of racketeering. Anybody knowing what they’re doing and are helping is guilty of racketeering conspiracy. They go to jail.”
All Bayrock wants is to make clear to ZEMBLA that the Dutch corporate construction was established on the advice of an external legal counsel. ZEMBLA discovers that the firm in question is Bracewell & Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, and part owner of the law firm at the time, is also a Trump confidante.
ZEMBLA has access to correspondence between the law firm and the Dutch director of a trust company in Amsterdam, which leaves no doubt as to the ultimate beneficiary owners of the Dutch business construction: the director of Bayrock and the Khrapunov family from Kazakhstan.
Now where have we heard that name Khrapunov? Oh, right – we heard about them last year:
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.
As Mr Trump runs for the White House, the revelations raise questions about what steps his business takes to ensure that the funds that pour through it are clean.
Jennifer Shasky Calvery, then director of the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, warned in January that “corrupt foreign officials, or transnational criminals, may be using premium US real estate to secretly invest millions in dirty money”.
One former executive at a developer that worked with Mr Trump accused him of “wilful obliviousness” to the details of his partners’ dealings. But a spokesman for the Trump Organisation said it conducted “extensive” background checks on its partners, including hiring outside investigators.
One of those partners, Bayrock, has already been a source of controversy. Now the details of Bayrock’s association with the family of Viktor Khrapunov, a former Kazakh energy minister and ex-mayor of the city of Almaty, show it was connected to an alleged laundering scheme at the same time as it was collaborating with Mr Trump.
Lawyers for Almaty told a US court in March that Mr Khrapunov and his family “conspired to systematically loot hundreds of millions of dollars of public assets . . . and to launder their ill-gotten gains through a complex web of bank accounts and shell companies . . . particularly in the United States”.