Back in March, I wrote here about a great article in the New Yorker by Adam Davidson about Trump being involved with a fraudulent hotel in Azerbaijan, crippled with corruption and money laundering. Davidson has a new article just out, “Trump’s Business of Corruption.”
It’s actually very convoluted and a challenge to follow, with much of it laying out an intricate pattern of money laundering and corruption between Kazakhstan and the country of George, with Russian oligarchs. Trump comes into the story for doing a licensing deal with them for a Trump Tower Batumi of luxury condominiums, that makes no legitimate business sense, most notably because there are no luxury residences in the impoverished area. I skimmed a lot, but it’s fascinating. I'll provide a link to the full article below, but a few particularly striking passages stand out.
In this section below, Mukhtar Ablyazov is the son of the Kazakhstan dictactor, and the man in charge of a $250 million loan from the state-owned B.T.A. When he was about the charged with corruption, he fled the country with around $6 billion of the bank's money. (I also assume that the Michael Cohen referred to is the belligerent Trump lawyer who was to be the main administration spokesman on TV shows until he crashed and burned.) --
"In 2010, when a Trump Organization executive, Michael Cohen, began negotiating with the Silk Road Group about licensing Trump’s name for the Batumi tower, Ablyazov was facing eleven lawsuits in the U.K. The Kazakh government, which had indeed seized control of B.T.A. Bank, had sued him to reclaim ten billion dollars that he had allegedly siphoned out of the country. The Financial Times covered the case extensively, as did the Times, which described “a scheme by B.T.A.’s former chairman, Mukhtar Ablyazov, to direct between $8 billion and $12 billion worth of B.T.A. loans—about half of the bank’s loan book—to companies that he secretly controlled.” The article noted that Ablyazov was renting “a 15,000-square-foot mansion” in London.
"It would have taken only a Google search for the Trump Organization to discover that the Silk Road Group had received much of its funding from B.T.A. Bank, which, at the time of the Batumi deal, was mired in one of the largest fraud cases in recent history."
In his previous article, Davidson wrote about that among the regulations in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is one that says if you do business with a corrupt business overseas but didn't know, you are still legally liable, since it is your obligation to do due diligence and know. Additionally, as Davidson points out in this new article that in in criminal law, the concept of “willful blindness” states even if one is not aware of all parts of a crime: a person can be convicted of the crime in which he was engaged. The ruling being that nobody can avoid responsibility for a crime "by deliberately ignoring what is obvious.”
All that leads to an important passage --
“Keith Darden is a political scientist at American University who has written extensively on the use of compromising information--kompromat—by former Soviet regimes against people they want to control. He told me that Kazakh intelligence is believed to collect dossiers on every significant business transaction involving the country. This would be especially true if a famous American developer was part of the deal, even if it would not have occurred to them that he might one day become the U.S. President. ‘There is no question—they know everything about this deal,’ Darden said.
“Darden explained that Kazakh intelligence agents work closely with their Russian counterparts. Kulibayev himself has direct ties to Russia’s leadership. In 2011, he was named to the board of Gazprom, the Russian gas behemoth, which is widely considered to be a pillar of Putin’s fortune.”
As I said, it's all a bit convoluted. But good news! Adam Davidson is scheduled to be a guest on Rachel Maddow’s show tonight, Tuesday. I’m sure they’ll focus in on the specifics and make the story and problems for Trump far less unwieldy.
If you can't wait, you can read the article here. And if you haven't read his earlier article about the hotel in Azerbaijan, which I link to above, I heartily recommend that, as well.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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