Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dirty money: Trump and the Kazakh connection - Financial Times

Over the years the US presidential candidatehas assembled an eclectic collection of backers and collaborators. Some had chequered pasts, with links to organised crime or fraud schemes. But perhaps the biggest risk for Mr Trump’s complex, often opaque, business empire was that it might be used for a purpose US officials fear is rife in the country’s real estate sector: laundering dirty money

Trump and the Kazakh connection

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Ever since a series of bankruptcies left banks unwilling to lend to him, Donald Trump has been on the lookout for partners willing to fund the buildings that bear his name.

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Over the years the US presidential candidate has assembled an eclectic collection of backers and collaborators. Some had chequered pasts, with links to organised crime or fraud schemes. But perhaps the biggest risk for Mr Trump’s complex, often opaque, business empire was that it might be used for a purpose US officials fear is rife in the country’s real estate sector: laundering dirty money.
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, 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”.
Mr Khrapunov, who now lives in Switzerland, says he is being targeted for opposing the man he used to serve, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s authoritarian ruler since 1989. His supporters say the family’s fortune comes from business success, not embezzlement.
Among the dozens of companies the Almaty lawyers say the Khrapunov laundering network used were three called Soho 3310, Soho 3311 and Soho 3203. Each was a limited liability company, meaning their ownership could easily be concealed.
The companies were created in April 2013 in New York. A week later, property records show, they paid a total of $3.1m to buy the apartments that corresponded with their names in the Trump Soho, a 46-storey luxury hotel-condominium completed in 2010 in a chic corner of Manhattan.
Bank statements submitted by Almaty’s lawyers indicate that the ultimate beneficiary of the Soho companies was Elvira Kudryashova, Mr Khrapunov’s California-based daughter. According to the Kazakh government, she, with her brother Ilyas, is a key link in the family’s laundering network.
Shortly before the Soho companies bought the apartments, more than $3.1m flowed out of Ms Kudryashova’s Wells Fargo account to the firm of Martin Jajan, a New York lawyer. Mr Jajan proceeded to sign purchase documents for the Trump Soho apartments as buyer’s agent. Other bank records show further links between Ms Kudryashova and her relatives and the Soho shell companies. Mr Jajan did not respond to a request for comment.
On the face of it, Mr Trump was not a beneficiary of the apartment sales. The vendor was another limited liability company, Bayrock/Sapir Organization LLC. It was named after the developers that jointly built Trump Soho: the Sapir Organisation, founded by Tamir Sapir, from Georgia, and Bayrock, founded by Tevfik Arif, a Kazakhstan-born former Soviet official.
According to regulatory filings, however, Bayrock/Sapir Organization LLC had a third co-owner — the man who licensed his personal brand to the project.
The Trump Soho, announced in 2006, was an early example of a building that bore the Trump name but was built by someone else. Mr Trump’s access to finance had been curtailed by bankruptcies. But as the star of The Apprentice, his celebrity stock was rising. Partners such as Sapir and Bayrock were prepared to pay to license his name.
Until it fell into financial trouble and changed hands in a 2014 foreclosure sale, Mr Trump enjoyed an 18 per cent share of the profits of the Trump Soho. Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organisation, said Bayrock and the Sapir Organisation were responsible for apartment sales and for conducting due diligence on buyers. Both companies declined to comment.
Mr Garten said he had “no doubt” that “every legal requirement” had been fulfilled. Asked how a member of the Khrapunov family could nonetheless have bought apartments in the Trump Soho — two years after the family was charged in Kazakhstan with financial crimes — he said: “Maybe there’s something wrong with the law but we can’t fault [Bayrock and Sapir] for complying with the laws.”
The laws regulating US real estate deals are scant, experts say. Provisions against terrorism financing in the Patriot Act, passed in the aftermath of the September 11 2001 attacks, obliged mortgage lenders to conduct “know your customer” research. But money launderers pay in cash. Sales such of those of the Trump Soho apartments have passed through this loophole, which was partially closed only this year.
In January, the US launched a pilot programme designed to identify the ultimate owners of shell companies used to buy premium property in Manhattan and Miami. In July officials reported that the new rules had corroborated concerns that “all-cash luxury purchases of residential property by a legal entity are highly vulnerable to abuse for money laundering”.
A spokesman for the Khrapunov family declined to answer detailed questions about the Soho apartment transactions and other deals. “Kazakhstan is using the legal systems of western countries to harass, wear down and destroy political opponents,” the spokesman said. All the Khrapunov family’s business activities “have been conducted in full accordance with Swiss laws,” he added.
Mr Garten of the Trump Organisation said: “We have no knowledge of who [the Khrapunov family] are and have done no business with them.”
Mr Trump’s former partners Bayrock, however, have dealt with them.
As work on Trump Soho got under way in 2007, the partnership between Mr Trump and Bayrock was gathering momentum. Another tower, in Fort Lauderdale, was rising. A 2008 Bayrock presentationincludes a picture of Mr Trump grinning beside Mr Arif and names him as a referee. Bayrock had its office on the 24th floor of Trump Tower and calls the Trump Organisation a “strategic partner”.
The same presentation says Bayrock was one of the backers of the redevelopment of the 101-year-old Hotel du Parc on the shores of Lake Geneva, owned by Swiss Development Group, a Geneva-based company. In May this year, Nicolas Bourg, a Belgian businessman who says he worked with Viktor Khrapunov’s son Ilyas on US real estate deals, claimed in a separate dispute that Swiss Development Group was “owned and controlled by Ilyas and his family and used to conceal the movement and investment of his family’s money”.
Swiss Development Group said it had been sold in 2013 but that it was still suffering “relentless and unsubstantiated pressure … for the sole reason [that] it was linked at some point in time to someone the Kazakh government wants to prosecute”.
The Kazakh government has also accused Helvetic Capital SA, another Swiss company, of being a vehicle for Khrapunov laundering. According to a 2007 draft contract, seen by the FT, Helvetic Capital planned to enter a $1.5m joint venture called KazBay. Its partner was to be Bayrock.
In a 2011 deposition, given in a dispute over the Fort Lauderdale project, Mr Trump said he had “never really understood who owned Bayrock”. Jody Kriss, a former Bayrock finance director, has claimed in racketeering lawsuits against his former employer that Bayrock’s backers included “hidden interests in Russia and Kazakhstan”. Bayrock has denied Mr Kriss’s allegations but declined to answer questions about the source of its funds and its relationship with the Khrapunovs.
Asked if the Trump Organisation had known where Bayrock’s money came from, Mr Garten said: “No. I had no reason to question the source of funds. Its principal investor [Mr Arif] had a successful track record.” He added: “When you do due diligence you act in good faith and try to look at all relevant material but there’s only a certain degree that you can look at things. You can do as much as possible but you are limited to public records.”
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Putin Welcomes the Return of the Russian Mafia - Newsweek - Newsweek

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Newsweek

Putin Welcomes the Return of the Russian Mafia - Newsweek
Newsweek
Putin appears to be courting the notion of Russia as “a superpower of crime,” not as a threat or an embarrassment but a potential opportunity.

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Why Vladimir Putin Is Donald Trump's Spiritual Running Mate - Slate Magazine

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Slate Magazine

Why Vladimir Putin Is Donald Trump's Spiritual Running Mate
Slate Magazine
Trump answered her by repeating his slander that “in San Bernardino, many people saw the bombs all over the apartment” of the terrorists before they struck last December. This claim has ... Trump doesn't just admire Putin. He emulates him. Like Putin ...

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Guiding Trump, an Ex-General Who Shakes His Fist at Washington - New York Times

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New York Times

Guiding Trump, an Ex-General Who Shakes His Fist at Washington
New York Times
Michael T. Flynn, a retired career intelligence officer and registered Democrat who is advising Donald J. Trump, was already denouncing what he saw as the Obama administration's failure to tackle Islamist militancy and the many faults of Hillary Clinton.

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The Drug Trafficker Donald Trump Risked His Casino Empire to Protect - Daily Beast

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Daily Beast

The Drug Trafficker Donald Trump Risked His Casino Empire to Protect
Daily Beast
Trump presents himself as the most ardent law-and-order politician ever. Yet throughout his adult life Trump sought out—and worked closely with—more than a score of criminals, including Mafiaassociates, Russian mob associates, violent felons, con ...

Scotland Yard in corruption scandal: private investigators targeted ... - Telegraph.co.uk

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Telegraph.co.uk

Scotland Yard in corruption scandal: private investigators targeted ...
Telegraph.co.uk
The Scotland Yard unit which deals with some of the force's most sensitive police inquiries has been “corrupted” by a firm of private investigators, leaked ...

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What Did Donald Trump Know? - Huffington Post

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Huffington Post

What Did Donald Trump Know?
Huffington Post
Here he goes again. Donald Trump's incontestable and extensive connections to the Russian intelligence services are back at the forefront, where they belong. Congress is hopping mad, as they should be, and Democratic lawmakers are calling for a ...

The FBI's Fake Russian Agent Reveals His Secrets - Smithsonian

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Smithsonian

The FBI's Fake Russian Agent Reveals His Secrets
Smithsonian
Federal agents had evidence that he had sold some of that supersecret organization's most sensitive information to the KGB, but not enough to prosecute him. “I said I knew it .... The year before, a KGB archivist in Moscow named Vasili Mitrokhin had ...

What Did Donald Trump Know?

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What Did Donald Trump Know?
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A dangerous liaison: terrorists and organized crime in South America - The Hill (blog)

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A dangerous liaison: terrorists and organized crime in South America
The Hill (blog)
Member States of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE) need U.S. assistance. CICTE is under-funded. Currently, its programs cannot help train countries to locate and dismantle terror and organized crime cells. With appropriate funding ...

The thin line between Europe's criminals and militants - Washington Post

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Washington Post

The thin line between Europe's criminals and militants
Washington Post
For European officials, the possible crime-terrorism nexus could expand calls for a stronger collaboration between local authorities fighting organized crime and national or international counterterrorism officials. In the European Union, experts have ...

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German Organised Criminals Benefiting from Islamic Radicalism - Breitbart News

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Breitbart News

German Organised Criminals Benefiting from Islamic Radicalism
Breitbart News
Organised criminals are benefiting from the wave of Islamic extremists in Germany because the threat of terror attacks take up so much police resources, leaving criminals with a free hand. Many Germans may not respond well to the news that Islamic ...

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Strong measures needed against states backing terror: BIMSTEC - The Hindu

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The Hindu

Strong measures needed against states backing terror: BIMSTEC
The Hindu
... expedite the signing of the BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, and to early ratification of the BIMSTEC Convention on Cooperation in Combating InternationalTerrorism, Transnational Organized Crime and Illicit Drug ...
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'Global effort vital to battle organized crime, terrorism' - ARAB TIMES - Arab Times Kuwait English Daily

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UN News Centre

'Global effort vital to battle organized crime, terrorism' - ARAB TIMES
Arab Times Kuwait English Daily
VIENNA, Oct 17, (KUNA): Kuwaiti Ambassador and P e r m a n e n t Representative to United Nations Organizations in Vienna Sadiq Marafi has underlined the ...
KUNA : UN calls for rapid implementation of agreements to confront ...Kuwait News Agency

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Italian Mob Trades Weapons for Looted Art From ISIS in Libya - The ... - Daily Beast

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Daily Beast

Italian Mob Trades Weapons for Looted Art From ISIS in Libya - The ...
Daily Beast
Two Italian organized-crime rings are accused of trading in weapons with ISIS fighters for illegally pilfered artifacts from Libya.

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Corruption Currents: Italian Mob Trades Weapons For IS-Looted Art - Wall Street Journal (blog)

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Wall Street Journal (blog)

Corruption Currents: Italian Mob Trades Weapons For IS-Looted Art
Wall Street Journal (blog)
Terrorism Finance: Italian organized-crime rings are allegedly trading weapons for art looted by Islamic State. (Daily Beast, Times). Transparency: Panama Papers: Panama hired a PR firm amid the ongoing fallout. Brexit's financier was named in the leak.

In Their Own Words: Counterterror Officials On the Threat Europe Faces - FRONTLINE

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In Their Own Words: Counterterror Officials On the Threat Europe Faces
FRONTLINE
Galzerano is chief of an international terrorism unit of the Italian police, and Garzón is a former Spanish judge who has won international acclaim — as well as some criticism — for his work targeting terror kingpins, organized crime figures, and ...

Trump Knows 'Nothing About Russia,' He Just Repeats Their Propaganda - New York Magazine

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New York Magazine

Trump Knows 'Nothing About Russia,' He Just Repeats Their Propaganda
New York Magazine
Donald Trump has been adamant that he has no ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin, and during Sunday's debate he deflected Clinton's suggestion that Russia is trying to influence the U.S. election in his favor by floating a novel conspiracy theory ...
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Iraqi and Kurdish commanders pause Mosul offensive

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October 18, 2016, 8:48 PM (IDT)
The frontlines to the east of Mosul were largely quiet Tuesday, a day after Iraqi Kurdish forces advanced amid a barrage of United States-led airstrikes and heavy artillery.
"We are just holding our positions," said Colonel Khathar Sheikhan of the Kurdish Peshmerga, which captured a handful of villages east of Mosul on Monday. An Iraqi special forces commander said his troops had delayed an advance following a request from Kurdish forces for more time to achieve their goals.
Iraqi Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil said his men had planned to move at dawn, but postponed the operation until Iraqi army and Kurdish commanders meet later on Tuesday.

What the heck has happened to Michael Flynn?

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The former DIA director isn't just supporting Trump, he's gone full Trumpkin.





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Is Melania Trump devilishly clever - or totally out to lunch?

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Sketchpad: Trump doesn't get how preposterous he now looks

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EU Commissioner Georgieva's Past, Family Ties Questioned in Think-Tank Report - Novinite.com

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EU Commission Vice President Kristalina Georgieva was an informant with the State Security (DS), the Soviet-era intelligence and counter-intelligence services of Bulgaria, according to a publication by the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
The text, which claims to be the result of a month-long investigation, comes weeks after the eleventh-hour nomination of Georgieva as Bulgaria's official candidate for the UN Secretary General office.
Another allegation explored is that her family has ties to a conglomerate named Multigrup, considered by a former US ambassador, according to a 2011 Wikileaks cable, as "formerly the largest organized crime group in Bulgaria".
The author, Yves Kugelmann, quotes a former State Security officer - who wished to remain anonymous - as saying Georgieva was recruited as an informant before heading to London for post-doctoral studies in 1987.
His testimony was allegedly corroborated by a former professor and mentor of Georgieva at the University of National and World Economy (which was named Karl Marx Institute during the Cold War), who enumerates colleagues she had worked closer together with and who later all rose to prominence in society.
Allegedly, her objective abroad was to penetrate "academic circles in Western universities".
It should be noted that Georgieva has never been exposed as a former agent and has repeatedly denied claims.
Georgieva "was intelligent, hard-working, and came from “the right family”: her father, a construction engineer, was not a visible Politburo member or Communist “prince”, but a loyal apparatchik who had joined an underground Communist cell in the Royal Army prior to 1944, and had gone on to become head of the Road Construction Department."
"Too often, both the United Nations and the European Union have appointed leadership figures without vetting them, let alone subjecting the process to public scrutiny."
The full text, called A Major Blunder at the UN Narrowly Averted is available here.

Obama says Trump 'wrong' on Russia and Putin - Washington Times

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BBC News

Obama says Trump 'wrong' on Russia and Putin
Washington Times
President Obama said Tuesday that Donald Trump's admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin is “out of step” with the rest of the Republican Party, and he questioned why GOP officials aren't calling their nominee on it. “Mr. Trump's continued ...
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Obama: Trump backing of Russia unprecedented - USA TODAY

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USA TODAY

Obama: Trump backing of Russia unprecedented
USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — President Obama called Donald Trump's backing of Russian President Vladimir Putin “unprecedented,” adding that he was more concerned about Republican politicians who have called him soft on Russia now backing Trump's line.

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Retired general pleads guilty in leak case 

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From: CNN
Duration: 01:00

Former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright pled guilty to lying to FBI investigators about his interactions with reporters.

Why is Turkey not part of Mosul offensive ground forces? "It's been a war of words in recent weeks" 

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From: france24english
Duration: 05:48

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Marco Vicenzino, the Director of the Global Strategy Project, explains why Turkey is not part of the forces on the ground for this offensive on Mosul.
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Political Insiders Part 2: Foreign policy and the election

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From: FoxNewsChannel
Duration: 03:20

Chaos in Middle East heats up ahead of Election Day

John Bolton joins calls to remove State Dept. undersecretary

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Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. sounds of on 'attempted bribery' of FBI over Clinton emails

Political Insiders Part 1:Where the 2016 race stands

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A look at the latest poll numbers
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Page 6

Syria rebels reject Aleppo withdrawal after Russian statement

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian rebels said on Tuesday they rejected any withdrawal of fighters from Aleppo after Russia announced a halt in air raids which it said was designed to allow insurgents to leave and to separate moderate fighters from extremist militants.
  

Clinton emails: Trump's focus in last debate?

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans are seizing the latest developments in the Hillary Clinton email controversy as an issue that could help Donald Trump make up ground in the final presidential debate - if he can hammer home the message....

The Daily Vertical: Putin And The Ghosts Of Kremlins Past

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The ghosts of all the dead Kremlin leaders -- as well as one who's still alive -- weigh like a nightmare on the brain of the current one. (The views expressed in these commentaries do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.)

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