What You Need to Know: Mueller Probes Trump’s Business Transactions
July 20, 2017
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expanding his probe into Trump’s business transactions, according to a report. Specifically, Mueller is probing:
- Trump’s partnership with oligarch Aras Agalarov to bring the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Russia for millions of dollars.
- Trump’s partnership to develop Trump SoHo with a group including former Soviet officials and executives with ties to Putin and the Russian mafia
- The Trump team’s ties to the Bank of Cyprus, which has played a central role in the investigation of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
- Trump’s sale of his Palm Beach mansion to a Russian oligarch for $50 million more than it cost when he purchased it.
- Special Counsel Mueller is also looking into the efforts of Jared Kushner to secure financing for his family’s real estate properties.
Here’s what you need to know:
MISS UNIVERSE PAGEANT
In 2013, Trump worked with Aras Agalarov, an oligarch and close ally of Vladimir Putin, to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow. Agalarov, who reportedly served as a liaison between Trump and Putin during Trump’s stay in Moscow that year, paid Trump millions of dollars for the deal, and Agalarov’s son Emin also suggested earlier this year that the deal may have helped Trump’s company with some debts. Trump and Agalarov also reportedly signed another financial deal to explore real estate opportunities in Russia together.
Aras Agalarov and his son Emin have now drawn wider attention because of their role in allegedly securing damaging info about Hillary Clinton from Russia’s top prosecutor and organizing the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower where that information was passed along to Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort.
Agalarov has confirmed correspondence with Trump during his presidential election, and his son has said he has been in contact with Trump’s children since the inauguration.
Trump SoHo is a combination hotel and condominium that carries the Trump name and is also managed by the Trump Organization. The development is a product of Trump’s partnership with the Bayrock Group, a real estate development company run by a former Soviet official and executives linked to the Russian mafia, and the Sapir Organization, whose executives have close ties to the former Soviet government and current Putin regime. Trump SoHo has been dogged by allegations of mysterious infusions of cash from Russia and Kazakhstan, and it was the subject of a criminal investigation that was ultimately shut down after Trump and his partners agreed to settle a related civil suit. Trump SoHo has also been linked to allegations of money laundering.
A $50 million investment in Bayrock projects including Trump SoHo came from Icelandic FL Group, a firm favored by Russian investors connected to Putin. Donald Trump and two of his children signed letters acknowledging the financing plan.
BANK OF CYPRUS
The Bank of Cyprus, whose vice-chair was Trump Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, counts Putin allies as major investors. After the bank was bailed out amid the financial crisis, Russian investors' deposits – estimated to be as high as $35 billion — were converted into shares in the bank.
The Bank of Cyprus also figures prominently in federal and Congressional investigations into former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the Russian interference campaign in the 2016 elections. Treasury Department investigators reportedly traveled to Cyprus in early 2017 to collect information about Manafort’s use of the bank to move large amounts of money.
PALM BEACH MANSION SALE TO RUSSIAN OLIGARCH
In 2008, Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev purchased a Palm Beach mansion from Trump for $95 million — $54 million more than Trump had paid four years earlier. In 2010, Rybolovlev purchased a 10 percent stake in the Bank of Cyprus, whose vice chairs include Trump Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
JARED KUSHNER’S FINANCING EFFORTS AND RUSSIA TIES
Jared Kushner has come under scrutiny for his efforts to finance a troubled property in New York City, including an aborted attempt to secure funding from a Chinese bank with close government ties. Kushner has also come under intense scrutiny for failing to disclose numerous meetings with Russian officials, including the now-infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr., a meeting with the Russian ambassador at which he allegedly proposed setting up a secret backchannel with the Kremlin, and another with the Chairman of a state-run, U.S. sanctioned Russian bank with close ties to the Kremlin’s spy network. Kushner did not initially disclose any of these meetings on the security clearance forms he filled out before taking his post in the White House. In 2015, Kushner purchased a $295 million space in New York from Vladimir Putin’s ally Lev Leviev, with financing from Deutsche Bank, which has come under fire in recent years for its involvement in Russian money laundering.