President Donald Trump’s eldest daughter and favorite child, Ivanka Trump, was exceptionally involved in two international projects tied to her father’s name before the business mogul ran for the highest office in the United States.
As the Think Progress reported, the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Panama was supposed to be Ivanka’s “baby” while she personally oversaw and “approved everything” at the Trump Tower Baku in Azerbaijan.
Neither of these international business ventures worked out for the Trump Organization, as the luxury resort in Panama City later dismissed Trump’s management company over reported budget misuse and the hotel in Baku never opened due to budget overruns and construction oversights.
However, that does not mean the Trump family did not profit from these endeavors.
As a couple of recent investigative reports have revealed, the Trump family earned millions in revenue from these seemingly failed projects – all thanks to drug cartels, the Russian mafia and international criminals.
“Since he became President of the United States, numerous investigations and articles have probed Trump’s business dealings and his alleged links to criminals and other shadowy characters,” anti-corruption group Global Witness wrote in its recent report. “It is understood that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation under the Department of Justice will also examine his real estate business. This is important because it seems likely that, following his various bankruptcies, at least a part of Trump’s business empire has been built on untraceable funds, some apparently linked to Russian criminal networks.”
A joint investigation by the NBC News and Reuters also found some investors and customers of the Trump Ocean Club in Panama City had deep ties to crime and drug trafficking. For instance, David Murcia Guzmán, a Colombian business executive with financial ties to terrorist organization FARC who is currently detained in the U.S. for laundering money on behalf of drug cartels, had bought several units in the project.
Other buyers included Arkady Vodovozov, who was convicted of kidnapping in Israel according to Reuters; Stanislav Kavalenka a Russian national charged for “compelling” and “procuring” women into prostitution in Canada; Igor Anapolskiy, convicted for forging travel documents in Ukraine in 2014; and Louis Pargiolas, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine in Miami back in 2009.
A former Brazilian car salesman, Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, who reportedly collaborated with the Trumps to sell the condo units and met Ivanka several times, claimed the U.S. president and his family were unaware of the investors’ businesses or buyers’ criminal background – but they never asked any questions either.
“I had some customers with questionable backgrounds,” Nogueira, who is currently a fugitive from law for real estate fraud, told NBC under disguise from an undisclosed European city. “Nobody ever asked me. Banks never asked. Developer didn’t ask and (the) Trump Organization didn’t ask. Nobody ask, ‘Who are the customers, where did the money come from?’ No, nobody ask.”
He also said he met the president and his sons at least once, and attended the 2008 celebratory event at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida after his firm, Homes Real Estate Investment & Services, fulfilled its promise of quickly selling units at high prices and sold about $100m worth of property, according to the Reuters and NBC.
Meanwhile, the project in Azerbaijan was a site for illegal activities as well. According to the reports, the Azeri dictatorship and those close to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard allegedly used the Baku hotel to launder money.
If it was not clear already, Trump did not own these properties. Instead, he leased his name out to the project in order to boost sales while his company, or his daughter in this case, oversaw the project. While it does not appear the president or his children knew of the criminals investing and buying the property, they did profit from whatever alleged shady business was going on there.
“Licensing his brand to the luxurious Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama aligned Trump’s financial interests with those of crooks looking to launder ill-gotten gains,” the Global Witness report continued. “Trump seems to have done little to nothing to prevent this. What is clear is that proceeds from Colombian cartels’ narcotics trafficking were laundered through the Trump Ocean Club and that Donald Trump was one of the beneficiaries.”
To put things into perspective, Trump had made nearly $74.2 million through his association with the Panama hotel by 2010. He earned another $13.0 million between 2014 and 2017.
However, the Trump organization has since attempted to distance itself from the controversy.
“The Trump Organization was not the owner, developer or seller of the Trump Ocean Club Panama project,” the statement said. “Because of its limited role, the company was not responsible for the financing of the project and had no involvement in the sale of units or the retention of any real estate brokers.”
Well, playing down the organization’s role in the project doesn’t really justify the fortune Trumps earned through them, does it?
Thumbnail / Banner : Reuters, Yuri Gripas