By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (1/22/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Trump obstruction of justice or corruption in concert with Russia? Looks like it. Trump money laundering? Certainty.
Money laundering is about taking money earned illegally and scrubbing the taint and origin so the money can be used within the legitimate business and banking world. Money laundering isn’t just about the complex mechanics, it’s about the criminals that are the source of the money – narcotics, arms dealing, pornography and human trafficking and yes, corruption.
Corrupt governments are one source for money laundering as in the revelations in the last edition of the looting of the Kazakhstan treasury of as much as $12 billion under the direction of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, some of which found it’s way to Trump projects. The last edition of the Russia Monitor ended with a focus on money laundering, specifically with Trump business partner Felix Sater and the Trump Soho project where 77% of the sales raised concerns about money laundering.
Today we gaze into the ugly face that is prettied up by the lawyers and banks that benefit the persons, businesses, and governments – beneficiaries like Donald Trump. The example we’ll end with highlights laundering of Russian money but also money from child pornography and funding of the Syrian chemical weapons program.
But let’s start with a review of Glenn Simpson’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.
Simpson is the co-founder of Fusion GPS, the outfit that hired former MI6 intelligence officer Christopher Steele, author of the Steele dossier. Simpson testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee and Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) unilaterally released a transcript of the testimony, covered here recently (1/11/18).
The Senate testimony explained the Fusion GPS/Steele focus on Trump ties to Russian organized crime and a concern that Trump’s history could or was being used as blackmail.
The House testimony by Simpson also raises serious concerns and questions.
‘Dossier’ Testimony Leaves Breadcrumb Trail For Mueller: Glenn Simpson gave Congress investigators pointed answers about Russian money laundering, organized crime, and whether Trump could be susceptible to blackmail. The result is a long trail of breadcrumbs for investigators probing Trump’s relationship with Russia.
Thanks to a Commoner Call reader for sending along the article which also includes a link to the transcript.
“Rather than home in on the nature of Simpson’s relationship with Steele … Schiff and his Democratic colleagues asked Simpson pointed questions about Russian money laundering, Russian organized crime, and whether Trump could be susceptible to Russian blackmail.”
The article hones in on the sophistication of Russian organized crime, especially when it comes to real estate deals and money laundering:
“I guess the general thing I would say is that, you know, the Russians are far more sophisticated in their criminal organized crime activities than the Italians, and they’re a lot more global,” Simpson replied. “They understand finance a lot better. And so they tend to use quite elaborate methods to move money…I mean, if you can think of a way to launder money, the Russians are pretty good at it.”
Simpson reminds us that the “Russian mafia is essentially under the dominion of the Russian Government and Russian Intelligence Services .., and many of the oligarchs are also mafia figures”.
While the last edition of the Russia Monitor focused on Russian money laundering and Trump Soho, Simpson’s testimony highlights Russian funding for additional Trump hotel/condo projects in Toronto and Panama, as well as Russian money behind Trump golf courses in Scotland and Ireland.
“GOP Rep. Tom Rooney said “the story about [Trump] financing Doonbeg in Ireland through money that we can’t really trace but has sort of the fingerprints of Russian mobsters” was “fascinating.”
“”If we knew that Donald Trump was working with the Russian mafia to fund Doonbeg in Ireland, then there’s no way he would be President,” Rooney said. “So, I mean, that’s why it’s so fascinating.””
Russian money flowed to Trump projects, but also supported the Trump campaign in a number of ways including the NRA:
“It appears the Russians, you know, infiltrated the NRA,” Simpson said. “And there is more than one explanation for why. But I would say broadly speaking, it appears that the Russian operation was designed to infiltrate conservative organizations.”
Russian money laundering through Trump properties we’ve heard about repeatedly. But, Russian money to the NRA to support the Trump campaign?
The Russia/NRA Connection
Last Thursday McCaltchy reported: FBI Investigating Whether Russian Money Went To NRA To Help Trump.
To be clear, it is clearly and unambiguously illegal for the NRA to use Russian money to support Trump’s campaign.
“The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the NRA to Trump’s campaign, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.
“FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.”
Again, to be clear: It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.
McClatchy reports that the NRA spent $30 million on the Trump campaign, three times as much as was spent in support of Romney. Overall the NRA purportedly spent as much as $70 million on the election.
The conduit for Russian money to the NRA is Alexander Torshin:
“Torshin, a leading figure in Putin’s party, has been implicated in money laundering by judicial authorities in Spain, as in 2016. Spanish investigators alleged in an almost 500-page internal report that Torshin, who was then a senator, capitalized on his government role to assist mobsters laundering funds through Spanish properties and banks, Bloomberg reported.
“A summary obtained by McClatchy of the still-secret report links Torshin to Russian money laundering and describes him as a godfather in a major Russian criminal organization called Taganskaya.
“Investigators for three congressional committees probing Russia’s 2016 operations also have shown interest in Torshin, a lifetime NRA member who has attended several of its annual conventions. At the group’s meeting in Kentucky in May 2016, Torshin spoke to Donald Trump Jr. during a gala event at the group’s national gathering in Kentucky in May 2016, when his father won an earlier-than-usual NRA presidential endorsement.”
Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s son and Trump Organization Exec Officer, as reported previously, was at the same NRA event as Torshin in May 2016.
Now an interesting footnote to consider on the idea of Russian money being funneled to the NRA is that fact that citizen access to firearms ownership in Russia appears to be on the Kremlin chopping block.
There is always more. Russian money to the NRA to influence the election in favor of Trump, and Russian money to GOP PAC’s to influence the election. Thanks to another Commoner Call reader for sending along this article: How Putin’s Proxies Helped Funnel Millions Into GOP Campaigns.
The Dallas News has done a few articles on Russian connected funding of various GOP campaigns for the 2016 elections. Money from Len Blavatnik is one of the more important sub-threads; his political contributions “soared (in 2015-16)…as he pumped $6.35 million into GOP political action committees”.
“Buried in the campaign finance reports available to the public are some troubling connections between a group of wealthy donors with ties to Russia and their political contributions to President Donald Trump and a number of top Republican leaders. And thanks to changes in campaign finance laws, the political contributions are legal. We have allowed our campaign finance laws to become a strategic threat to our country.
“An example is Len Blavatnik, a dual U.S.-U.K. citizen and one of the largest donors to GOP political action committees in the 2015-16 election cycle. Blavatnik’s family emigrated to the U.S. in the late ‘70s from the U.S.S.R. and he returned to Russia when the Soviet Union began to collapse in the late ‘80s.”
A detail worth noting – Blavatnik also gave $1.5 million to Scott Walker’s campaign.
Blavatnik is linked to oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who is linked to Putin and linked to indicted former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. The oligarchs and those they benefit are once again a small, elite club.
On Friday Mother Jones reported: Jared Kushner’s Firm Tied to “Suspicious Transactions” at German Bank – Deutsche Bank notified German regulators, and Robert Mueller will likely be given the reports.
“A German business magazine is reporting that Deutsche Bank, the German financial giant which is a major lender to both President Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, identified “suspicious transactions” related to Kushner family accounts, and has reported them to German banking regulators. The bank is reportedly willing to provide the information to special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s team of investigators.”
This is not good for Kushner:
““Achleitner’s internal detectives were embarrassed to deliver their interim report regarding real estate tycoon [Jared] Kushner to the financial regulator BaFin,” the Manager Magazin article, translated from German, reports. “Their finding: There are indications that Donald Trump’s son-in-law or persons or companies close to him could have channeled suspicious monies through Deutsche Bank as part of their business dealings.””
Whatever the angle of money laundering, there are troubling questions of Trump conduct.
Trump and his benefactors are accomplished and well rounded with money laundering. Lest anyone pretend that money laundering is simply good people desiring anonymity with how they spend their hard-earned dollars, let’s take a look at one example; a Cypriot bank focused on money laundering for Russians. Not ‘the’ Cypriot bank partly owned by Trump Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross that also has a history of laundering Russian money, including for indicted former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. But, another of many Cypriot banks specializing in laundering Russian money.
BuzzFeed provided an up close look at this world: Revealed: The Secrets Of One Of The World’s Dirtiest Banks And Its Powerful Western Protectors.
The article’s sub-head gives a good preview of the treachery to come: “Blatant forgery. Snarling guard dogs. Shredded evidence. Leaked documents reveal the farcical scramble inside one of the world’s dirtiest banks to conceal incriminating information – while some of the planet’s most prestigious accountants and lawyers used their powers to keep the bank in business.”
Great story – Cypriot bank, super-rich Lebanese owners, complicit compliance manager, and prestigious law firms.
William Burck – is a name from the story worthy of pause. A partner with a law firm working for the bank, Quinn Emanuel, former President George W. Bush special counsel and now representing former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, former Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus and White House counsel Don McGahn. While this isn’t central, it’s another reminder of the small elite club of Trump-Russia corruption.
The story is of a bank that is clearly breaking the law and opts not to cooperate in an investigation brought by the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network – FINCEN, but instead to sweep evidence under the rug.
The focus here is on the clients’ business that is swept under the rug. Brown and Leighton were an external investigatory team hired by the bank to research the problem.
“Far from finding the evidence they needed to prove the bank’s innocence, Brown and Leighton were beginning to uncover an ever-more devastating trail of connections between FBME’s accounts and many of the world’s most destructive scourges. New evidence was emerging that the bank had transactions for clients linked to , the Russian government, and major organised crime figures. Now the very executive whose job it was to keep the bank honest had been as a liar.”
The bank chose to not disclose and instead fired Brown and Leighton, and dismissed the investigation with “fuck FINCEN”.
It’s important to point to one more major client of the bank, the porn baron:
“BuzzFeed News is not naming the porn baron, who sent seven lawyers to a meeting with reporters to strenuously deny any impropriety, because the allegations against him did not form part of FinCEN’s public ruling against FBME. A spokesperson for the porn baron said he “categorically and emphatically denies” any allegation of wrongdoing.”
This is the face of laundering money. Sure, Russians laundering money through real estate transactions that benefit Trump. But your small elite club is Russian mafia, corrupt autocrats, a Syrian chemical weapons program and the porn baron. Someone like Trump makes the choices he makes for how to run his business, and this is the world he moves within and has made him what he is.
Trump claims to be a billionaire but in the mid-2000s Trump couldn’t even get a legitimate business bank loan.
Why not believe Eric Trump and Donnie Jr. when they brag about getting plenty of money from Russia? Eric Trump said, “we have all the funding we need out of Russia”.
The company you keep.
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