Bruce Ohr Scheduled to Testify To Joint Congressional Committee August 28th…
Representative Mark Meadows has announced on twitter that DOJ official Bruce Ohr has been scheduled to testify on August 28th, this month.
Suspicions Confirmed: Congress Gets Bruce Ohr Documents Showing “Back Door” Communication Network…
According to Chuck Ross reporting: “Congress recently got a trove of Bruce Ohr emails which include exchanges with Chris Steele and others. Source says emails show that Ohr is more significant player in dossier component of FBI/DOJ investigation than originally thought.”
According to additional details provided to the Daily Caller, Ohr will testify to the same joint committee that previously heard testimony from Lisa Page. The joint committee is a blend of House Oversight (Trey Gowdy, Chairman) and House Judiciary (Bob Goodlatte, Chairman). If the same process is used, Chairman Goodlatte will determine which committee members will conduct the questioning.
Prof. Sekyu Michael Ohr, chairman of the Materials Science and Engineering Department, State University of New York at Stony Brook, passed away on May 16, 1988 after a brief illness. Prior to joining the university in January 1986, Prof. Ohr completed a 22-year career at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. A memorial scholarship fund has been established in his name at the university.
Notes: American Thinker is a conservative daily online magazine dealing with American politics, foreign policy, national security, Israel, economics, diplomacy, culture and military strategy. The American Thinker demonstrates a right bias through wording and story selection. They have also failed a few fact checks such as this one
Notes: The Last Refuge is a news and opinion blog that encourages comments on their posts. All news articles posted are pro-right and anti-left. There is minimal use of loaded words and most articles are sourced to credible media. The Last Refuge has an about page that nicely sums up their core beliefs: “Fear is at the core of liberalism, and love/trust is at the core of conservatism. Liberalism is about control. Conservatism is about self-empowerment.” This statement is reflected in their story selection. Overall, The Last Refuge is right biased through story selection and affiliation, though factual in reporting. (D. Van Zandt 8/1/2017)
Grizzly » Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:42 pm wrote:
Sorry Slad, we just have to agree to disagree...
After taking office, Trump asked FBI Director James Comey to abandon the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election—which the FBI had already connected to Michael Flynn.
When Comey refused to alter course, Trump fired him.
Trump then admitted the firing was over “the Russia thing” in a televised interview.
In a tweet months later, he stated that he “had to fire Michael Flynn because he lied to the FBI”— further affirming that he dismissed James Comey in an attempt to quash the FBI’s investigation.
Bottom line: Trump has repeatedly attempted to interfere in the Russia investigation, and admitted as much—that’s a clear case of obstructing justice.
Violating the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution
The Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause prohibits the president from accepting personal benefits from any foreign government or official.
Trump has retained his ownership interests in his family business while he is in office.
Thus, every time a foreign official stays at a Trump hotel, or a foreign government approves a new Trump Organization project, or grants a trademark, Trump is in violation of the Constitution.
For example: shortly after he was sworn into office, the Chinese government
gave preliminary approval to 38 trademarks of Trump’s name. Then, in June, China approved nine Donald Trump trademarks they had previously rejected.
And every time he goes to golf at a Trump property, he funnels taxpayer money into his family business—violating the Domestic Emoluments Clause.
Bottom line: Because Trump never divested from his business interests, he violates the Constitution every time the Trump Organization has business dealings with foreign or American government officials.
Conspiring with Others to Commit Crimes Against the United States, and Attempting to Conceal Those Violations
In the middle of the 2016 election, Trump’s son was invited to meet with a Russian national regarding “information that would incriminate Hillary and…would be very useful to” Donald Trump
The Russian, Natalia Veselnitskaya, had ties to high-ranking Kremlin officials.
Trump Jr. took the meeting. He said, “I love it,” when told Veselnitskaya may have had dirt on Clinton. Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner also attended.
Federal law prohibits campaigns from soliciting anything of value from a foreign national.
After journalists broke this story, Trump personally dictated a public statement on behalf of his son that lied about the intended purpose of the meeting.
This relationship between the Trump team and the Russian national raises questions of whether the campaign aided a hostile foreign power’s active operation against the United States.
Bottom line: Trump tried to cover up his campaign’s contacts with a Russian national—which, at very least, constituted a violation of federal law.
Advocating Violence and Undermining Equal Protection Under the Law
When Trump gave cover to the neo-Nazis who rioted in Charlottesville and murdered a protester, he violated his obligation to protect the citizenry against domestic violence.
When Trump encouraged police officers to rough up people they have under arrest, he violated his obligation to oversee faithful execution of the laws.
When Trump shared anti-Muslim content on Twitter, he violated his obligation to uphold equal protection of the laws.
This represents a pattern of disregard for some of the president’s basic responsibilities as defined by the Constitution.
Bottom line: Trump has demonstrated a pattern of behavior amounting to advocating violence, undercutting equal protection, and, as a result, failing basic Constitutional duties.
Abusing the Pardon Power
President Trump’s decision to pardon Joe Arpaio amounted to an abuse of the pardon power that revealed his indifference to individual rights and equal protections.
Joe Arpaio was convicted for contempt of court after ignoring a court order that he stop detaining and searching people based on the color of their skin, which constitutes a violation of their rights.
Pardoning this conviction goes against the Fifth Amendment, which allows the judiciary to issue and enforce injunctions against government officials who flout individual rights.
Bottom line: Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio violates the Fifth Amendment and harms the guarantee of Constitutional rights.
Engaging in Conduct that Grossly Endangers the Peace and Security of the United States
High-ranking administration officials involved in foreign affairs have signaled that Trump does not have the capacity to make informed decisions in the event of a military crisis.
Even worse, his actions could spark a needless confrontation stemming from misunderstanding or miscalculation.
We see this in full effect every time Trump tweets or makes a public statement taunting and threatening the North Korean regime.
The president may be the “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States,” but that does not give him the right to behave in reckless or wanton ways that put millions of lives at risk.
If he is unfit to perform his duties as Commander in Chief, he cannot be allowed to remain in the position.
Bottom line: Trump cannot be permitted to recklessly and needlessly endanger millions of Americans with his unstable behavior.
Directing Law Enforcement to Investigate and Prosecute Political Adversaries for Improper and Unjustifiable Purposes
President Trump has repeatedly pressured the Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate and prosecute political adversaries like Hillary Clinton.
This is not based in concerns with national security, law enforcement, or any other function of his office—it is an attempted power play, plain and simple.
There’s no question that this constitutes an outrageous and inappropriate abuse of executive branch powers and serves as clear grounds for impeachment.
Bottom line: Trump’s threats against political opponents are threats against American democracy.
Undermining the Freedom of the Press
President Trump has repeatedly attacked the concept of an independent press.
He’s called critical coverage “fake news” and journalists “the enemy of the American people,” made threats to change libel laws and revoke licenses, and his battles with CNN led him to try to interfere in the AT&T/Time Warner merger.
This demonstrates his unwillingness to respect and uphold the Constitution, and disdain for the crucial foundations to our free society.
Bottom line: Trump’s threats against freedom of the press are also threats against American democracy.
Thanks to Free Speech for People, whose white paper, ‘The Legal Case for a Congressional Investigation on Whether to Impeach President Donald J. Trump,’ served as the basis for this list.
Cruelly and Unconstitutionally Imprisoning Children and their Families
Enforcing its new “zero tolerance” policy, the Trump administration separated as many as 3,000 immigrant children from their parents at the southern border. This policy was meant to deter families from attempting to cross the border.
The children and their families have been held in internment camps and cages with what lawyers call “inhumane conditions”
Due to negligence, the Trump administration has no plan to reunite all children with their families, even deporting some parents while their children remain detained.
Bottom line: Trump’s policy endangers thousands of immigrant children and families, and defies basic Constitutional values\https://www.needtoimpeach.com/impeachable-offenses/
Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier
How the ex-spy tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia.
Sean Hannity charged that Steele’s dossier was “claptrap” filled with “Russian lies” that were intended to poison “our own intelligence and law-enforcement network” against Trump.
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018 ... mp-dossier
Follow Follow @emptywheel
Have any of the nutters obsessing about Christopher Steele to Bruce Ohr revealed whether ongoing comms between them were related to TRUMP or just to organized crime, though I admit the distinction is hard to sustain.
28m28 minutes ago
So far none of the right wing propagandists wailing that the MSM isn't covering the 2017 Ohr-Steele comms know whether those were Trump or organized crime discussions.
Patrick Retweeted Mark Meadows
The FIFA case, you incompetent, justice obstructing moron.Patrick added,Mark Meadows
DOJ official Bruce Ohr will come before Congress on August 28 to answer why he had 60+ contacts with dossier author, Chris Steele, as far back as January 2016.
He owes the American public the full truth.
US embassy cables: Spain's investigations into the Russian mafia
"BRUCE OHR OF DOJ'S CRIMINAL DIVISION MOSCOW"US embassy cables: Spain's investigations into the Russian mafia
Wed 1 Dec 2010 16.30 EST
Monday, 31 August 2009, 14:49
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 MADRID 000869
FOR ALEX MCKNIGHT AND STACIE ZERDECKI OF EUR/WE
JENNIFER MCELVEEN AND STEPHEN WOROBEC OF INR/TNC
PASS TO BARRY M. BRAUN AND KAREN GREENAWAY OF FBI'S
CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION
PASS TO BRUCE OHR OF DOJ'S CRIMINAL DIVISION
MOSCOW PLEASE PASS TO ST PETERSBURG
EO 12958 DECL: 08/17/2019
TAGS PREL, PINR, KCRM, KCOR, KJUS, SP, RS, GG, UP
SUBJECT: UPDATES IN SPAIN'S INVESTIGATIONS OF RUSSIAN MAFIA
REF: A. OSC EUP20080707950031 B. OSC EUP20081019950022 C. OSC EUP20090608178005 D. MADRID 286 E. OSC EUP20050620950076 F. OSC EUP20080708950049 G. OSC EUP20081029950032 H. OSC EUP 20061127123001
MADRID 00000869 001.2 OF 004
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Arnold A. Chacon for reasons 1.4 (b) a nd (d)
1. (C) SUMMARY. This cable, which should be read in conjunction with Septel analysis, details updates over the past year in Spain's two major operations - codenamed Troika (2008-09) and Avispa (2005-07) - to combat "Russian" organized crime in Spain. In Spain, the term "Russian mafia" usually applies not only to Russians, but also to many nationalities from the former USSR, according to Carlos Resa, a professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid who formerly worked at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Moscow. END SUMMARY.
//Op Troika and its Updates//
2. (U) Phase I of Op Troika, which was executed in June 2008 resulted in the arrest of 20 top leaders of Russia's Tambov-Malyshev crime family for criminal conspiracy, money laundering, document falsification and crimes against public finances. Most of those arrested were "Vor z Konen" or "Thieves in Law," the highest echelon of Russian OC leadership. In particular, Gennadios Petrov, the alleged leader, Alexander Malyshev, Petrov's deputy, and Vitaly Izguilov, a key lieutenant who was out on bail from his arrest in Op Avispa, allegedly formed the leadership of one of the four largest OC networks in the world and the largest Russian OC network. Spain served as the group's safehaven from authorities and rival OC networks in Russia from which they directed their illicit business. Baltasar Garzon, the National Court judge who directed the investigation, accused the group of laundering money in Spain that came from a range of illicit activities conducted elsewhere, including contract killings, arms and drug trafficking, extortion, coercion, threats, and kidnapping.
3. (U) Following the Troika arrests in June 2008, details began to appear in the press on the group's alleged activities and how the investigation developed. Less than a month after the arrests, Spain's flagship daily, center-left El Pais, published a detailed article claiming that Alexander Litvinenko - the former Russian intelligence official who worked on OC issues before he died in late 2006 in London from poisoning under mysterious circumstances - tipped off Spanish security officials on the locations, roles, and activities of several "Russian" mafia figures with ties to Spain. He allegedly provided information on Izguilov, Zahkar Kalashov, and Tariel Oniani to GOS officials during a May 2006 meeting.
4. (U) As reported in Ref A, conservative daily ABC in July 2008 reported that the GOS security services tapped "thousands" of conversations in its two-year investigation. Unnamed sources told the newspaper that 230 of those intercepts "will make your hair stand on end" for their revelations on the Troika defendants' - especially Petrov's - immense power and political connections, as well as the range of criminal activity in Russia that the Troika defendants directed from Spain. According to the article, Troika mafia leaders invoked the names of senior GOR officials to assure
MADRID 00000869 002.2 OF 004
partners that their illicit deals would proceed as planned. The press suggests this "sensitive" evidence could impact bilateral relations and adds that the "extremely delicate" details of Op Troika are so close-hold that barely 10 GOS officials are aware of them all. In the context of the clout that Petrov's network enjoyed and the political connections it had, multiple Spanish media outlets reported that one of Petrov's intercepted phone conversation suggests the Russian XXXXXXXXXXXX reportedly was sailing on Petrov's yacht on September 6, 2007, an allegation that Russia's Ambassador to Spain publicly denied as "completely false."
5. (U) In October 2008, GOS authorities raided the Mallorca vacation mansion of Vladislav Reznik, chair of the Duma's financial markets committee and a Putin ally within the United Russia party (See Ref B). XXXXXXXXXXXX There is some debate about whether Reznik bought the house from Petrov or whether it was a gift. In any event, the two were regularly seen together on the island, according to press reports. Garzon reportedly has ordered Reznik's arrest for money-laundering and for belonging to a criminal organization. Reznik enjoys immunity in Russia, but Garzon's extradition request is valid throughout the EU-27. In August 2009, the Spanish press reported that Garzon is investigating claims that Reznik and the Tambov crime family were involved in a 2008 plot to kidnap the eldest son of Spanish construction magnate Francisco Hernando del Saz (aka Paco el Pocero), one of the richest men in Spain. The plot, disrupted in April 2008, was to ask for a ransom of $30 million dollars. The leader of the would-be kidnappers reportedly alleges that he received his orders from Reznik.
6. (U)XXXXXXXXXXX El Pais on June 7, 2009 (Ref C) claimed that, as a result of Troika, the GOS has compiled a "secret list" of Russian prosecutors, senior military officers, and politicians - including current and former ministers - who may have been involved with the Troika network. According to the article, some of those Russian officials referred to Petrov as "leader." XXXXXXXXXXX
7. (U) Multiple press reports allege that Moscow was left out of the loop on the Troika investigation - whose Phase II raid resulted in the detention of three lawyers in southern Spain in April 2009 - due to Madrid's fear of leaks to GOS OC targets. Moscow reportedly is interested in learning what exactly the Spanish have as evidence and has sent investigators to Spain for meetings with GOS officials on more than a half a dozen occasions since the Troika Phase I arrests. Spanish President Zapatero and Russian President Medvedev have met three times since then, including in Madrid in March 2009, when the two leaders upgraded the bilateral relationship to a strategic partnership and signed an MoU on cooperation on OC matters. (See Ref D).
//Op Avispa and its Updates//
8. (U) Op Avispa ("Wasp" in English) - the predecessor to Troika which was directed by Garzon's colleague, Judge Fernando Andreu - targeted the Russian, Georgian and Ukrainian OC presence in Spain, which allegedly laundered money from illegal casinos in Russia by investing in the
MADRID 00000869 003.2 OF 004
Spanish real estate market. The op had mixed results: Phase I, executed in 2005, arrested 28 suspects, 22 of which were alleged "Vor z Konen" (See Ref E). Phase II in 2006 arrested nine additional suspects while Phase III in 2007 resulted in three more arrests, including the Spanish national government's number-two official in the Catalan region, for allegedly helping members of the "Russian" mafia secure work visas to allow them to enter the country legally. Although GOS officials in 2005 publicly proclaimed Avispa a success, subsequent press reports suggest authorities struggled with leaks and bureaucratic snafus. Zahkar Kalashov and Tariel Oniani - Georgian-born Russian citizens who were the primary Avispa targets - apparently were both tipped off hours before the 2005 raid occurred and fled the country. Recent Spanish press reports suggest the source of the tip-off remains unidentified, although the Russian security services or a corrupt source within the GOS have been cited as possible culprits. Due to the leak, Izguilov was the most senior person arrested, although he later was released on bond from jail due to a technicality. Kalashov - allegedly the top boss of Russia's "Solnstevo" crime syndicate - was detained in Dubai in 2006 and quickly extradited to Spain, which had put out an arrest warrant for him via Interpol.
9. (U) The Spanish media often describes Kalashov as the "most valuable and well-protected prisoner in a Spanish jail" and the "highest level mafia boss arrested outside Russia." Kalashov - like Petrov, Malyshev, and Izguilov from Op Troika - is in an individual cell in an isolation block; all four are in different prisons. Kalashov faces numerous extra security measures and is periodically moved from prison to prison to foil any plots to break him out of jail, according to Spanish press (see Ref F).
10. (U) Investigating Judge Andreu in October 2008 formally charged 15 of the 37 people arrested in the first two phases of Avispa for money laundering, criminal conspiracy, and falsifying commercial documents. He is seeking 3-12 years for the defendants, including 12 years and two months for Kalashov, but a trial date has not yet been set.
11. (U) Against the backdrop of Lukoil's reported interest in acquiring a roughly 30 percent stake in Repsol (See Refs G and H), the Spanish press in November 2008 highlighted that Kalashov owned a "significant" share in Lukoil and that he and Tariel Oniani had acted as consultants during 2003-04 to help bring the Russian energy giant into Spain to open 150 gas stations, among other projects. Citing files provided by Swiss prosecutors, Spanish court documents estimate Kalashov's personal fortune at 200 million euros.
12. (U) Kalashov shuffled his attorneys in December 2008. Days later, one of his new lawyers, Alfonso Diaz Monux, was shot dead in his Madrid garage by unknown hitmen, although by all accounts, Diaz had received death threats for roughly a year due to his work on behalf of another client.
13. (U) In March 2009, the press reported that Spanish prosecutors had secured the cooperation of a protected witness against Kalashov who made a sworn statement in July 2008 that the crime boss had approached him in 2007 - while both were in prison - to launder 300 million euros. The alleged witness, former Galician drug trafficker Pablo Vioque, was released from prison in April 2008 for health reasons and died of terminal cancer in December 2008. Things took yet another unexpected turn when Vioque's adult children - days after his death - publicly claimed that their father had never been a protected witness in the Kalashov case and said that he never made a sworn statement to that effect,
MADRID 00000869 004.2 OF 004
although they acknowledged that police officers met their father at their home in his dying days.
//GOS Seeks Arrest, Extradition of Additional "Russian" OC Figures//
14. (SBU) Spanish press reports suggest that Madrid has expressed interest in the extradition of Tariel Oniani, whom Russian authorities arrested in Moscow in June 2009. Spain has sought Oniani through Interpol since 2005. However,XXXXXXXXXXXX suggested to POLOFF on August 17 that Moscow is unlikely to extradite Oniani to Spain.
15. (C) Madrid in recent months also has sought the arrest of Michael Cherney, a Russian-born, Israeli citizen for whom Spain's National Court has issued an international arrest warrant that accuses him of money laundering and illicit association in connection with Op Avispa. Cherney (aka Mikhail Chernoy) reportedly owns several companies in Spain that the Avispa defendants used to help launder money. Center-right El Mundo on July 6, 2009 published a highly detailed account of the GOS's fruitless efforts to have British authorities arrest Cherney during a visit to London in late May. Post's LEGAT Section confirms the basis of the article. CHACON
https://www.theguardian.com/world/us-em ... nts/223006
US embassy cables: Russia is virtual 'mafia state', says Spanish investigator
"DEPARTMENT PASS TO DOJ (BRUCE SWARTZ, TOM OTT, BRUCE OHR,
"Counselor for Transnational Organized Crime and International Affairs in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Previously the Chief of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section in the Criminal Division from 1999 through 2011."Bruce Ohr
Counsellor for Transnational Organized Crime and International Affairs, Criminal Division, US Department of Justice, Washington, DC, USA
Bruce Ohr is the Counselor for Transnational Organized Crime and International Affairs in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. He was previously the Chief of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section in the Criminal Division from 1999 through May 2011. Prior to that Mr. Ohr was an Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York from 1991 to 1999, and was Chief of the Violent Gangs Unit in that Office from 1998 to 1999.
Mr. Ohr was an associate at the San Francisco law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe from 1988 through 1991. Bruce graduated from Harvard College in 1984 with a degree in physics. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1987 and clerked for Judge Spottswood Robinson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from 1987 to 1988.
"Bruce graduated from Harvard College in 1984 with a degree in physics. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1987 and clerked for Judge Spottswood Robinson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from 1987 to 1988."
"In May 2013, Bruce Ohr attended the Ministry of Justice’s third annual International Legal Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia and spoke on a panel entitled “Criminal Matters and Allegations of Crime in International Arbitration.”"
https://2009-2017.state.gov/p/eur/ci/rs ... 219086.htm
European football clubs infiltrated by Russian mafia - EuropolClubs infiltrated by Russian mafia - Europol
JOKER/Alexander Stein/ullstein bild via Getty Images
LISBON, Portugal -- Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.
Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency, said in a statement on Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.
Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.
Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs' premises were searched.
Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.
Head of Europol's Financial Intelligence Group, Igor Angelini, said: "The misuse of offshore companies to conceal the beneficial ownership of assets is still one of the major challenges for successful financial investigations.
"These barriers also frustrate the attempts of investigators to trace the origin of the money, often criminal, which is re-invested in sectors prone to such infiltration. The football sector presents vulnerabilities related to its structure, finance model and culture which could be exploited by criminals."
http://www.espn.com/soccer/internationa ... ia-europol
"mafias" from Russia...have learned the benefits of international finance, easy international travel, and instantaneous wire and electronic communications. As a consequence, criminal enterprises operate worldwide networks engaged in...corruption and fraud" https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=701500 …
"One of the most important pieces of advice in this issue is how you can use the power and flexibility of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute against these elusive organizations." -Bruce Ohr
Nellie Ohr earned a degree in history and Russian literature at Harvard and received a doctorate degree from Stanford in history. She is also a member of the Women in International Security.Who is Nellie Ohr? Trump Slams 'Beautiful Wife' of Deputy Attorney General as He Hits Out at Steele Dossier
By Alexandra Hutzler On 8/11/18 at 4:45 PM
President Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday afternoon about the "beautiful wife" of deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, in connection to Christopher Steele's Russia dossier.
In the social media post, in which he spells Nellie Ohr's name wrong, Trump says that the "big story that the Fake News Media refuses to report is lowlife Christopher Steele's many meeting with Deputy A.G. Bruce Ohr and his beautiful wife, Nelly. It was Fusion GPS that hired Steele to write the phony & discredited Dossier, paid for by Crooked Hillary & the DNC."
The big story that the Fake News Media refuses to report is lowlife Christopher Steele’s many meetings with Deputy A.G. Bruce Ohr and his beautiful wife, Nelly. It was Fusion GPS that hired Steele to write the phony & discredited Dossier, paid for by Crooked Hillary & the DNC....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 11, 2018
The president continued his comment in another tweet directly after the first, in which he said that "Do you believe Nelly worked for Fusion and her husband STILL WORKS FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF “JUSTICE.” I have never seen anything so Rigged in my life. Our A.G. is scared stiff and Missing in Action. It is all starting to be revealed - not pretty. IG Report soon? Witch Hunt!"
....Do you believe Nelly worked for Fusion and her husband STILL WORKS FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF “JUSTICE.” I have never seen anything so Rigged in my life. Our A.G. is scared stiff and Missing in Action. It is all starting to be revealed - not pretty. IG Report soon? Witch Hunt!
Keep up with this story and more by subscribing now
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 11, 2018
Nellie Ohr earned a degree in history and Russian literature at Harvard and received a doctorate degree from Stanford in history. For a time she was an assistant professor at Vassar College before moving on to work as an independent contractor doing research and translation projects having to do with Russian science and technology.
She is also a member of the Women in International Security, an organization that is "dedicated to advancing the leadership and professional development of women in the field of international peace and security."
Nellie Ohr entered the controversy surrounding the Steele dossier because she was working for Fusion GPS, a commercial research and strategic intelligence firm based in Washington, D.C., which had hired Christopher Steele. She reportedly worked for the firm during the 2016 election.
There has been no evidence of any wrongdoing, and Trump did not make it clear how he felt Ohr fitted into a grand conspiracy to undo him. It is a common occurence for experts to move between consulting and government roles in Washington, D.C.
But links between the Justice Department and Steele have become a right-wing talking point, as Trump and his allies seek to undermine a broad investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into links between his campaign and the Russian govenment.
The House Judiciary Committee, headed by Republicans, wants to interview Bruce Ohr and his wife, along with several other current and former FBI and Department of Justice officials. The committee has even said that they are willing to subpoena the couple if necessary. The committee, headed by Bob Goodlatte, was created to investigate decisions made by the FBI and DOJ during the 2016 election.
“We plan to interview the people noted in the coming weeks and we will issue subpoenas to compel their attendance if necessary,” a committee aide wrote in an email to The Epoch Times.
GettyImages-1012899450 President Donald Trump's latest tweets slam the wife of Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr's wife, Nellie Ohr over the Russia-Steele dossier. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
Steele's 35-page dossier details possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. It also alleged that Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime had cultivated Trump for years and even had damaging information on the real estate mogul.
https://www.newsweek.com/who-nellie-don ... er-1069701
https://twitter.com/TrickFreee/status/1 ... 0308784128
Meadows, you really ought not to bring this up. We are keeping it a secret from the MAGAs that the US and U.K. spies talk to each other. They think the FISA case was built on the dossier. If they find out it was real intelligence gathering, they will call you a liar.
Congressional enemy of the US intelligence community Devin Nunes meets with the impressively corrupt leader of Azerbaijan, Ilham AliyevPresident Ilham Aliyev receives US Congress delegation (PHOTO)
Baku, Azerbaijan, Aug.10
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has received a US Congressional delegation led by Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Devin Nunes and including member of the committee Rick Crawford.
The successful development of the bilateral relations between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the United States of America in political, economic, energy and security areas was stressed at the meeting. The sides said Chairman of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Devin Nunes`s visit to Azerbaijan will contribute to the expansion of cooperation.
Azerbaijan`s active support for peacemaking operations in Afghanistan was hailed, and the sides expressed their confidence that the two countries will continue making efforts to combat international terrorism.
The sides exchanged views over regional security and settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Here's that pic by itself. Suitable for framing.
Azerbaijani President Aliyev Named Corruption's 'Person Of The Year'
In 2012, corruption watchdog Transparency International reported that two-thirds of the world's countries may be considered "highly corrupt." It would seem tough to choose someone for the dubious honor of corruption's "person of the year."
One investigative-journalism NGO has done just that.
The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), based in Sarajevo and Bucharest, has awarded the crown to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
The group, which specializes in reporting on corruption in the region stretching from Eastern Europe to Central Asia, also gave out some "honorable" mentions. They went to alleged Kosovo-born cigarette and drugs smuggler Naser Kelmendi, Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, Russian President Vladimir Putin, politically connected Serbian entrepreneur Miroslav Miskovic, longtime Uzbek President Islam Karimov, and wanted Serbian drugs smuggler Darko Saric.
The informal list was determined by representatives of the 15 international media organizations that make up the OCCRP. It is aimed at highlighting the intrepid and often courageous reporting that is needed to expose corruption in these notoriously opaque countries.
The OCCRP gave the nod to Aliyev, citing extensive reports and "well-documented evidence" that "the Aliyev family has been systematically grabbing shares of the most profitable businesses" in Azerbaijan for many years.
Secret Ownership Stakes
The reports include secret ownership stakes in banks, construction firms, gold mines, and telecommunications firms. Many of the reports about Aliyev were investigated by OCCRP affiliate Khadija Ismayilova, a journalist with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service.
"President Aliyev and his family, in fact, along with other persons in his inner circle are involved in so many secret businesses that we uncovered, actually together with Radio Free Europe this year," says Paul Radu, OCCRP's executive director. "We identified hidden companies that were owned by the first family of Azerbaijan in Panama, for instance, or in the Czech Republic. And we identified assets that they owned back in Azerbaijan via these companies."
Radu is optimistic about the new tools that are making this kind of reporting more and more effective. One example he cites is that OCCRP has successfully partnered with a Scottish computer hacker.
"He works right now with us at the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and he is the one who scraped [eds: got into] the Panamanian registry of companies and that allowed us to perform name-based searches," Radu says. "And this is how we found the companies that are owned by the daughters of Aliyev and by his wife in Panama."
However, Radu adds that the impact of such reporting in the case of the Aliyev family has not been what one might hope.
The ownership structures of the family's foreign assets have been changed; the Azerbaijani parliament in June passed a law making it more difficult to discover who actually owns commercial companies and shielding Aliyev and his family from prosecution.
A Terrifying Campaign Of Threats
Moreover, journalist Ismayilova was subjected to a terrifying campaign of threats and harassment that she alleges was orchestrated by Aliyev's political allies.
Nevertheless, OCCRP editor Drew Sullivan says that "2012 was a banner year for those of us who cover organized crime and corruption. It is a growth industry around the world."
According to Radu, the OCCRP is now combining numerous international databases and linking them to the organization's ongoing files of "persons of interest" -- future candidates to unseat Aliyev as "person of the year."
The OCCRP list is also intended to highlight the global impact of crime and corruption. Radu maintains that most of the people on the OCCRP list have dubious and opaque ties far beyond the borders of their country.
"There are persons such as Darko Sadic, for instance, who is a well-known drug trafficker," he says. "And these sorts of persons are not well-known outside of the Balkans, but in fact they are part of very, very large networks that stretch sometimes across continents. In this case, this person was involved in cocaine trafficking from Argentina all the way to the Balkans."
Radu adds that organized crime from the Balkans and the former Soviet Union is deeply involved in the savage drug wars in Mexico and in massive resource theft from impoverished countries in Africa. This makes it all the more important to expose these people and the corrupt schemes they exploit, he says.
Robert Coalson is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who covers Russia, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe.
https://www.rferl.org/a/azerbaijan-ilha ... 14209.html
Pilatus: A Private Bank for Azerbaijan’s Ruling Elite
by Miranda Patrucic, Juliette Garside, Khadija Ismayilova, and Jean-Baptiste Chastand 23 April 2018
Credit: REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
Above: The flag of Pilatus Bank flies from its offices in Whitehall Mansions in Ta’ Xbiex, Malta. Credit: REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
Children of the two most powerful officials in Azerbaijan – President Ilham Aliyev and Minister of Emergencies Kamaladdin Heydarov – used dozens of offshore companies as cover for investments in luxury properties, businesses, and high-end hotels across Europe and Middle East.
Their secrets were hidden in the files of Pilatus Bank, a controversial private bank in Malta that’s being investigated for laundering money for its clients. The network used accounts at the bank to stash profits and funnel millions of dollars into new investments, according to three sources with knowledge of the transactions who can’t be identified because of fear of retaliation. Their revelations were corroborated by public records obtained by reporters.
The previously unreported assets include one of the biggest conglomerates in Azerbaijan, a five-star hotel and more than three dozen other luxury properties in Dubai, French porcelain and linen factories, a villa in southern Spain, and a hotel development in the Republic of Georgia.
The newly revealed holdings underscore the extent to which the Aliyev family and its allies have profited personally from their dominance of Azerbaijan. The Aliyevs have run the oil-rich Caucasus state since its independence from the Soviet Union. Human rights groups and other independent observers accuse the undemocratic regime of regular abuses, including imprisoning journalists and opposition leaders.
Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had begun reporting on the Azerbaijani ruling families and their Pilatus accounts before her death. She was murdered by a car bomb last October.
This follow-up investigation is the result of a collaboration of 18 news organizations, including the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), the Guardian, Reuters, Le Monde, and the New York Times. Led by France’s Forbidden Stories, the Daphne Project was created to continue the Maltese journalist’s work.
Flowers and photographs in memory of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Maltese investigative journalist murdered six months ago. Valletta, Malta. Credit: Dan Kitwood
Leyla and Arzu Aliyeva, the two daughters of the Azerbaijani President, were the bank’s largest clients and the ultimate beneficial owners of a number of the opaque offshore companies, according to the three sources.
Tale and Nijat Heydarov, the sons of the country’s emergency minister, were the beneficial owners of other companies in the network, according to the same sources.
Kamaladdin Heydarov is a long-serving Azerbaijani official with close ties to the first family. A leaked 2010 US diplomatic cable describes him as having accrued “massive wealth” during his tenure as chairman of the state customs agency — “an agency that is notoriously corrupt, even by Azerbaijani standards.” The family is said to “own more businesses than any other Azerbaijani family,” which is perhaps why Heydarov is known in the country as “the Minister of Everything Significant.”
Lawyers for the Heydarov brothers said: “Our clients are the beneficial owners of companies which hold accounts at Pilatus Bank in Malta, which have entirely legitimate and lawful business.” The structure was set up “to hold European property and assets,” and their ownership was in many cases in the public domain. They also denied the characterization of the family in the diplomatic cables, calling it “not a reliable source.”
The Aliyev daughters did not respond to a request for comment.
The Russian Whistleblower
The first public revelations about Pilatus and its Azerbaijani clients came from Maria Efimova, a former employee of the bank.
In early 2017, Caruana Galizia met Efimova, a Russian national, about a year after she had been fired from the bank. Efimova had sued Pilatus for failing to pay her salary, and the bank responded by reporting her to the police for misappropriation of funds.
She told the reporter that Aliyev’s eldest daughter Leyla had transferred over €1 million from a Pilatus account held by her Dubai-registered company, Sahra FZCO, to an offshore company owned by the wife of Joseph Muscat, Malta’s Prime Minister.
Once published, the story immediately turned into a major corruption scandal. A local television station filmed Ali Sadr, the bank’s owner, and Antoniella Gauci, its risk manager, leaving the building in the middle of the same night. Ali Sadr was carrying bags of documents.
A few hours later, at about 4 am, a mysterious private jet took off from Malta International Airport, made a stop in Baku, Azerbaijan, and then proceeded to Dubai.
The Maltese prime minister vociferously rejected Caruana Galizia’s reporting, and the jet operator said that no one had been on board. But three days later, the reporter broke another story stating that the bank’s main client was Heydarov, Azerbaijan’s Minister for Emergency Situations.
Caruana Galizia was killed less than six months later. (No evidence has arisen linking her murder to Heydarov or his sons.) After her murder, Efimova, who said she feared for her life, fled the country. She was arrested in Greece in relation to the accusations Pilatus had made against her, but a court recently ruled that she will not be extradited back to Malta.
The purpose of Aliyeva’s alleged payments to Muscat’s wife are unclear. The prime minister had made several low-key trips to Baku where he had meetings with President Aliyev that did not follow normal protocol for meetings with foreign leaders. He has also publicly praised Azerbaijan’s notoriously rigged elections.
Michelle Muscat, wife of Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, with Leyla Aliyeva in Malta, 2014. Credit: DaphneCaruanaGalizia.com
While OCCRP and partners were not able to independently confirm Caruana Galizia’s reporting about the payment, and Efimova was not able to provide the document she claims to have seen, her assertion that the bank served the Azerbaijani ruling elite, including the president’s daughters, appears confirmed.
Independently, the Maltese government was looking at suspicious Pilatus Bank transactions.
A report by the country’s Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit found that the vast majority of the bank’s 150 clients were politically exposed companies or persons from Azerbaijan. It also found many of the bank’s activities were suspicious. For example, the bank did not collect “enough evidence of the source of fortune” from its politically exposed clients. “Many of the bank’s transfers were done internally, from one account to another, with no obvious commercial interest,” the report read.
Earlier last month, Seyed Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, the bank’s Iranian owner, was charged with money laundering and evading sanctions.
Following his arrest, Malta’s banking regulator froze all of the bank’s assets, including those held on behalf of clients.
Multimillion Holdings in Dubai
Arzu Aliyeva, daughter of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, skydiving over the Palm Jumeirah off the coast of Dubai. Credit: Image from Arzu Aliyeva’s public Facebook page
Sahra FZCO — the company whose transaction sparked the scandal with the Prime Minister’s wife — appears to have been among the bank’s first clients. The beneficial owners of the company, which was incorporated in Dubai’s Jabel Ali free zone in 2004, are President Aliyev’s daughters, according to the three sources with knowledge of the company’s transactions.
Sahra FZCO opened an account in Pilatus in August 2015. It was used to receive payments from the Aliyev family’s real estate projects in Dubai, according to the three sources.
Property records show that Sahra FZCO owns land and a luxury resort on Palm Jumeirah, the man-made island in the shape of a palm tree off the coast of Dubai. The Sofitel Palm Resort & Spa on the east crescent features 361 rooms and suites and 182 residences. According to its advertising materials, it offers guests Polynesian design with a French flair, stunning views over Dubai, and an exclusive half-kilometer-long beach.
AccorHotels, a French multinational hotel group, operates the facility. The company refused to divulge its partner in the hotel without their agreement.
Sahra FZCO also appears to own another AccorHotels property in Dubai, the Mercure Barsha.
Credit: Edin Pasovic / OCCRP
But the Aliyevs’ Dubai holdings don’t end here.
Sahra FZCO also shows up as the owner of 16 villas on the Jumeirah Islands, a picturesque, self-contained community of 50 islands. The villas, worth an estimated $30 million, are grouped on a small artificial island surrounded by lakes, water features, and greenery. Each has its own swimming pool and garden.
Leyla and Arzu Aliyeva and their brother Heydar are also listed by name as owners of 17 other luxury properties on the Dubai Palm Jumeirah worth over $100 million.
There is also a Palm Fronds property listed under “Ilhama Aliyeva,” who uses the same Dubai P.O. box number as Arzu and Leyla Aliyeva. That luxury property is worth about $6 million.
It is not clear when the family bought the Dubai properties or where the money came from. But, according to the three sources, the family had been using their Maltese accounts to collect the profits from their Dubai assets.
An earlier OCCRP investigation revealed that the Aliyev family also owns an enormous portfolio of luxury hotels in Baku and more than $100 million in real estate abroad.
Dubai property data from 2014 to 2016 obtained by OCCRP also show that Nijat and Tale Heydarov, the emergency minister’s sons, also own nine luxury properties on the Dubai Palm Jumeirah Island worth about $33 million.
Sahra FZCO owns something even more valuable that the property in Dubai. According to the three sources, it also controls a majority stake in Gilan Holding, one of Azerbaijan’s largest conglomerates, with major assets in such sectors as textile and food production, agriculture, construction, manufacturing of construction materials, banking, insurance, transport, tourism and professional sports teams. The three sources’ claims were corroborated by records independently obtained by reporters.
The Aliyev daughters’ stake in Gilan has never been revealed before. Along with the family’s other known businesses in telecommunications, mining, banking, hotels and construction, it shows that they own vast swathes of the economy of the country they control.
The only previously available documentation about the ownership structure of Gilan Holding seemed to show that it was founded in 2005 and owned by the Heydarov family.
Gilan and the Heydarovs
By 2005 — the year that Azerbaijani records show the Heydarovs founded Gilan — Kamaladdin Heydarov was already a prominent public official.
Lawyers for the family dispute this, saying that Heydarov had started IRS, a company that would become Gilan, as far back as 1987. They said it was passed to his sons and some “senior executives” when he entered politics in 1995. (His eldest son was 10 years old at the time).
OCCRP found a company called IRS registered in 1989, but reporters found no evidence in public records or the business press at the time that it had been a major conglomerate before Heydarov became a government official.
A 2013 audit of a bank owned by Gilan Holding found that the group was ultimately owned by two companies: Sahra FZCO, with a 51 percent share, and Shams al Sahra FZCO, with 49 percent. Both companies are registered in the secretive Dubai free zone of Jabel Ali. According to the audit, they are owned by Heydarov’s sons, Nijat and Tale.
The document has since been removed from the bank’s web site and replaced with a report that contains no information about its beneficial ownership.
But now — given the new revelations about the Aliyev daughters’ majority stake in Gilan Holding — it appears that the Heydarovs may have either been posing as the Aliyev family’s proxies, or have transferred or sold control of the company to the first family. The Aliyevs have used other proxies before to try to keep the true extent of their vast empire secret from the Azerbaijani public.
The country has shut down public disclosure of shareholder information and most of its large holding companies don’t publish annual reports or other financial details.
It is not just the Aliyevs who have used Pilatus to invest tens of millions of dollars in Europe and operated a network of secretive companies.
Following leads from the bank’s documents, reporters found that the Heydarov brothers are the beneficial owners of Heritage Collection, a company that controls three French artisanal businesses famous for their craftsmanship and traditional know-how.
Hiding behind the opaque ownership afforded by this company, the Heydarovs acquired JL Coquet, a porcelain maker that supplies dishware for some of the most elite French restaurants; Porthault, a producer of luxury linens; and Leblon Delienne, a company that specializes in producing cartoon character figurines.
Philippe Nguyen, director of Heritage Collection at the time, described the company’s strategic plan in a 2014 management report: “Its ambition is to bring together the best know-how” and “acquire 15 companies, each among the best in its sector.”
But even the company’s managers and employees were not aware of its real owners.
The manager of one factory said to Le Monde: “It’s incredible, it’s been three years now that my questions have gone unanswered. I had imagined everything: Shareholders from the Gulf, Uzbekistan. Not Azerbaijan. Why the secrecy?”
The Heydarov Family's French Holdings. Credit: Edin Pasovic / OCCRP
The French companies, which employ 180 people, were bought in 2014 and 2015, when they were on the brink of bankruptcy. Heritage is seemingly a French holding, but in fact it is owned by a Luxembourg company, which was bought by a Maltese company, which in turn is owned by two New Zealand trusts.
The transactions in Luxembourg have raised red flags at French banks that dealt with the transactions, prompting them to alert the French anti-money laundering authority.
According to sources familiar with the transactions, the Heydarovs have also used the bank to invest €3.9 million in a luxury property in Marbella, a popular seaside resort in the south of Spain, and €2.5 million in the grand Soviet-era Meshakhte sanatorium in the spa town of Tskaltubo in western Georgia, where they plan to build a four-star hotel.
The sources also said the Heydarov family owns other corporate structures through proxies. Reporters have found that these companies own nearly €40 million in properties in the United Kingdom and Spain. Reporters were not able to independently confirm direct ownership through records.
Editors’ disclosure: Khadija Ismayilova, an OCCRP reporter who contributed to this story, was jailed for 18 months by the Azerbaijani government in 2015-2016.
Additional reporting by Anuska Delic, Karina Shedrofsky, Anne Michel, Lejla Camdzic, and Chris Benevento.
https://www.occrp.org/en/thedaphneproje ... ling-elite
Donald Trump’s Worst Deal
The President helped build a hotel in Azerbaijan that appears to be a corrupt operation engineered by oligarchs tied to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
Adam DavidsonMarch 13, 2017 Issue
The Trump Tower Baku never opened. Trump partnered with an Azerbaijani family that U.S. officials called notoriously unethical.
Photograph by Davide Monteleone for The New Yorker
Heydar Aliyev Prospekti, a broad avenue in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, connects the airport to the city. The road is meant to highlight Baku’s recent modernization, and it is lined with sleek new buildings. The Heydar Aliyev Center, an undulating wave of concrete and glass, was designed by Zaha Hadid. The state oil company is housed in a twisting glass tower, and the headquarters of the state water company looks like a giant water droplet. “It’s like Potemkin,” my translator told me. “It’s only the buildings right next to the road.” Behind the gleaming structures stand decaying Soviet-era apartment blocks, with clothes hanging out of windows and wallboards exposed by fallen brickwork.
As you approach the city center, a tower at the end of the avenue looms in front of you. Thirty-three stories high and curved to resemble a sail, the building was clearly inspired by the Burj Al Arab Hotel, in Dubai, but it is boxier and less elegant. When I visited Baku, in December, five enormous white letters glowed at the top of the tower: T-R-U-M-P.
The building, a five-star hotel and residence called the Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku, has never opened, though from the road it looks ready to welcome the public. Reaching the property is surprisingly difficult; the tower stands amid a welter of on-ramps, off-ramps, and overpasses. During the nine days I was in town, I went to the site half a dozen times, and on each occasion I had a comical exchange with a taxi-driver who had no idea which combination of turns would lead to the building’s entrance.
The more time I spent in the neighborhood, the more I wondered how the hotel could have been imagined as a viable business. The development was conceived, in 2008, as a high-end apartment building. In 2012, after Donald Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, signed multiple contracts with the Azerbaijani developers behind the project, plans were made to transform the tower into an “ultra-luxury property.” According to a Trump Organization press release, a hotel with “expansive guest rooms” would occupy the first thirteen floors; higher stories would feature residences with “spectacular views of the city and Caspian Sea.” For an expensive hotel, the Trump Tower Baku is in an oddly unglamorous location: the underdeveloped eastern end of downtown, which is dominated by train tracks and is miles from the main business district, on the west side of the city. Across the street from the hotel is a discount shopping center; the area is filled with narrow, dingy shops and hookah bars. Other hotels nearby are low-budget options: at the AYF Palace, most rooms are forty-two dollars a night. There are no upscale restaurants or shops. Any guests of the Trump Tower Baku would likely feel marooned.
The timing of the project was also curious. By 2014, when the Trump Organization publicly announced that it was helping to turn the tower into a hotel, a construction boom in Baku had ended, and the occupancy rate for luxury hotels in the city hovered around thirty-five per cent. Jan deRoos, of Cornell University, who is an expert in hotel finance, told me that the developer of a five-star hotel typically must demonstrate that the project will maintain an average occupancy rate of at least sixty per cent for ten years. There is a long-term master plan to develop the area around the Trump Tower Baku, but if it is implemented the hotel will be surrounded for years by noisy construction projects, making it even less appealing to travellers desiring a luxurious experience—especially considering that there are many established hotels on the city’s seaside promenade. There, an executive from ExxonMobil or the Israeli cell-phone industry can stay at the Four Seasons, which occupies a limestone building that evokes a French colonial palace, or at the J. W. Marriott Absheron Baku, which has an outdoor terrace overlooking the water. Tiffany, Ralph Lauren, and Armani are among the dozens of companies that have boutiques along the promenade.
A former top official in Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Tourism says that, when he learned of the Trump hotel project, he asked himself, “Why would someone put a luxury hotel there? Nobody who can afford to stay there would want to be in that neighborhood.”
The Azerbaijanis behind the project were close relatives of Ziya Mammadov, the Transportation Minister and one of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful oligarchs. According to the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, Azerbaijan is among the most corrupt nations in the world. Its President, Ilham Aliyev, the son of the former President Heydar Aliyev, recently appointed his wife to be Vice-President. Ziya Mammadov became the Transportation Minister in 2002, around the time that the regime began receiving enormous profits from government-owned oil reserves in the Caspian Sea. At the time of the hotel deal, Mammadov, a career government official, had a salary of about twelve thousand dollars, but he was a billionaire.
The Trump Tower Baku originally had a construction budget of a hundred and ninety-five million dollars, but it went through multiple revisions, and the cost ended up being much higher. The tower was designed by a local architect, and in its original incarnation it had an ungainly roof that suggested the spikes of a crown. A London-based architecture firm, Mixity, redesigned the building, softening its edges and eliminating the ornamental roof. By the time the Trump team officially joined the project, in May, 2012, many condominium residences had already been completed; at the insistence of Trump Organization staffers, most of the building’s interior was gutted and rebuilt, and several elevators were added.
After Donald Trump became a candidate for President, in 2015, Mother Jones, the Associated Press, the Washington Post, and other publications ran articles that raised questions about his involvement in the Baku project. These reports cited a series of cables sent from the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan in 2009 and 2010, which were made public by WikiLeaks. In one of the cables, a U.S. diplomat described Ziya Mammadov as “notoriously corrupt even for Azerbaijan.” The Trump Organization’s chief legal officer, Alan Garten, told reporters that the Baku hotel project raised no ethical issues for Donald Trump, because his company had never engaged directly with Mammadov.
According to Garten, Trump played a passive role in the development of the property: he was “merely a licensor” who allowed his famous name to be used by a company headed by Ziya Mammadov’s son, Anar, a young entrepreneur. It’s not clear how much money Trump made from the licensing agreement, although in his limited public filings he has reported receiving $2.8 million. (The Trump Organization shared documents that showed an additional payment of two and a half million dollars, in 2012, but declined to disclose any other payments.) Trump also had signed a contract to manage the hotel once it opened, for an undisclosed fee tied to the hotel’s performance. The Washington Post published Garten’s description of the deal, and reported that Donald Trump had “invested virtually no money in the project while selling the rights to use his name and holding the contract to manage the property.”
A month after Trump was elected President, Garten announced that the Trump Organization had severed its ties with the hotel project, describing the decision to CNN as little more than “housecleaning.” I was in Baku at the time, and it had become clear that the Trump Organization’s story of the hotel was incomplete and inaccurate. Trump’s company had made the deal not just with Anar Mammadov but also with Ziya’s brother Elton—an influential member of the Azerbaijani parliament. Elton signed the contracts, and in an interview he confirmed that he founded Baku XXI Century, the company that owns the Trump Tower Baku. When he was asked who owns Baku XXI Century, he called it a “commercial secret” but added that he “controlled all its operations” until 2015, when he cut ties to the company. Elton denied having used his political position for profit.
An Azerbaijani lawyer who worked on the project revealed to me that the Trump Organization had not just licensed the family name; it also had signed a technical-services agreement in which it promised to help its partner meet Trump design standards. Technical-services agreements are often nominal addenda to licensing deals. Major hospitality brands compile exhaustive specifications for licensed hotels, and tend to approve design elements remotely; a foreign site is visited only occasionally. But in the case of Trump Tower Baku the oversight appears to have been extensive. The Azerbaijani lawyer told me, “We were always following their instructions. We were in constant contact with the Trump Organization. They approved the smallest details.” He said that Trump staff visited Baku at least monthly to give the go-ahead for the next round of work orders. Trump designers went to Turkey to vet the furniture and fabrics acquired there. The hotel’s main designer, Pierre Baillargeon, and several contractors told me that they had visited the Trump Organization headquarters, in New York, to secure approval for their plans.
Ivanka Trump was the most senior Trump Organization official on the Baku project. In October, 2014, she visited the city to tour the site and offer advice. An executive at Mace, the London-based construction firm that oversaw the tower’s conversion to a hotel, met with Ivanka in Baku and New York. He told me, “She had very strong feelings, not just about the design but about the back of the hotel—landscaping, everything.” The Azerbaijani lawyer said, “Ivanka personally approved everything.” A subcontractor noted that Ivanka’s team was particular about wood panelling: it chose an expensive Macassar ebony, from Indonesia, for the ceiling of the lobby. The ballroom doors were to be made of book-matched panels of walnut. On her Web site, Ivanka posted a photograph of herself wearing a hard hat inside the half-completed hotel. A caption reads, “Ivanka has overseen the development of Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku since its inception, and she recently returned from a trip to the fascinating city in Azerbaijan to check in on the project’s progress.” (Ivanka Trump declined requests to discuss the Baku project.)
Jan deRoos, the Cornell professor, developed branded-hotel properties before entering academia. He told me that the degree of the Trump Organization’s involvement in the Baku property was atypical. “That’s very, very intense,” he said.
The sustained back-and-forth between the Trump Organization and the Mammadovs has legal significance. If parties involved in the Trump Tower Baku project participated in any illegal financial conduct, and if the Trump Organization exerted a degree of control over the project, the company could be vulnerable to criminal prosecution. Tom Fox, a Houston lawyer who specializes in anti-corruption compliance, said, “It’s a problem if you’re making a profit off of someone else’s corrupt conduct.” Moreover, recent case law has established that licensors take on a greater legal burden when they assume roles normally reserved for developers. The Trump Organization’s unusually deep engagement with Baku XXI Century suggests that it had the opportunity and the responsibility to monitor it for corruption.
Before signing a deal with a foreign partner, American companies, including major hotel chains, conduct risk assessments and background checks that take a close look at the country, the prospective partner, and the people involved. Countless accounting and law firms perform this service, as do many specialized investigation companies; a baseline report normally costs between ten thousand and twenty-five thousand dollars. A senior executive at one of the largest American hotel chains, who asked for anonymity because he feared reprisal from the Trump Administration, said, “We wouldn’t look at due diligence as a burden. There certainly is a cost to doing it, especially in higher-risk places. But it’s as much an investment in the protection of that brand. It’s money well spent.”
Alan Garten told me that the Trump Organization had commissioned a risk assessment for the Baku deal, but declined to name the company that had performed it. The Washington Post article on the Baku project reported that, according to Garten, the Trump Organization had undertaken “extensive due diligence” before making the hotel deal and had not discovered “any red flags.”
But the Mammadov family, in addition to its reputation for corruption, has a troubling connection that any proper risk assessment should have unearthed: for years, it has been financially entangled with an Iranian family tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the ideologically driven military force. In 2008, the year that the tower was announced, Ziya Mammadov, in his role as Transportation Minister, awarded a series of multimillion-dollar contracts to Azarpassillo, an Iranian construction company. Keyumars Darvishi, its chairman, fought in the Iran-Iraq War. After the war, he became the head of Raman, an Iranian construction firm that is controlled by the Revolutionary Guard. The U.S. government has regularly accused the Guard of criminal activity, including drug trafficking, sponsoring terrorism abroad, and money laundering. Reuters recently reported that the Trump Administration was poised to officially condemn the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization.
I asked Garten how deeply the Trump Organization had looked into the Mammadov family’s political connections. Had it been concerned that Elton Mammadov, as a sitting member of parliament, might exploit his power to benefit the project? How much money had Ziya Mammadov invested in Elton’s company? Garten noted that he didn’t oversee the due-diligence process. “The people who did are no longer at the company,” he said. “I can’t tell you what was done in this situation.” He would not identify the former employees. When I asked him to provide documentation of due diligence, he said that he couldn’t share it with me, because “it’s confidential and privileged.”
A 2014 Instagram post of Ivanka Trump at the Baku tower. Photo Illustration by The New Yorker
Photo Illustration by The New Yorker
No evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump, or any of his employees involved in the Baku deal, actively participated in bribery, money laundering, or other illegal behavior. But the Trump Organization may have broken the law in its work with the Mammadov family. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, passed in 1977, forbade American companies from participating in a scheme to reward a foreign government official in exchange for material benefit or preferential treatment. The law even made it a crime for an American company to unknowingly benefit from a partner’s corruption if it could have discovered illicit activity but avoided doing so. This closed what was known as the “head in the sand” loophole.
As a result, American companies must examine potential foreign partners very carefully before making deals with them. I recently spoke with Alexandra Wrage, who runs Trace International, a consortium of three hundred corporations that do business overseas. Trace helps these firms avoid violating the F.C.P.A., and it has a division that can be hired by individual clients to assess potential foreign partners. To comply with the law, Wrage noted, an American company must remain vigilant even after a contract is signed, monitoring its foreign partner to be sure that nobody involved is engaging in bribery or other improprieties.
Wrage pointed out that corrupt government leaders often use their children or their siblings to distance themselves from illicit projects. Such an official creates a company in the relative’s name which appears to be independent but is controlled by the official. To lessen the likelihood of an F.C.P.A. violation when working with a company that is owned by a child or a sibling of a government minister, Wrage told me, “you’d need to show that the child has real expertise, real ability to do the work.” Otherwise, Wrage said, “the assumption is that they are a partner entirely because of their ability to use their parent’s power.” Before Elton Mammadov became a member of parliament, in 2000, he was a maintenance engineer who had no experience in real-estate development. When the Trump Organization joined the Baku project, it barred a Mammadov-owned company from doing construction work, because it was deemed incompetent.
Wrage said that a U.S. company looking to make a deal with a foreign partner should be confident that the partner has a reasonable likelihood of making a profit from the venture. If the project seems almost guaranteed to lose money, it could well be a bribery scheme or some other criminal operation. The partner also should uphold modern accounting standards.
“It’s simple,” she said. “Will money flow through this business because it offers a compelling product at a decent price, or will the money come because of an illicit relationship with someone who uses their power?”
Wrage told me that, in 2009, an American entrepreneur was successfully prosecuted for his part in a corruption conspiracy in Azerbaijan. Frederic Bourke, the co-founder of Dooney & Bourke, the handbag company, had invested in a project in which a foreign partner paid bribes to Azerbaijani government officials and their family members. Bourke was sentenced to a year in prison for violating the F.C.P.A.; he appealed the conviction, claiming ignorance of the corruption. Two years later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the conviction, saying that, regardless of whether he had known about the bribes, “the testimony at trial demonstrated that Bourke was aware of how pervasive corruption was in Azerbaijan.” The F.C.P.A., they said, also criminalized “conscious avoidance”—a deliberate effort to remain in the dark about any transgressions a foreign partner might be involved in. After Bourke’s conviction, Wrage said, U.S. companies were well aware of the dangers of making careless deals in Azerbaijan.
Even a cursory look at the Mammadovs suggests that they are not ideal partners for an American business. Four years before the Trump Organization announced the Baku deal, WikiLeaks released the U.S. diplomatic cables indicating that the family was corrupt; one cable mentioned the Mammadovs’ link to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In 2013, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project investigated the Mammadov family’s corruption and published well-documented exposés. Six months before the hotel announcement, Foreign Policy ran an article titled “The Corleones of the Caspian,” which suggested that the Mammadovs had exploited Ziya’s position as Transportation Minister to make their fortunes.
The Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty investigation revealed that Baku XXI Century, the company controlled by Elton, had at least two other stakeholders. One of them was a company called zqan, an acronym for the family members of the Transportation Minister: Ziya Mammadov; Qanira, his wife; Anar, his son; and Nigar, his daughter. Anar is the official head of zqan. Another stakeholder in Baku XXI Century was the Baghlan Group, a company run by an Azerbaijani businessman who is known to be close to Ziya Mammadov.
Baku XXI Century, zqan, and Baghlan have so many overlapping interests that they often seem to operate as a single concern. According to the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty investigation, the companies all prospered largely through contracts with the Transportation Ministry. The Trump Tower Baku complex was built partly on land controlled by the ministry. A Baghlan subsidiary received a contract from the ministry to import a thousand London-style cabs to Baku. Soon afterward, ministry inspectors began preventing competing taxi services from parking in the city center or at subway stops. Another new rule required all taxi owners to pay taxes and license fees at the Bank of Azerbaijan, a private entity that at the time was owned jointly by Anar Mammadov and Baghlan.
Anar’s net worth has been estimated at a billion dollars, but he is not a self-made man. According to the Associated Press, zqan was founded in 2000, when he was in his late teens. He began studying in England that year, and remained there until 2005; during that period, the company that he ostensibly ran experienced explosive growth. Trump Organization officials, as well as others familiar with the Baku project, told me that during the tower’s construction Anar was barely involved, and was often travelling abroad. (He flies on a Gulfstream G450 private jet.) An American who did business in Azerbaijan told me, “It’s common knowledge there that Ziya Mammadov controls zqan.”
One of the cables sent in 2010 by the U.S. Embassy in Baku noted that, “with so much of the nation’s oil wealth being poured into road construction,” the Mammadovs had become disproportionately powerful in Azerbaijan. Another cable suggested that Ziya controlled zqan, the country’s “largest commercial development company.” This cable described Ziya as being the object of “many allegations from Azerbaijani contacts of creative corrupt practices.”
Much of the land occupied by the Trump Tower Baku complex was once packed with houses. In 2011, residents received letters from the local government authority informing them that their homes were to be demolished to make way for a project of crucial government significance. Thirty families were evicted. One resident, Minaye Azizova, told me that the government gave her eighteen thousand dollars in compensation for a home that, by her estimation, was worth five times as much. After she discovered that her home had been condemned so that Baku XXI Century could build a luxury tower, she sued the government.
Construction of the building began in 2008. I have spoken with more than a dozen contractors who worked on it. Some of them described behavior that seemed nakedly corrupt. Frank McDonald, an Englishman who has had a long career doing construction jobs in developing countries, performed extensive work on the building’s interior. He told me that his firm was always paid in cash, and that he witnessed other contractors being paid in the same way. At the offices of Anar Mammadov’s company, he said, “they would give us a giant pile of cash,” adding, “I got a hundred and eighty thousand dollars one time, which I fit into my laptop bag, and two hundred thousand dollars another time.” Once, a colleague of his picked up a payment of two million dollars. “He needed to bring a big duffelbag,” McDonald recalled. The Azerbaijani lawyer confirmed that some contractors on the Baku tower were paid in cash.
Two people who worked on the Trump Tower Baku told me that bribes were paid. Much of the graft was routine: Azerbaijani tax officials, government inspectors, and customs officers showed up occasionally to pick up envelopes of cash.
The executive at Mace, the construction firm, told me that the Mammadovs handled payments and all interactions with the Azerbaijani government. “Were people bribed?” he said. “I don’t know. Maybe. We didn’t check.” (A spokesman for Mace said that the firm was “not involved” in any corruption.)
Pierre Baillargeon, the architect whom the Mammadovs hired to alter the tower’s original design, is a Canadian who runs a studio in London. He has often worked in parts of the world known for corruption, including Sudan and Syria, and has done several projects in Azerbaijan. In a phone interview, Baillargeon said that he knew nothing about corruption and was “just a designer.” I asked him why he thought the hotel had been built in such an inhospitable part of Baku. “Every project has detractors,” he said. When I asked him if he had seen large payments being made in cash, he hung up. (He did not respond to later calls.)
Alan Garten, the Trump Organization lawyer, did not deny that there was corruption involved in the project. “I’m not going to sit here and defend the Mammadovs,” he said. But, from a legal standpoint, he argued, the Trump Organization was blameless. In his opinion, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act doesn’t apply to the Baku deal, even if corruption occurred. “We didn’t own it,” he said of the hotel. “We had no equity. We didn’t control the project. The flow of funds is in the wrong direction.” He added, “We did not pay any money to anyone. Therefore, it could not be a violation of the F.C.P.A.”
“No, that’s just wrong,” Jessica Tillipman, an assistant dean at George Washington University Law School, who specializes in the F.C.P.A., said. “You can’t go into business deals in Azerbaijan assuming that you are immune from the F.C.P.A.” She added, “Nor can you escape liability by looking the other way. The entire Baku deal is a giant red flag—the direct involvement of foreign government officials and their relatives in Azerbaijan with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Corruption warning signs are rarely more obvious.”
Tillipman explained that the F.C.P.A. defines corruption as “the payment of money or anything of value” to a foreign official. Last year, JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay two hundred and sixty-four million dollars to settle charges that it had violated the F.C.P.A.; the bank had given jobs and internships to relatives and friends of government officials in Asia. Tillipman, along with several other F.C.P.A. experts, told me that the Trump Organization had clearly provided things of value in the Baku deal: its famous brand, its command of the luxury market, its extensive technical advice.
In May, 2012, the month the Baku deal was finalized, the F.C.P.A. was evidently on Donald Trump’s mind. In a phone-in appearance on CNBC, he expressed frustration with the law. “Every other country goes into these places and they do what they have to do,” he said. “It’s a horrible law and it should be changed.” If American companies refused to give bribes, he said, “you’ll do business nowhere.” He continued, “There is one answer—go to your room, close the door, go to sleep, and don’t do any deals, because that’s the only way. The only way you’re going to do it is the other way.”
It is unclear how the Trump Administration plans to approach F.C.P.A. enforcement. Jay Clayton, Trump’s choice to run the Securities and Exchange Commission, co-authored a paper in 2011 arguing that American companies were at a severe disadvantage because of the U.S. government’s “singular strategy of zealous enforcement.” But Jeff Sessions, the new Attorney General, told the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearings that he will continue to uphold the F.C.P.A.
After 9/11, prosecuting financial corruption acquired new political importance. The C.I.A. and other intelligence services came to believe that preventing illicit money from flowing through the global financial system was a necessary tactic in preventing future terrorist attacks, and the U.S. led an international effort to enforce financial transparency. Banks and other financial entities were required to vet their clients aggressively and to report any suspicious activity. Prosecutions for money laundering, bribery, and other financial crimes rose significantly. In 2000, the government launched three prosecutions under the F.C.P.A. Last year, it initiated fifty-four.
Investigators of financial fraud like to say that government corruption, money laundering, and other illicit behavior often form a “nexus” with even more troubling activity, such as financing terrorism and developing weapons of mass destruction. This appears to be true in the Baku deal. As the Mammadovs were preparing to build the tower, the family patriarch, Ziya, was cementing his financial relationship with the Darvishis, the Iranian family with ties to the country’s Revolutionary Guard.
At least three Darvishis—the brothers Habil, Kamal, and Keyumars—appear to be associates of the Guard. In Farsi press accounts, Habil, who runs the Tehran Metro Company, is referred to as a sardar, a term for a senior officer in the Revolutionary Guard. A cable sent on March 6, 2009, from the U.S. Embassy in Baku described Kamal as having formerly run “an alleged Revolutionary Guard-controlled business in Iran.” The company, called Nasr, developed and acquired instruments, guidance systems, and specialty metals needed to build ballistic missiles. In 2007, Nasr was sanctioned by the U.S. for its role in Iran’s effort to develop nuclear missiles.
The cable said that Kamal and Keyumars were frequent visitors to Azerbaijan; Kamal had recently established “a close business relationship/friendship” with Ziya Mammadov, and, with Mammadov’s assistance, had been awarded “at least eight major road construction and rehabilitation contracts, including contracts for construction of the Baku-Iranian Astara highway.” (Keyumars also seems to have been involved in these deals.) The cable added, “We assume Mammedov [sic] is a silent partner in these contracts.”
Iran has two militaries. The Iranian Army is a conventional force whose mission is to protect the country. The Revolutionary Guard is an independent force of about a hundred and fifty thousand soldiers, whose duty is to protect the country’s Islamic system and to preserve the power of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Revolutionary Guard has its own air force and navy, and it has a unit known as the Quds Force, which the United States has identified as a major supporter of Hezbollah and other international terrorist groups. The Guard has developed a shadow economy within Iran to fund its activities and expand its power. It controls all official border crossings and runs several unofficial ports, solely for its own use. The Revolutionary Guard smuggles into the country everything from consumer goods blocked by sanctions to drugs. It also owns seemingly legitimate companies in construction, energy, telecommunications, auto manufacturing, and banking. According to the United States Institute of Peace, the Guard is linked “to dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of companies that appear to be private in nature but are run by [Revolutionary Guard] veterans.”
J. Matthew McInnis, an Iran expert at the American Enterprise Institute, who served as a consultant to Michael Flynn when Flynn was the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told me that owners of Revolutionary Guard-related businesses often become rich. But there is a catch: from time to time, they should expect to be asked to serve the needs of the Guard. “When the Revolutionary Guard says, ‘We need to move some illicit stuff,’ or ‘We need new parts for our missiles,’ they reach out to these guys,” McInnis explained. “It’s a soft network that can do all sorts of things that are very hard to trace.”
Keyumars Darvishi once ran Raman, a construction firm that is owned by the Islamic Revolution Mostazafan Foundation. According to the United Nations, the foundation is a major financial arm of the Revolutionary Guard. Keyumars left Raman to run Azarpassillo, the putatively independent construction company that received multiple road contracts in Azerbaijan. According to Azarpassillo’s Web site, it was incorporated in 2008. In recent years, Keyumars has also served as the acting director of the Tehran Metro Company, filling in for his brother Habil.
Mehrzad Boroujerdi, a political scientist at Syracuse University, who studies the political, economic, and military élite of Iran, said, “It looks like Azarpassillo is a front organization for the Revolutionary Guard.” He found it inconceivable that Keyumars Darvishi, after working for years in a company controlled by the Revolutionary Guard, would quit, raise large amounts of capital on his own, and then become the head of a fully independent company that competed against Revolutionary Guard fronts for contracts. Khatam Al-Anbia, an Iranian construction giant that is controlled by the Guard and is under U.S. sanctions, has subcontracted Azarpassillo on at least two major infrastructure projects in Iran. The Tehran Metro Company is also involved in both projects. McInnis told me, “If you see a connection with Khatam Al-Anbia, you would assume the connections to the Revolutionary Guard are there. The suspicion of Azarpassillo being a front company is certainly worth investigating. It would fit a normal pattern.”
Alan Garten told me that the Trump Organization checks to see if potential Trump partners are on “watch lists and sanctions lists,” and that the company knew nothing of Ziya Mammadov’s relationship to the Darvishis until 2015, when it learned that “certain principals associated with the developer may have had some association with some problematic entities.” And yet, by that point, the U.S. Embassy cables had been online for four years. Garten insisted that the Trump Organization still has no idea if the association between the Mammadovs and the Darvishis is real, or if it’s simply an allegation “spread by the media.” I recently spoke with Allison Melia, who until 2015 was one of the C.I.A.’s lead analysts of Iran’s economy; she now works for the Crumpton Group, a strategic advisory firm whose services include conducting due diligence for companies. She told me that her team could have compiled a dossier on the Mammadovs and their connection to the Revolutionary Guard in “a couple of days.” She said that any reputable investigative firm conducting a risk assessment would have advised a U.S. company to avoid a deal with a family connected to the Revolutionary Guard.
The U.S. has imposed various sanctions on Iran since the Islamic Revolution, in 1979. In recent years, U.S. and international efforts have focussed on isolating Iran from the global financial system, in order to prevent it from funding terrorist groups and contributing to worldwide instability. In 2015, the U.N., spurred by the Obama Administration, reached an agreement with Iran, and lifted some sanctions in return for a slowdown of the country’s nuclear program. However, according to the Congressional Research Service, many sanctions against Iran remain in effect, because of the country’s “support for terrorism, its human-rights abuses, its interference in specified countries in the region, and its missile and advanced-conventional-weapons programs.” In December, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives imposed additional sanctions on the Revolutionary Guard and its associated businesses.
American companies must insure that they are not receiving funds that originated with any sanctioned entity. Ignorance is not a defense, especially if there is ample warning that a foreign partner could have a link to such an entity. Most firms, upon hearing of even a slight chance of Iranian involvement, conduct due diligence that is much more extensive than what is typical for F.C.P.A. compliance. Erich Ferrari, an attorney who specializes in sanctions-related legal cases, said that before the Trump Organization cashed any checks it should have been certain of “the source of the funds”—“not only the bank it was remitted from but how the Mammadovs actually earned the money they paid.” He said of the Baku deal, “It takes a lot to shock a lawyer, but I’ve had very few clients do so little due diligence.”
The nexus between the Mammadovs and the Darvishis suggests both opportunism and desperation. Ziya Mammadov is sixty-four, and in recent years the family’s position in Azerbaijan has begun to weaken. President Aliyev has systematically isolated, and then fired, longtime members of the regime in order to make way for his own cronies. From 2008 to 2014, Ziya Mammadov, perhaps fearing his ejection from political office, vastly increased his personal wealth.
During the same period, mounting international sanctions made it far more difficult for Iran to sell oil abroad, receive foreign funds, and import products. International banks became increasingly reluctant to accept funds from businesses owned by the Revolutionary Guard, severely limiting its ability to support allies such as Hezbollah and the Syrian government. At a moment when Iran was struggling to find ways to send money outside the country, Keyumars Darvishi joined Azarpassillo and began making one deal after another in Azerbaijan.
Ziya Mammadov apparently had complete discretion with regard to Azarpassillo’s projects. On April 6, 2007, Anne Derse, then the U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan, wrote in a cable that Charles Redman, at the time a senior vice-president for the American construction firm Bechtel, had recently met with Ziya Mammadov. Redman was looking for business, and knew that Azerbaijan was planning several major new roads. Bechtel could build them, he said, at an average cost of six million dollars per kilometre. Mammadov complained to him that this was too expensive. Bechtel ended up building nothing. Instead, much of the roadwork was done by Azarpassillo—at a much higher cost. According to a 2012 report by Azerbaijan’s Center for Economic and Social Development, an independent think tank, road construction during Mammadov’s tenure was “the most expensive in the world,” costing an average of eighteen million dollars per kilometre. (Derse declined to comment; Redman did not respond to e-mails.)
The available evidence strongly suggests that Ziya Mammadov conspired with an agent of the Revolutionary Guard to make overpriced deals that would enrich them both while allowing them to flout prohibitions against money laundering and to circumvent sanctions against Iran. Based on Ziya Mammadov’s past, it seems reasonable to assume that his main motive was profit. Like most Azerbaijanis, he is a secular Shiite Muslim, and he has no known ties to hard-line factions in Iran. Why did the Darvishis want to work with the Mammadovs? It might have caught their attention that the Mammadovs had their own private bank—one that had unfettered access to the global financial system.
While Azarpassillo was making deals with the Transportation Ministry, the Mammadovs were investing heavily in a series of large construction projects. Money launderers love construction projects. They attract legitimate funds from governments and private investors, and they require frequent payouts to legitimate subcontractors: cement factories, lumberyards, glass manufacturers, craftsmen. In the Trump Tower Baku project, money was going in and out of the U.S., the United Kingdom, Turkey, Romania, the United Arab Emirates, and several other countries. With such projects, it can be exceedingly difficult to detect the spread of illicit funds.
At the same time, the Mammadovs’ money was flowing through holding companies in offshore banking centers. According to leaked documents in the Panama Papers, companies controlled by the family have opened accounts in such places as the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, and Panama. The shell companies that list Mammadovs as beneficiaries or officers have bland names such as Trans-European Leasing Group and 1st Rate Investment, and many of them are owned by other shell companies.
In 2009, a year after Baku XXI Century began building the tower, the company opened the Baku International Bus Terminal, an enormous station that includes a shopping mall and a hotel. During this period, the Mammadov family also began building a hotel, a golf course, and a spa in the mountains north of Baku.
Meanwhile, the Mammadovs spent lavishly on themselves. Ziya built a mansion in one of the most expensive neighborhoods of Baku, and, on the beach, a villa whose walls are decorated to resemble ancient Egyptian bas-reliefs. Elton’s son, Aynar, became famous for having a collection of expensive cars, including a Ferrari, a Maserati, and a Lamborghini. Anar began using the Gulfstream G450, which typically costs forty-one million dollars, and bought a seven-bedroom home in London. He also spent millions of dollars on an effort to promote Azerbaijan in Washington, D.C., hosting galas for members of Congress and other powerful figures. A former associate of the Trump Organization told me that in 2012, on one of Anar’s trips to America, he visited Trump Tower, in New York, to meet with Donald Trump and company executives. (The Trump Organization would not confirm the visit.) Around this time, the contracts for the Baku project were issued.
Between 2004 and 2014, Mammadov family businesses spent more than half a billion dollars on large construction projects. They also poured money into a major construction-materials company, an insurance firm, and a new headquarters. It’s not clear how the Mammadovs funded such enormous investments while spending so much on themselves. They may have received loans, or secretly owned profitable businesses that supported the flurry of spending. Another explanation is that some of the investment money came from the Revolutionary Guard, through Azarpassillo.
Calls and e-mails to Azarpassillo, the Iranian Mission to the U.N., and the Azerbaijani government were not returned. Ziya and Anar Mammadov did not respond to requests for comment. Donald Trump has not addressed the Baku deal since becoming President. A Department of Justice spokesperson would not comment on the possibility of its investigating the Trump Tower Baku deal. The White House declined to comment.
If, as Alan Garten told me, the Trump Organization learned in 2015 about “the possibility” that the Mammadovs had ties to the Revolutionary Guard, it is striking that the company did not end the Baku deal until December, 2016. During this period, Garten told me, the Trump Organization never asked its Azerbaijani partners about the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, but it did send several default notices for late payments.
Throughout the Presidential campaign, Trump was in business with someone that his company knew was likely a partner with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. In a March, 2016, speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Trump said that his “No. 1 priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.” Calling Iran the “biggest sponsor of terrorism around the world,” he promised, “We will work to dismantle that reach—believe me, believe me.” In the speech, Trump lamented that Iran had been allowed to develop new long-range ballistic missiles. According to Iran Watch, an organization that monitors Iran’s military capabilities, much of the technology to make the missiles was provided by Nasr, the company once run by Kamal Darvishi.
I asked Garten why the Trump Organization hadn’t cancelled the Baku contract in 2015. He said that there was “no rush,” because “the project had already stalled and was showing no signs of moving forward.” The Azerbaijani lawyer who worked on the project has seen the hotel’s interior, and told me that it is almost finished. In an interview with the magazine Baku, published in April, 2015, Ivanka Trump said that she was eager to enjoy the hotel’s “huge spa area,” and promised that the hotel would open “in June.”
Moreover, Garten said, the Trump Organization had signed binding contracts with the Mammadovs and couldn’t simply abandon its agreements. But Jessica Tillipman, the law-school assistant dean, told me, “You can’t violate sanctions just because you have a contract with someone.” According to Erich Ferrari, the lawyer who specializes in sanctions, companies that learn of a possible sanctions violation typically commission a “look-back” investigation that “reviews all payments you received, to make sure they didn’t originate with a sanctioned entity.” He added, “All the big four accounting companies do them routinely.” The Trump Organization did not commission a look-back.
The Baku deal appears to be the second time that the Trump Organization has turned a blind eye to U.S. efforts to sanction Iran. In 1998, when Donald Trump purchased the General Motors Building, in Manhattan, he inherited as a tenant Iran’s Bank Melli. The following year, the Treasury Department listed Bank Melli as an institution that was “owned or controlled” by the government of Iran and that was covered by U.S. sanctions. (The department later labelled Bank Melli one of the primary financial institutions through which Iran was funnelling money to finance terrorism and to develop weapons of mass destruction.) The Trump Organization kept Bank Melli as a tenant for four more years before terminating the lease.
The Baku project is hardly the only instance in which the Trump Organization has been associated with a controversial deal. The Trump Taj Mahal casino, which opened in Atlantic City in 1990, was repeatedly fined for violating anti-money-laundering laws, up until its collapse, late last year. According to ProPublica, Trump projects in India, Uruguay, Georgia, Indonesia, and the Philippines have involved government officials or people with close ties to powerful political figures. A few years ago, the Trump Organization abandoned a project in Beijing after its Chinese partner became embroiled in a corruption scandal. In December, the Trump Organization withdrew from a hotel project in Rio de Janeiro after it was revealed to be part of a major bribery investigation. Ricardo Ayres, a Brazilian state legislator, told Bloomberg, “It’s curious that the Trumps didn’t seem to know that their biggest deal in Brazil was bankrolled by shady investors.” But, given the Trump Organization’s track record, it seems reasonable to ask whether one of the things it was selling to foreign partners was a willingness to ignore signs of corruption.
To this day, the Trump Organization has not provided satisfying answers to the most basic questions about the Baku deal: who owns Baku XXI Century, the company with which they signed the contracts; the origin of the funds with which Baku XXI Century paid the Trump Organization; whether the Mammadovs used their political power to benefit themselves and the Trump Organization; and whether the Mammadovs used money obtained from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to fund the Trump Tower Baku.
At one point, Garten allowed me to review the Trump Organization’s original contract with the Mammadovs. It authorizes the company to order an independent audit of Baku XXI Century’s financial records at any time—a provision likely included to insure that the Mammadovs didn’t hide profits that were supposed to be shared with the Trump Organization. Such an audit could well have exposed illicit activity. Garten refused to say if an audit had been conducted.
In dealing with the Mammadovs, the Trump Organization seems to have taken them entirely at their word. Garten pointed me to a provision in one contract in which Anar Mammadov represented himself as the sole owner of Baku XXI Century. Given that Elton Mammadov told me that he controlled the company, and that its ownership was a “commercial secret,” what proof did the Trump Organization have that Anar’s claim was true? Garten could not say.
Garten has been the company’s chief legal officer only since January. His predecessor was Jason Greenblatt, whose name appeared on the contract I reviewed. Greenblatt was in charge of the Trump Organization’s due diligence and contracting work. He is now employed at the White House, as the President’s special representative for international negotiations. He did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
In recent months, American officials have expressed concern that Trump Administration figures might be blackmailed by foreign entities. U.S. law-enforcement investigators and congressional staffers have probed claims that Russian government officials possess compromising information about President Trump, which might be used to blackmail him. (The President maintains that there is no such information.) In January, the Department of Justice informed the White House that Michael Flynn—then the national-security adviser—was vulnerable to being blackmailed by the Russians because he had lied about having spoken with the Russian Ambassador. Flynn subsequently resigned.
In Azerbaijan, the power and the influence of the Mammadovs has declined sharply. Elton lost his seat in parliament in 2015. In February, Ziya was abruptly removed from his ministry. Anar has settled in London, an associate of his told me, and is living on a fraction of his former wealth. Meanwhile, in Iran, government officials are likely facing additional sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. If the Mammadovs or powerful Iranians have evidence that the Trump Organization broke laws, they might be tempted to exploit it.
The best way to determine if a crime was committed in the Baku deal would be a federal investigation, which could use the power of subpoena and international legal tools to obtain access to the contracts, the due diligence, internal e-mails, and financial documents. The Department of Justice routinely sends investigators to other countries to pursue possible F.C.P.A. and sanctions violations.
Senator Sherrod Brown, of Ohio, who is the ranking Democratic member of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, said, in an e-mail, that a federal investigation was warranted: “The Trump Organization’s Baku project shows the lack of ‘extreme vetting’ Mr. Trump applied to his own business dealings in corruption-plagued regimes around the globe. . . . Congress—and the Trump Administration itself—has a duty to examine whether the President or his family is exposed to terrorist financing, sanctions, money laundering, and other imprudent associations through their business holdings and connections.”
More than a dozen lawyers with experience in F.C.P.A. prosecution expressed surprise at the Trump Organization’s seemingly lax approach to vetting its foreign partners. But, when I asked a former Trump Organization executive if the Baku deal had seemed unusual, he laughed. “No deal there seems unusual, as long as a check is attached,” he said. ♦
An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of the J. W. Marriott hotel in Baku.
Adam Davidson is a staff writer at The New Yorker.
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017 ... worst-deal
Donald Trump's hotel in Azerbaijan linked with corruption, Iran's Revolutionary Guard
Construction of the Trump Tower in Azerbaijan has been abandoned in December 2016.
An unopened Trump hotel in Azerbaijan has been linked to corrupt officials who support the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, reports Adam Davidson in a New Yorker piece.
Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku, a sleek 5-star hotel in the shape of a ship sail in Azerbaijan's capital, never opened despite appearing nearly complete.
Plans to build the tower began in 2008, when developers first drew up a "high-end apartment building" downtown in the capital of Azerbaijan.
In 2012, the Trump Organization and Azerbaijani developers signed off on a contract to turn the building into a luxury hotel.
Even though the hotel has Trump's name emblazoned on it and had previously been posted as a future project on Trump Organization's website, the organization's chief legal officer Alan Garten said that Trump played only a nominal role in construction of the hotel — he was "merely a licensor" who had allowed Anar Mammadov, the son of powerful Azerbaijani oligarch Ziya Mammadov, to use his name, the New Yorker reports.
Trump's own financial disclosure report showed that he earned $2.5 million in income from the project between January 2014 and July 2015 and an additional $323,000 afterwards. In 2014, Ivanka Trump visited the Baku construction site and posted photos and videos of her trip to Instagram.
Donald J. Trump displays an artist's concept of "Television City," which would be on the far west side of Manhattan, Nov. 18, 1985.
But some in Azerbaijan allege the Trumps had a more active hand in the project. "We were always following their instructions," an unnamed Azerbaijani lawyer involved with the project told The New Yorker. "We were in constant contact with the Trump Organization. They approved the smallest details."
A few weeks before Trump took office as President, he cancelled construction of the nearly-finished building in Baku to avoid potential conflicts of interest even though the construction was in its final stages. Last June, The Washington Post reported that the hotel had plastic-wrapped reception desks in the lobby.
Azerbaijan consistently ranks as one of the most corrupt countries in the world by human rights watchdogs — only two weeks ago, President Ilham Aliyev named his wife to serve as the country's Vice President.
According to The New Yorker, the Trump Organization signed off on the deal with the powerful Mammadov family who, aside from regularly getting called out for exploiting political power to increase personal wealth, has reported ties with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — anextremist military force that has helped finance Iran's nuclear weapons program and trained terror organizations like Hezbollah.
Azerbaijan's Transportation Minister, Ziya Mammadov reportedly "awarded a series of multimillion-dollar contracts" to a construction company controlled by the IRGC in 2008, when development of the Baku Trump Tower first started.
"The entire Baku deal is a giant red flag—the direct involvement of foreign government officials and their relatives in Azerbaijan with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard," Jessica Tillipman, an assistant dean specializing in government anti-corruption at George Washington University Law School told the New Yorker. "Corruption warning signs are rarely more obvious."
The 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act forbids companies from "participating in a scheme to reward a foreign government official in exchange for material benefit or preferential treatment." However, Garten told The Washington Post that the organization's investigation into the Mammadov family "did not raise any red flags."
Only last week, a Reuters report indicated that Trump's administration is currently trying to label the IRGC as a "terrorist organization." But only a few years ago, Trump's company evidently had few qualms about lending his name to a project that could benefit them.
https://www.businessinsider.com/donald- ... ran-2017-3
https://twitter.com/webradius/status/10 ... 7888002048
'We are looking forward to bringing our unparalleled Trump services and amenities to Azerbaijan.'
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/trave ... aijan.html
The Sporting Corleones of the Caspian
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