A few days before the summit between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, new connection is emerging between Trump’s private business and the Russian state.
The Financial Times published an extensive investigation Thursday morning pointing out that part of the funding for building a Trump Tower in Toronto, Canada, came from a deal with VEB, the Russian government’s bank.
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Wall Street Journal reported last year that VEB chairman in 2010 was Vladimir Putin, then Russian prime minister.
The deal with the Russian bank made by Canadian businessman Alex Shnaider, Trump’s partner in the real estate project.
Alex Shnaider, former owner of Maccabi Tel Aviv football club, joined Trump in 2007, then a well-known real estate developer, to build a 65-story tower in Toronto. The project included a luxury hotel with 261 rooms. It was due to be completed by 2010 but did not progress at the planned pace. So in 2010, Shnaider allocated another $ 40 million to invest in the stuck project.
According to documents obtained by the Financial Times, a few months earlier Shnaider had confirmed a payment of a secret “commission” to “intermediaries” on behalf of the Kremlin.
In the document, the same entities helped Shnaider sell the Zaporizhstal steel mill in eastern Ukraine for $ 850 million.
The steel mill, which employs 50,000 workers, is located 240 km from the border with Russia. In the years before the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014, the Russian government tried to expand its economic influence in the eastern region of Ukraine and used a network of straw men and oligarchs who cooperated to acquire strategic assets near the border.
According to Shnaider’s testimony in an arbitration proceeding with his former partner Edward Shifrin, in 2010 Shifrin contacted Shnaider and told him that “representatives of the Russian government” were interested in purchasing the plant.
The Russian government used its financial arm, the VEB bank, to finance the transaction, while Putin served as chairman of the bank at the time, according to documents obtained by the Financial Times.
A row of strawmen in the British Virgin Islands, that are connected to VEB. They acquired control of the steel plant in eastern Ukraine from Schneider and his partner Shifrin.
The Financial Times investigation revealed for the first time a $ 100 million commission for the Kremlin. If the funds did indeed reach the people of the Russian government, this violates the Canadian law on bribery of foreign officials.
After the commission was transferred, the transaction was completed, Schneider’s company later transferred $ 40 million to the Trump Tower project.
Tom Keating, a former senior American banker, and now a financial crime expert at the Royal United Services Institute told the Financial Times that the sequence of events may indicate that “Trump’s company received money derived from crime and therefore served as a money launderer.”
However, legal experts clarify that all criminal liability in Trump’s business depends on how much he knew about the origin of the money.