Donald Trump made headlines yesterday when he referred to multiple nations as “sh*thole countries,” prompting responses frm leaders around the world as well as the UN.
Now, a report in Buzzfeed News is causing a stir. The report, which catalogues shady and suspicious sales of Trump properties, includes an allegation from the Haitian government that Trump Tower was used by Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier to launder money stolen from the Haitian government. Duvalier was a brutal dictator. During his reign, Haiti’s poverty was the worst in the western hemisphere, even as he used state funds to live a lavish lifestyle. Thousands of Haitians were tortured and killed under the regime.
‘The Haitian government claimed in the 1980s that ousted dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier laundered stolen treasury funds when he bought Trump Tower apartment 54-K for $446,875 in August 1983. Duvalier used a Panama shell company called Lasa Trade and Finance to buy the apartment in cash. Trump signed the deed of sale.
‘In 1984, federal prosecutors charged a Russian native living in Brooklyn with taking part in a massive gasoline bootlegging operation and buying five Trump Tower condos for $4.9 million to launder the proceeds. The suspect, David Bogatin, pleaded guilty in 1987. He was released from federal prison in 1998.
‘In a separate matter, a Trump casino, the Trump Taj Mahal, was charged with violating anti-money-laundering regulations 106 times in 1990 and 1991 by failing to file timely reports identifying gamblers who bought or cashed out $10,000 or more in chips.’
Donald Trump’s finances have always been questionable. Real estate is well-known as the industry of choice for money launderers, and Donald Trump’s ties to shady businessmen and organized crime make it seem extremely likely that his properties have been used for money laundering. These reports are just confirmation of what was essentially an open secret.
Before the election, Donald Trump had the advantage of never having had his finances looked at too closely. Now, money laundering is a key part of the Mueller probe. If Trump is in bed with Russian dirty money, that could compromise him. And if he’s in bed with other dirty money, it’s going to be found during the course of the investigation.
In fact, that’s probably why Donald Trump stated not long ago that looking into his personal finances was a “red line” that Robert Mueller can’t cross. Of course, the line was promptly crossed, and Trump did nothing. Yet his panic is palpable—it’s obvious there’s something there.
As the Buzzfeed report also notes, Trump’s SoHo tower units were bought “overwhelmingly” by shell companies set up to hide the identities of those who purchased them:
On four of the deeds, the LLC listed Moscow addresses, which were crossed out with a pen. The address of Jajan’s Manhattan law office was written in their places.
Another three units were bought by a former oligarch from Kazakhstan with money he allegedly stole from the former Soviet republic, according to a California lawsuit filed in 2014 by Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty. The lawsuit says that a former mayor of Almaty, Viktor Khrapunov, and his family stole hundreds of millions of dollars in city assets during his tenure between 1997 and 2004, fled to Switzerland in 2007 and began buying property in New York City and California to launder the money.
Because that’s not shady at all, right?
There aren’t criminal charges directly associated with colluding with a foreign power, although depending on the acts committed on the path to cooperation, conspiracy or espionage laws might apply. However, Trump’s obstruction of the investigation—and a financial history that seems to be rife with money laundering—will almost certainly sink him.
Featured image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images