There is a corner condo in Manhattan, NY with full-length windows giving the residents a remarkable view of the city on both the north and west sides. The closets are described as “capacious,” and the bathroom boasts pink marble walls and fixtures of gold. It comes with a swimming pool, a spa, and round the clock food service. All this for over $2,500 each night. It also comes with a secret.
The highest-end real estate is a part of the Trump International Hotel and Tower. A person could find it right on the southwest edge of Central Park. It is the 44 stories high building. The nonprofit Global Witness discovered that the Republic of Congo’s president Denis Sassou Nguesso’s daughter paid seven million dollars — in cash. Apparently, the nonprofit discovered that the money for the purchase came directly from the country’s government.
Well before the 2016 presidential election, Trump sold the condo to a group called Ecree in 2014, according to The New York Times. The address listed the business’ Manhattan address as the K&L Gates law firm. In the U.S. real estate developers do not work on the same basis of banks and financial institutions. They do not have to vet the people buying the real estate or the source of their funding. As such, real estate has been an ideal place to launder money.
An agency with the Treasury Department, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, began to require title companies that report all-cash transactions, after a series of investigative articles in The Times. The agency has been particularly concerned with all-cash buys of high-end real estate.
The two-bedroom 1,767-square-foot apartment still pays “tens of thousands of dollars” in condo fees to the Trump Organization. Kimberly Beneza spokesperson for the company said these fees were just for building-maintenance ”
‘…and are not fees paid to Trump for profit.’
The Times reported:
‘(Trump has sold to) people with checkered pasts. David Bogatin, a Russian mobster, and Jean-Claude Duvalier, the Haitian dictator known as Baby Doc, both owned units in Trump Tower, the president’s flagship property on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. Felix Sater, a felon and former business associate of Mr. Trump’s, formerly had his office in that tower.’
Sassou-Nguesso has ruled the Republic of Congo for 22 years and has been under investigation for corruption in France for almost a decade. His daughter Claudia Sassou-Nguesso owns a Cyprus business bank account that paid for the apartment.
A Portuguese businessman, Jose Veiga vouched for the family. Veiga was later arrested by the Portuguese authorities have arrested him for alleged money laundering.
According to New York real estate records, the entity used to make the purchase of the apartment, Ecree, used a Manhattan address at the law firm K&L Gates.
Unlike banks and other financial institutions, United States real estate developers have typically not been subject to rules that require they vet the backgrounds or sources of money of prospective buyers, including looking out for potential money laundering.
Global Witness asked Trump’s company to ascertain whether the organization still received maintenance fees on the unit:
‘…as there is a risk that these companies may be currently enabling money laundering of public funds embezzled by the Congolese president’s daughter and benefitting from those illicit funds.’