Judge Advances Money Laundering Lawsuit Through Trump Org.


U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan has partially advanced a lawsuit in which Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, and a Kazakhstani bank (called BTA Bank) allege that a past Trump associate, Felix Sater, laundered stolen money through targets including a Trump property. The lawsuit “accuses Sater of helping the Almaty mayor’s son Ilyas Khrapunov launder stolen funds in at least five schemes throughout the United States, including through Trump Soho,” Law & Crime explains. Sater’s work with the Trump Organization stretches over a period of years. He was, for instance, involved in the eventually abandoned planning for a potential Trump Tower Moscow — which also figured in the culprits’ money laundering scheme, according to the lawsuit targeting Sater. Allegedly, Sater and Khrapunov were plotting to use the Trump Moscow development for money laundering.

In the wake of a motion from Sater and allies to dismiss the case, Judge Nathan dismissed two counts of the six-count complaint against Sater, leaving the rest in place. The dismissed counts include two counts of fraud and unlawful means conspiracy, while the retained counts include allegations of unjust enrichment and conversion. The judge concluded that “knowing receipt of stolen funds in furtherance of a money-laundering scheme, in the circumstances of this case, amounts to a sufficiently close connection to support a claim for unjust enrichment,” which is what the case’s plaintiffs have presented.

The alleged fraud took place in the wake of the alleged “systematic looting” of Almaty and BTA Bank in 2009, Law & Crime explains. In her new ruling, Judge Nathan wrote that “the Kazakh entities will need to adduce evidence showing the Sater defendants’ deceptive conduct and their justifiable reliance on that conduct in significantly greater detail to meet their burdens of production and of proof as the case progresses,” but in the meantime, “the Court concludes that it is not clear on the face of the complaint that their claims are untimely, and so declines to dismiss any claims on that basis.”

In other words, the judge indicates that the Kazakh interests behind the lawsuit haven’t yet met the burden of proof for their allegations against Sater — but the judge adds that this situation is not disqualifying, and significant parts of the case may proceed. The judge did not mention Trump or his properties in her latest ruling in the case, but the first amended complaint against Sater in the proceedings insists that he “personally arranged meetings between Ilyas and Donald J. Trump to discuss possible investments.” In other words, Sater allegedly roped Trump himself into meetings with a money laundering partner, although the plaintiffs don’t pin any alleged wrongdoing on Trump.