Trump-named Panama building linked to Russia mafia, drugs: report
A Trump-branded property in Panama City has been linked to drug trafficking, money laundering and Russian organized crime, according to a report on Friday.
NBC and Reuters found that a real estate salesman who helped unload units at the 70-story, sail-shaped Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower claimed close ties to Ivanka Trump and was later arrested for fraud and forgery, unrelated to the Trump project.
After being released on $ 1.4 million bail, he later fled the country.
Alexandre Ventura Nogueira told NBC that President Trump and others connected to the project were unaware that he was attracting shady investors to the project, but that they never asked any questions.
Nogueira said he struck a deal in 2006 with Ivanka Trump in which he promised to sell 100 units at the building, the Trump Organization’s first internationally branded property, in a week “without telling (the buyer) the price.”
The Trump Organization told NBC News that “the company was not responsible for the financing of the project and had no involvement in the sale of units or the retention of any real estate brokers.”
In an interview with NBC and Reuters, Ventura admitted that some of his brokers and clients who bought and sold units in the Trump Ocean Club were connected to the Russian mafia and other organized-crime groups, including a convicted money launderer who moved cash for drug cartels.
“I had some customers with questionable backgrounds,” he said. “Nobody ever asked me. Banks never asked. Developer didn’t ask and (the) Trump Organization didn’t ask. Nobody ask, ‘Who are the customers, where did the money come from?’ No, nobody ask.”
That could pose a problem for the Trumps.
Due to Panama’s reputation of being a hotbed of corruption, Americans doing business there should be aware of the risks.
If they fail to do so, Arthur Middlemiss, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan and a former head of JPMorgan’s global anti-corruption program, told Reuters, they risk being liable under U.S. law of turning a blind eye to wrongdoing.
Ivanka Trump wasn’t the only one Nogueira claims he was working with at the time.
He also had connections to a Colombian man who was later convicted of money laundering and is now in detention in the U.S. and a Russian investor who was jailed in Israel in the 1990s for kidnapping and threats to kill a rival.
He also enlisted the help of a Ukrainian investor who was arrested for alleged people-smuggling and was later convicted by a Kiev court.
The Trump Ocean Club was announced in 2006 and launched in 2011, a time when many luxury buildings were erected in Panama City with the express purpose of hiding money laundering.
During a recent visit by NBC News, the hotel seemed nearly empty.
“There are more than 500 buildings like this,” Miguel Antonio Bernal, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Panama, told NBC . “But this — the difference of this — is that this has the name of the actual president of the United States. And he keeps the name here.”
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