12:19 PM 11/23/2017 – Trump, Putin, Mogilevich

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Mogilevich may even have a working relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a published conversation between Leonid Derkach, the former chief of the Ukrainian security service, and former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma.

“He’s [Mogilevich] on good terms with Putin,” Derkach reportedly said. “He and Putin have been in contact since Putin was still in Leningrad.”


Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks

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The Curious World of Donald Trumps Private Russian Connections
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Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
The Curious World of Donald Trumps Private Russian Connections

mikenova shared this story from The American Interest.

“Tell me who you walk with and I’ll tell you who you are.”


“I’ve always been blessed with a kind of intuition about people that allows me to sense who the sleazy guys are, and I stay far away.”

—Donald Trump, Surviving at the Top

Even before the November 8 election, many leading Democrats were vociferously demanding that the FBI disclose the fruits of its investigations into Putin-backed Russian hackers. Instead FBI Director Comey decided to temporarily revive his zombie-like investigation of Hillary’s emails. That decision may well have had an important impact on the election, but it did nothing to resolve the allegations about Putin. Even now, after the CIA has disclosed an abstract of its own still-secret investigation, it is fair to say that we still lack the cyberspace equivalent of a smoking gun.

Fortunately, however, for those of us who are curious about Trump’s Russian connections, there is another readily accessible body of material that has so far received surprisingly little attention. This suggests that whatever the nature of President-elect Donald Trump’s relationship with President Putin, he has certainly managed to accumulate direct and indirect connections with a far-flung privateRussian/FSU network of outright mobsters, oligarchs, fraudsters, and kleptocrats.

Any one of these connections might have occurred at random. But the overall pattern is a veritable Star Wars bar scene of unsavory characters, with Donald Trump seated right in the middle. The analytical challenge is to map this network—a task that most journalists and law enforcement agencies, focused on individual cases, have failed to do.

Of course, to label this network “private” may be a stretch, given that in Putin’s Russia, even the toughest mobsters learn the hard way to maintain a respectful relationship with the “New Tsar.” But here the central question pertains to our new Tsar. Did the American people really know they were putting such a “well-connected” guy in the White House?

The Big Picture: Kleptocracy and Capital Flight

A few of Donald Trump’s connections to oligarchs and assorted thugs have already received sporadic press attention—for example, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s reported relationship with exiled Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash. But no one has pulled the connections together, used them to identify still more relationships, and developed an image of the overall patterns.

Nor has anyone related these cases to one of the most central facts about modern Russia: its emergence since the 1990s as a world-class kleptocracy, second only to China as a source of illicit capital and criminal loot, with more than $1.3 trillion of net offshore “flight wealth” as of 2016.1

This tidal wave of illicit capital is hardly just Putin’s doing. It is in fact a symptom of one of the most epic failures in modern political economy—one for which the West bears a great deal of responsibility. This is the failure, in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse in the late 1980s, to ensure that Russia acquires the kind of strong, middle-class-centric economic and political base that is required for democratic capitalism, the rule of law, and stable, peaceful relationships with its neighbors.

CapFlight-1Instead, from 1992 to the Russian debt crisis of August 1998, the West in general—and the U.S. Treasury, USAID, the State Department, the IMF/World Bank, the EBRD, and many leading economists in particular—actively promoted and, indeed, helped to finance one of the most massive transfers of public wealth into private hands that the world has ever seen.

For example, Russia’s 1992 “voucher privatization” program permitted a tiny elite of former state-owned company managers and party apparatchiks to acquire control over a vast number of public enterprises, often with the help of outright mobsters. A majority of Gazprom, the state energy company that controlled a third of the world’s gas reserves, was sold for $230 million; Russia’s entire national electric grid was privatized for $630 million; ZIL, Russia’s largest auto company, went for about $4 million; ports, ships, oil, iron and steel, aluminum, much of the high-tech arms and airlines industries, the world’s largest diamond mines, and most of Russia’s banking system also went for a song.

In 1994–96, under the infamous “loans-for-shares” program, Russia privatized 150 state-owned companies for just $12 billion, most of which was loaned to a handful of well-connected buyers by the state—and indirectly by the World Bank and the IMF. The principal beneficiaries of this “privatization”—actually, cartelization—were initially just 25 or so budding oligarchs with the insider connections to buy these properties and the muscle to hold them.2 The happy few who made personal fortunes from this feeding frenzy—in a sense, the very first of the new kleptocrats—not only included numerous Russian officials, but also leading gringo investors/advisers, Harvard professors, USAID advisers, and bankers at Credit Suisse First Boston and other Wall Street investment banks. As the renowned development economist Alex Gerschenkron, an authority on Russian development, once said, “If we were in Vienna, we would have said, ‘We wish we could play it on the piano!’”

For the vast majority of ordinary Russian citizens, this extreme re-concentration of wealth coincided with nothing less than a full-scale 1930s-type depression, a “shock therapy”-induced rise in domestic price levels that wiped out the private savings of millions, rampant lawlessness, a public health crisis, and a sharp decline in life expectancy and birth rates.

Sadly, this neoliberal “market reform” policy package that was introduced at a Stalin-like pace from 1992 to late 1998 was not only condoned but partly designed and financed by senior Clinton Administration officials, neoliberal economists, and innumerable USAID, World Bank, and IMF officials. The few dissenting voices included some of the West’s best economic brains—Nobel laureates like James Tobin, Kenneth Arrow, Lawrence Klein, and Joseph Stiglitz. They also included Moscow University’s Sergei Glaziev, who now serves as President Putin’s chief economic advisor.3 Unfortunately, they were no match for the folks with the cash.

There was also an important intervention in Russian politics. In January 1996 a secret team of professional U.S. political consultants arrived in Moscow to discover that, as CNN put it back then, “The only thing voters like less than Boris Yeltsin is the prospect of upheaval.” The experts’ solution was one of earliest “Our brand is crisis” campaign strategies, in which Yeltsin was “spun” as the only alternative to “chaos.” To support him, in March 1996 the IMF also pitched in with $10.1 billion of new loans, on top of $17.3 billion of IMF/World Bank loans that had already been made.

With all this outside help, plus ample contributions from Russia’s new elite, Yeltsin went from just 8 percent approval in the January 1996 polls to a 54-41 percent victory over the Communist Party candidate, Gennady Zyuganov, in the second round of the July 1996 election. At the time, mainstream media like Time and the New York Times were delighted. Very few outside Russia questioned the wisdom of this blatant intervention in post-Soviet Russia’s first democratic election, or the West’s right to do it in order to protect itself.

By the late 1990s the actual chaos that resulted from Yeltsin’s warped policies had laid the foundations for a strong counterrevolution, including the rise of ex-KGB officer Putin and a massive outpouring of oligarchic flight capital that has continued virtually up to the present. For ordinary Russians, as noted, this was disastrous. But for many banks, private bankers, hedge funds, law firms, and accounting firms, for leading oil companies like ExxonMobil and BP, as well as for needy borrowers like the Trump Organization, the opportunity to feed on post-Soviet spoils was a godsend. This was vulture capitalism at its worst.

The nine-lived Trump, in particular, had just suffered a string of six successive bankruptcies. So the massive illicit outflows from Russia and oil-rich FSU members like Kazahkstan and Azerbaijan from the mid-1990s provided precisely the kind of undiscriminating investors that he needed. These outflows arrived at just the right time to fund several of Trump’s post-2000 high-risk real estate and casino ventures—most of which failed. As Donald Trump, Jr., executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization, told the “Bridging U.S. and Emerging Markets Real Estate” conference in Manhattan in September 2008 (on the basis, he said, of his own “half dozen trips to Russia in 18 months”):

[I]n terms of high-end product influx into the United States, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.

All this helps to explain one of the most intriguing puzzles about Donald Trump’s long, turbulent business career: how he managed to keep financing it, despite a dismal track record of failed projects.4

According to the “official story,” this was simply due to a combination of brilliant deal-making, Trump’s gold-plated brand, and raw animal spirits—with $916 million of creative tax dodging as a kicker. But this official story is hokum. The truth is that, since the late 1990s, Trump was also greatly assisted by these abundant new sources of global finance, especially from “submerging markets” like Russia

This suggests that neither Trump nor Putin is an “uncaused cause.” They are not evil twins, exactly, but they are both byproducts of the same neoliberal policy scams that were peddled to Russia’s struggling new democracy.

A Guided Tour of Trump’s Russian/FSU Connections

The following roundup of Trump’s Russo-Soviet business connections is based on published sources, interviews with former law enforcement staff and other experts in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Iceland, searches of online corporate registries,5 and a detailed analysis of offshore company data from the Panama Papers.6 Given the sheer scope of Trump’s activities, there are undoubtedly other worthy cases, but our interest is in overall patterns.

Note that none of the activities and business connections related here necessarily involved criminal conduct. While several key players do have criminal records, few of their prolific business dealings have been thoroughly investigated, and of course they all deserve the presumption of innocence. Furthermore, several of these players reside in countries where activities like bribery, tax dodging, and other financial chicanery are either not illegal or are rarely prosecuted. As former British Chancellor of the Exchequer Denis Healey once said, the difference between “legal” and “illegal” is often just “the width of a prison wall.”

So why spend time collecting and reviewing material that either doesn’t point to anything illegal or in some cases may even be impossible to verify? Because, we submit, the mere fact that such assertions are widely made is of legitimate public interest in its own right. In other words, when it comes to evaluating the probity of senior public officials, the public has the right to know about any material allegations—true, false, or, most commonly, unprovable—about their business partners and associates, so long as this information is clearly labeled as unverified.

Furthermore, the individual case-based approach to investigations employed by most investigative journalists and law enforcement often misses the big picture: the global networks of influence and finance, licit and illicit, that exist among business people, investors, kleptocrats, organized criminals, and politicians, as well as the “enablers”—banks, accounting firms, law firms, and havens. Any particular component of these networks might easily disappear without making any difference. But the networks live on. It is these shadowy transnational networks that really deserve scrutiny.

Bayrock Group LLC—Kazakhstan and Tevfik Arif

We’ll begin our tour of Trump’s Russian/FSU connections with several business relationships that evolved out of the curious case of Bayrock Group LLC, a spectacularly unsuccessful New York real estate development company that surfaced in the early 2000s and, by 2014, had all but disappeared except for a few lawsuits. As of 2007, Bayrock and its partners reportedly had more than $2 billion of Trump-branded deals in the works. But most of these either never materialized or were miserable failures, for reasons that will soon become obvious.

Bayrock’s “white elephants” included the 46-story Trump SoHo condo-hotel on Spring Street in New York City, for which the principle developer was a partnership formed by Bayrock and FL Group, an Icelandic investment company. Completed in 2010, the SoHo soon became the subject of prolonged civil litigation by disgruntled condo buyers. The building was foreclosed by creditors and resold in 2014 after more than $3 million of customer down payments had to be refunded. Similarly, Bayrock’s Trump International Hotel & Tower in Fort Lauderdale was foreclosed and resold in 2012, while at least three other Trump-branded properties in the United States, plus many other “project concepts” that Bayrock had contemplated, from Istanbul and Kiev to Moscow and Warsaw, also never happened.

Carelessness about due diligence with respect to potential partners and associates is one of Donald Trump’s more predictable qualities. Acting on the seat of the pants, he had hooked up with Bayrock rather quickly in 2005, becoming an 18 percent minority equity partner in the Trump SoHo, and agreeing to license his brand and manage the building.7

Exhibit A in the panoply of former Trump business partners is Bayrock’s former Chairman, Tevfik Arif (aka Arifov), an émigré from Kazakhstan who reportedly took up residence in Brooklyn in the 1990s. Trump also had extensive contacts with another key Bayrock Russian-American from Brooklyn, Felix Sater (aka Satter), discussed below.8 Trump has lately had some difficulty recalling very much about either Arif or Sater. But this is hardly surprising, given what we now know about them. Trump described his introduction to Bayrock in a 2013 deposition for a lawsuit that was brought by investors in the Fort Lauderdale project, one of Trump’s first with Bayrock: “Well, we had a tenant in … Trump Tower called Bayrock, and Bayrock was interested in getting us into deals.”9

According to several reports, Tevfik Arif was originally from Kazakhstan, a Soviet republic until 1992. Born in 1950, Arif worked for 17 years in the Soviet Ministry of Commerce and Trade, serving as Deputy Director of Hotel Management by the time of the Soviet Union’s collapse.10 In the early 1990s he relocated to Turkey, where he reportedly helped to develop properties for the Rixos Hotel chain. Not long thereafter he relocated to Brooklyn, founded Bayrock, opened an office in the Trump Tower, and started to pursue projects with Trump and other investors.11

Tevfik Arif was not Bayrock’s only connection to Kazakhstan. A 2007 Bayrock investor presentationrefers to Alexander Mashevich’s “Eurasia Group” as a strategic partner for Bayrock’s equity finance. Together with two other prominent Kazakh billionaires, Patokh Chodiev (aka “Shodiyev”) and Alijan Ibragimov, Mashkevich reportedly ran the “Eurasian Natural Resources Cooperation.” In Kazakhstan these three are sometimes referred to as “the Trio.”12

The Trio has apparently worked together ever since Gorbachev’s late 1980s perestroika in metals and other natural resources. It was during this period that they first acquired a significant degree of control over Kazakhstan’s vast mineral and gas reserves. Naturally they found it useful to become friends with Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s long-time ruler. Indeed, State Department cables leaked by Wikileaks in November 2010 describe a close relationship between “the Trio” and the seemingly-perpetual Nazarbayev kleptocracy.

In any case, the Trio has recently attracted the attention of many other investigators and news outlets, including the September 11 Commission Report, the GuardianForbes, and the Wall Street Journal. In addition to resource grabbing, the litany of the Trio’s alleged activities include money laundering,bribery, and racketeering.13 In 2005, according to U.S. State Department cables released by Wikileaks, Chodiev (referred to in a State Department cable as “Fatokh Shodiyev”) was recorded on video attending the birthday of reputed Uzbek mob boss Salim Abduvaliyeva and presenting him with a $10,000 “gift” or “tribute.”

According to the Belgian newspaper Le Soir, Chodiev and Mashkevich also became close associates of a curious Russian-Canadian businessman, Boris J. Birshtein. who happens to have been the father-in-law of another key Russian-Canadian business associate of Donald Trump in Toronto. We will return to Birshtein below.

The Trio also turn up in the April 2016 Panama Papers database as the apparent beneficial owners of a Cook Islands company, “International Financial Limited.”14 The Belgian newspapers Het Laatste Nieuws,Le Soir, and La Libre Belgique have reported that Chodiev paid €23 million to obtain a “Class B” banking license for this same company, permitting it to make international currency trades. In the words of a leading Belgian financial regulator, that would “make all money laundering undetectable.”

The Panama Papers also indicate that some of Arif’s connections at the Rixos Hotel Group may have ties to Kazakhstan. For example, one offshore company listed in the Panama Papers database, “Group Rixos Hotel,” reportedly acts as an intermediary for four BVI offshore companies.15 Rixos Hotel’s CEO, Fettah Tamince, is listed as having been a shareholder for two of these companies, while a shareholder in another—“Hazara Asset Management”—had the same name as the son of a recent Kazakhstan Minister for Sports and Tourism. As of 2012, this Kazakh official was described as the third-most influential deputy in the country’s Mazhilis (the lower house of Parliament), in a Forbes-Kazakhstan article.

According to a 2015 lawsuit against Bayrock by Jody Kriss, one of its former employees, Bayrock started to receive millions of dollars in equity contributions in 2004, supposedly by way of Arif’s brother in Russia, who allegedly “had access to cash accounts at a chromium refinery in Kazakhstan.”

This as-yet unproven allegation might well just be an attempt by the plaintiff to extract a more attractive settlement from Bayrock and its original principals. But it is also consistent with fact that chromium is indeed one of the Kazakh natural resources that is reportedly controlled by the Trio.

As for Arif, his most recent visible brush with the law came in 2010, when he and other members of Bayrock’s Eurasian Trio were arrested together in Turkey during a police raid on a suspected prostitution ring, according to the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot.

At the time, Turkish investigators reportedly asserted that Arif might be the head of a criminal organization that was trafficking in Russian and Ukrainian escorts, allegedly including some as young as 13.16 According to these assertions, big-ticket clients were making their selections by way of a modeling agency website, with Arif allegedly handling the logistics. Especially galling to Turkish authorities, the preferred venue was reportedly a yacht that had once belonged to the widely-revered Turkish leader Atatürk. It was also alleged that Arif may have also provided lodging for young women at Rixos Group hotels.17

According to Russian media, two senior Kazakh officials were also arrested during this incident, although the Turkish Foreign Ministry quickly dismissed this allegation as “groundless.” In the end, all the charges against Arif resulting from this incident were dismissed in 2012 by Turkish courts, and his spokespeople have subsequently denied all involvement.

Finally, despite Bayrock’s demise and these other legal entanglements, Arif has apparently remained active. For example, Bloomberg reports that, as of 2013, he, his son, and Rixos Hotels’ CEO Fettah Tamince had partnered to pursue the rather controversial business of advancing funds to cash-strapped high-profile soccer players in exchange for a share of their future marketing revenues and team transfer fees. In the case of Arif and his partners, this new-wave form of indentured servitude was reportedly implemented by way of a UK- and Malta-based hedge fund, Doyen Capital LLP. Because this practice is subject to innumerable potential abuses, including the possibility of subjecting athletes or clubs to undue pressure to sign over valuable rights and fees, UEFA, Europe’s governing soccer body, wants to ban it. But FIFA, the notorious global football regulator, has been customarily slow to act. To date, Doyen Capital LLP has reportedly taken financial gambles on several well-known players, including the Brazilian star Neymar.

The Case of Bayrock LLC—Felix Sater

Our second exhibit is Felix Sater, the senior Bayrock executive introduced earlier. This is the fellow who worked at Bayrock from 2002 to 2008 and negotiated several important deals with the Trump Organization and other investors. When Trump was asked who at Bayrock had brought him the Fort Lauderdale project in the 2013 deposition cited above, he replied: “It could have been Felix Sater, it could have been—I really don’t know who it might have been, but somebody from Bayrock.”18

SaterBizCardAlthough Sater left Bayrock in 2008, by 2010 he was reportedly back in Trump Tower as a “senior advisor” to the Trump Organization—at least on his business card—with his own office in the building.

Sater has also testified under oath that he had escorted Donald Trump, Jr. and Ivanka Trump around Moscow in 2006, had met frequently with Donald over several years, and had once flown with him to Colorado. And although this might easily have been staged, he is also reported to have visited Trump Tower in July 2016 and made a personal $5,400 contribution to Trump’s campaign.

Whatever Felix Sater has been up to recently, the key point is that by 2002, at the latest,19 Tevfik Arif decided to hire him as Bayrock’s COO and managing director. This was despite the fact that by then Felix had already compiled an astonishing track record as a professional criminal, with multiple felony pleas and convictions, extensive connections to organized crime, and—the ultimate prize—a virtual “get out of jail free card,” based on an informant relationship with the FBI and the CIA that is vaguely reminiscent of Whitey Bulger.20

Sater, a Brooklyn resident like Arif, was born in Russia in 1966. He reportedly emigrated with his family to the United States in the mid-1970s and settled in “Little Odessa.” It seems that his father, Mikhael Sheferovsky (aka Michael Sater), may have been engaged in Russian mob activity before he arrived in the United States. According to a certified U.S. Supreme Court petition, Felix Sater’s FBI handler stated that he “was well familiar with the crimes of Sater and his (Sater’s) father, a (Semion) Mogilevich crime syndicate boss.”21 A 1998 FBI report reportedly said Mogilevich’s organization had “approximately 250 members,” and was involved in trafficking nuclear materials, weapons, and more, as well as money laundering. (See below.)

But Michael Sater may have been less ambitious than his son. His only reported U.S. criminal convictioncame in 2000, when he pled guilty to two felony counts for extorting Brooklyn restaurants, grocery stores, and clinics. He was released with three years’ probation. Interestingly, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York who handled that case at the time was Loretta Lynch, who succeeded Eric Holder as U.S. Attorney General in 2014. Back in 2000, she was also overseeing a budding informant relationship and a plea bargain with Michael’s son Felix, which may help to explain the father’s sentence.

By then young Felix Sater was already well on his way to a career as a prototypical Russian-American mobster. In 1991 he stabbed a commodity trader in the face with a margarita glass stem in a Manhattan bar, severing a nerve. He was convicted of a felony and sent to prison. As Trump tells it, Sater simply “got into a barroom fight, which a lot of people do.” The sentence for this felony conviction could not have been very long, because, by 1993, 27-year-old Felix was already a trader in a brand new Brooklyn-based commodity firm called “White Rock Partners,” an innovative joint venture among four New York crime families and the Russian mob aimed at bringing state-of-the art financial fraud to Wall Street.

Five years later, in 1998, Felix Sater pled guilty to stock racketeering, as one of 19 U.S.-and Russian mob-connected traders who participated in a $40 million “pump and dump” securities fraud scheme. Facing twenty years in Federal prison, Sater and Gennady Klotsman, a fellow Russian-American who’d been with him on the night of the Manhattan bar fight, turned “snitch” and helped the Department of Justice prosecute their co-conspirators.22 Reportedly, so did Salvatore Lauria, another “trader” involved in the scheme. According to the Jody Kriss lawsuit, Lauria later joined Bayrock as an off-the-books paid “consultant.” Initially their cooperation, which lasted from 1998 until at least late 2001, was kept secret, until it was inadvertently revealed in a March 2000 press release by U.S. Attorney Lynch.

Unfortunately for Sater, about the same time the NYPD also reportedly discovered that he had been running a money-laundering scheme and illicit gun sales out of a Manhattan storage locker. He and Klotsman fled to Russia. However, according to the New York Times, which cited Klotsman and Lauria, soon after the events of September 11, 2001, the ever-creative Sater succeeded in brokering information about the black market for Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the CIA and the FBI. According to Klotsman, this strategy “bought Felix his freedom,” allowing him to return to Brooklyn. It is still not clear precisely what information Sater actually provided, but in 2015 U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch publicly commended him for sharing information that she described as “crucial to national security.”

Meanwhile, Sater’s sentence for his financial crimes continued to be deferred even after his official cooperation in that case ceased in late 2001. His files remained sealed, and he managed to avoid any sentencing for those crimes at all until October 23, 2009. When he finally appeared before the Eastern District’s Judge I. Leo Glasser, Felix received a $25,000 fine, no jail time, and no probation in a quiet proceeding that attracted no press attention. Some compared this sentence to Judge Glasser’s earlier sentence of Mafia hit man “Sammy the Bull” Gravano to 4.5 years for 19 murders, in exchange for “cooperating against John Gotti.”

In any case, between 2002 and 2008, when Felix Sater finally left Bayrock LLC, and well beyond, his ability to avoid jail and conceal his criminal roots enabled him to enjoy a lucrative new career as Bayrock’s chief operating officer. In that position, he was in charge of negotiating aggressive property deals all over the planet, even while—according to lawsuits by former Bayrock investors—engaging in still more financial fraud. The only apparent difference was that he changed his name from “Sater” to “Satter.”23

In the 2013 deposition cited earlier, Trump went on to say “I don’t see Felix as being a member of the Mafia.” Asked if he had any evidence for this claim, Trump conceded “I have none.”24

As for Sater’s pal Klotsman, the past few years have not been kind. As of December 2016 he is in a Russian penal colony, working off a ten-year sentence for a failed $2.8 million Moscow diamond heist in August 2010. In 2016 Klotsman was reportedly placed on a “top-ten list” of Americans that the Russians were willing to exchange for high-value Russian prisoners in U.S. custody, like the infamous arms dealer Viktor Bout. So far there have been no takers. But with Donald Trump as President, who knows?

The Case of Iceland’s FL Group

One of the most serious frauds alleged in the recent Bayrock lawsuit involves FL Group, an Icelandic private investment fund that is really a saga all its own.

Iceland is not usually thought of as a major offshore financial center. It is a small snowy island in the North Atlantic, closer to Greenland than to the UK or Europe, with only 330,000 citizens and a total GDP of just $17 billion. Twenty years ago, its main exports were cod and aluminum—with the imported bauxite smelted there to take advantage of the island’s low electricity costs.

But in the 1990s Iceland’s tiny neoliberal political elite had what they all told themselves was a brilliant idea: “Let’s privatize our state-owned banks, deregulate capital markets, and turn them loose on the world!” By the time all three of the resulting privatized banks, as well as FL Group, failed in 2008, the combined bank loan portfolio amounted to more than 12.5 times Iceland’s GDP—the highest country debt ratio in the entire world.

For purposes of our story, the most interesting thing about Iceland is that, long before this crisis hit and utterly bankrupted FL Group, our two key Russian/FSU/Brooklyn mobster-mavens, Arif and Sater, had somehow stumbled on this obscure Iceland fund. Indeed, in early 2007 they persuaded FL Group to invest $50 million in a project to build the Trump SoHo in mid-town Manhattan.

According to the Kriss lawsuit, at the same time, FL Group and Bayrock’s Felix Sater also agreed in principle to pursue up to an additional $2 billion in other Trump-related deals. The Kriss lawsuit further alleges that FL Group (FLG) also agreed to work with Bayrock to facilitate outright tax fraud on more than $250 million of potential earnings. In particular, it alleges that FLG agreed to provide the $50 million in exchange for a 62 percent stake in the four Bayrock Trump projects, but Bayrock would structure the contract as a “loan.” This meant that Bayrock would not have to pay taxes on the initial proceeds, while FLG’s anticipated $250 million of dividends would be channeled through a Delaware company and characterized as “interest payments,” allowing Bayrock to avoid up to $100 million in taxes. For tax purposes, Bayrock would pretend that their actual partner was a Delaware partnership that it had formed with FLG, “FLG Property I LLC,” rather than FLG itself.

The Trump Organization has denied any involvement with FLG. However, as an equity partner in the Trump SoHo, with a significant 18 percent equity stake in this one deal alone, Donald Trump himself had to sign off on the Bayrock-FLG deal.

This raises many questions. Most of these will have to await the outcome of the Kriss litigation, which might well take years, especially now that Trump is President. But several of these questions just leap off the page.

First, how much did President-elect Trump know about the partners and the inner workings of this deal? After all, he had a significant equity stake in it, unlike many of his “brand-name only” deals, and it was also supposed to finance several of his most important East Coast properties.

Second, how did the FL Group and Bayrock come together to do this dodgy deal in the first place? One former FL Group manager alleges that the deal arrived by accident, a “relatively small deal” was nothing special on either side.25 The Kriss lawsuit, on the other hand, alleges that FLG was a well-known source of easy money from dodgy sources like Kazakhstan and Russia, and that other Bayrock players with criminal histories—like Salvatore Lauria, for example—were involved in making the introductions.

At this stage the evidence with respect to this second question is incomplete. But there are already some interesting indications that FL Group’s willingness to generously finance Bayrock’s peculiar Russian/FSU/Brooklyn team, its rather poorly-conceived Trump projects, and its purported tax dodging were not simply due to Icelandic backwardness. There is much more for us to know about Iceland’s “special” relationship with Russian finance. In this regard, there are several puzzles to be resolved.

First, it turns out that FL Group, Iceland’s largest private investment fund until it crashed in 2008, had several owners/investors with deep Russian business connections, including several key investors in all three top Iceland banks.

Second, it turns out that FL Group had constructed an incredible maze of cross-shareholding, lending, and cross-derivatives relationships with all these major banks, as illustrated by the following snapshot of cross-shareholding among Iceland’s financial institutions and companies as of 2008.26

Cross-shareholding Relationships, FLG and Other Leading Icelandic Financial Institutions, 2008Cross-shareholding Relationships, FLG and Other Leading Icelandic Financial Institutions, 2008

This thicket of cross-dealing made it almost impossible to regulate “control fraud,” where insiders at leading financial institutions went on a self-serving binge, borrowing and lending to finance risky investments of all kinds. It became difficult to determine which institutions were net borrowers or investors, as the concentration of ownership and self-dealing in the financial system just soared.

Third, FL Group make a variety of peculiar loans to Russian-connected oligarchs as well as to Bayrock. For example, as discussed below, Alex Shnaider, the Russian-Canadian billionaire who later became Donald Trump’s Toronto business partner, secured a €45.8 million loan to buy a yacht from Kaupthing Bank during the same period, while a company belonging to another Russian billionaire who reportedly owns an important vodka franchise got an even larger loan.27

Fourth, Iceland’s largest banks also made a series of extraordinary loans to Russian interests during the run-up to the 2008 crisis. For example, one of Russia’s wealthiest oligarchs, a close friend of President Putin, nearly managed to secure at least €400 million (or, some say, up to four times that much) from Kaupthing, Iceland’s largest bank, in late September 2008, just as the financial crisis was breaking wide open. This bank also had important direct and indirect investments in FL Group. Indeed, until December 2006, it is reported to have employed the FL Group private equity manager who allegedly negotiated Felix Sater’s $50 million deal in early 2007.28

Fifth, there are unconfirmed accounts of a secret U.S. Federal Reserve report that unnamed Iceland banks were being used for Russian money laundering.29 Furthermore, Kaupthing Bank’s repeated requests to open a New York branch in 2007-08 were rejected by the Fed. Similar unconfirmed rumors repeatedly appeared in Danish and German publications, as did allegations about the supposed Kazakh origins of FLG’s cash to be “laundered” in the Kriss lawsuit.

Sixth, there is the peculiar fact that, when Iceland’s banks went belly-up in October 2008, their private banking subsidiaries in Luxembourg, which were managing at least €8 billion of private assets, were suddenly seized by Luxembourg banking authorities and transferred to a new bank, Banque Havilland. This happened so fast that Iceland’s Central Bank was prevented from learning anything about the identities or portfolio sizes of the Iceland banks’ private offshore clients. But again, there were rumors of some important Russian names.

Finally, there is the rather odd phone call that Russia’s Ambassador to Iceland made to Iceland’s Prime Minister at 6:45 a.m. on October 7, 2008, the day after the financial crisis hit Iceland. According to the PM’s own account, the Russian Ambassador informed him that then-Prime Minister Putin was willing to consider offering Iceland a €4 billion Russian bailout.

Of course this alleged Putin offer was modified not long thereafter into a willingness to entertain an Icelandic negotiating team in Moscow. By the time the Iceland team got to Moscow later that year, Russia’s desire to lend had cooled, and Iceland ended up accepting a $2.1 billion IMF “stabilization package” instead. But according to a member of the negotiating team, the reasons for the reversal are still a mystery. Perhaps Putin had reconsidered because he simply decided that Russia had to worry about its own considerable financial problems. Or perhaps he had discovered that Iceland’s banks had indeed been very generous to Russian interests on the lending side, while—given Luxembourg’s actions—any Russian private wealth invested in Icelandic banks was already safe.

On the other hand, there may be a simpler explanation for Iceland’s peculiar generosity to sketchy partners like Bayrock. After all, right up to the last minute before the October 2008 meltdown, the whole world had awarded Iceland AAA ratings: Depositors queued up in London to open high-yield Iceland bank accounts, its bank stocks were booming, and the compensation paid to its financiers was off the charts. So why would anyone worry about making a few more dubious deals?

Overall, therefore, with respect to these odd “Russia-Iceland” connections, the proverbial jury is still out. But all these Icelandic puzzles are intriguing and bear further investigation.

The Case of the Trump Toronto Tower and Hotel—Alex Shnaider

Our fourth case study of Trump’s business associates concerns the 48-year-old Russian-Canadian billionaire Alex Shnaider, who co-financed the seventy-story Trump Tower and Hotel, Canada’s tallest building. It opened in Toronto in 2012. Unfortunately, like so many of Trump’s other Russia/FSU-financed projects, this massive Toronto condo-hotel project went belly-up this November and has now entered foreclosure.

According to an online profile of Shnaider by a Ukrainian news agency, Alex Shnaider was born in Leningrad in 1968, the son of “Евсей Шнайдер,” or “Evsei Shnaider” in Russian.30 A recent Forbesarticle says that he and his family emigrated to Israel from Russia when he was four and then relocated to Toronto when he was 13-14. The Ukrainian news agency says that Alex’s familly soon established “one of the most successful stories in Toronto’s Russian quarter, “ and that young Alex, with “an entrepreneurial streak,” “helped his father Evsei Shnaider in the business, placing goods on the shelves and wiping floors.”

Eventually that proved to be a great decision—Shnaider prospered in the New World. Much of this was no doubt due to raw talent. But it also appears that for a time he got significant helping hand from his (now reportedly ex-) father-in-law, another colorful Russian-Canadian, Boris J. Birshtein.

Originally from Lithuania, Birshtein, now about 69, has been a Canadian citizen since at least 1982.31 He resided in Zurich for a time in the early 1990s, but then returned to Toronto and New York.32 One of his key companies was called Seabeco SA, a “trading” company that was registered in Zurich in December 1982.33 By the early 1990s Birshtein and his partners had started many other Seabeco-related companies in a wide variety of locations, inclding Antwerp,34 Toronto,35 Winnipeg,36 Moscow, Delaware,37Panama,38 and Zurich.39 Several of these are still active.40 He often staffed them with directors and officers from a far-flung network of Russians, emissaries from other FSU countries like Kyrgyzstan and Moldova, and recent Russia/FSU emigres to Canada.41

According to the Financial Times and the FBI, in addition to running Seabeco, Birshtein was a close business associate of Sergei Mikhaylov, the reputed head of Solntsevskaya Bratva, the Russian mob’s largest branch, and the world’s highest-grossing organized crime group as of 2014, according to Fortune.42 A 1996 FBI intelligence report cited by the FT claims that Birshtein hosted a meeting in his Tel Aviv office for Mikhaylov, the Ukrainian-born Semion Mogilevich, and several other leaders of the Russo/FSU mafia, in order to discuss “sharing interests in Ukraine.”43 A subsequent 1998 FBI Intelligence report on the “Semion Mogilevich Organization” repeated the same charge,44 and described Mogilevich’s successful attempts at gaining control over Ukraine privatization assets. The FT article also described how Birshtein and his associates had acquired extraordinary influence with key Ukraine officials, including President Leonid Kuchma, with the help of up to $5 million of payoffs.45 Citing Swiss and Belgian investigators, the FT also claimed that Birshtein and Mikhaylov jointly controlled a Belgian company called MAB International in the early 1990s.46 During that period, those same investigators reportedly observed transfers worth millions of dollars between accounts held by Mikhaylov, Birshtein, and Alexander Volkov, Seabeco’s representative in Ukraine.

In 1993, the Yeltsin government reportedly accused Birshtein of illegally exporting seven million tons of Russian oil and laundering the proceeds.47 Dmytro Iakoubovski, a former associate of Birshtein’s who had also moved to Toronto, was said to be cooperating with the Russian investigation. One night a gunman fired three shots into Iakoubovski’s home, leaving a note warning him to cease his cooperation, according to a New York Times article published that year. As noted above, according to the Belgian newspaper Le Soirtwo members of Bayrock’s Eurasian Trio were also involved in Seabeco during this period as well—Patokh Chodiev and Alexander Mashkevich. Chodiev reportedly first met Birshtein through the Soviet Foreign Ministry, and then went on to run Seabeco’s Moscow office before joining its Belgium office in 1991. Le Soir further claims that Mashkevich worked for Seabeco too, and that this was actually how he and Chodiev had first met.

All this is fascinating, but what about the connections between Birshtein and Trump’s Toronto business associate, Alex Shnaider? Again, the leads we have are tantalizing.The Toronto Globe and Mail reportedthat in 1991, while enrolled in law school, young Alex Shnaider started working for Birshtein at Seabeco’s Zurich headquarters, where he was reportedly introduced to steel trading. Evidently this was much more than just a job; the Zurich company registry lists “Alex Shnaider” as a director of “Seabeco Metals AG” from March 1993 to January 1994.48

In 1994, according to this account, he reportedly left Seabeco in January 1994 to start his own trading company in Antwerp, in partnership with a Belgian trader-partner. Curiously, Le Soir also says that Mikhaylov and Birshtein co-founded MAB International in Antwerp in January 1994. Is it far-fetched to suspect that Alex Shnaider and mob boss Mikhaylov might have crossed paths, since they were both in the same city and they were both close to Shnaider’s father-in-law?

According to Forbes, soon after Shnaider moved to Antwerp, he started visiting the factories of his steel trading partners in Ukraine.49 His favorite client was the Zaporizhstal steel mill, Ukraine’s fourth largest. At the Zaporizhstal mill he reportedly met Eduard Shifrin (aka Shyfrin), a metals trader with a doctorate in metallurgical engineering. Together they founded Midland Resource Holdings Ltd. in 1994.50

As the Forbes piece argues, with privatization sweeping Eastern Europe, private investors were jockeying to buy up the government’s shares in Zaprozhstal. But most traders lacked the financial backing and political connectons to accumulate large risky positions. Shnaider and Shifrin, in contrast, started buying up shares without limit, as if their pockets and connections were very deep. By 2001 they had purchased 93 percent of the plant for about $70 million, a stake that would be worth much more just five years later, when Shnaider reportedly turned down a $1.2 billion offer.

Today, Midland Resources Holdings Ltd. reportedly generates more than $4 billion a year of revenue and has numerous subsidiaries all across Eastern Europe.51 Shnaider also reportedly owns Talon International Development, the firm that oversaw construction of the Trump hotel-tower in Toronto. All this wealth apparently helped Iceland’s FL Group decide that it could afford to extend a €45.8 million loan to Alex Shnaider in 2008 to buy a yacht.52

As of December 2016, a search of the Panama Papers database found no fewer than 28 offshore companies that have been associated with “Midland Resources Holding Limited.”53 According to the database, “Midland Resources Holding Limited” was a shareholder in at least two of these companies, alongside an individual named “Oleg Sheykhametov.”54 The two companies, Olave Equities Limited and Colley International Marketing SA, were both registered and active in the British Virgin Islands from 2007–10.55 A Russian restaurateur by that same name reportedly runs a business owned by two other alleged Solntsevskaya mob associates, Lev Kvetnoy and Andrei Skoch, both of whom appear with Sergei Mikhaylov. Of course mere inclusion in such a group photo is not evidence of wrongdoing. (See the photo here.) According to ForbesKvetnoy is the 55th richest person in Russia and Skoch, now a deputy in the Russian Duma, is the 18th.56

Finally, it is also intriguing to note that Boris Birshtein is also listed as the President of “ME Moldova Enterprises AG,” a Zurich-based company” that was founded in November 1992, transferred to the canton of Schwyz in September 1994, and liquidated and cancelled in January 1999.57 Birshstein was a member of the company’s board of directors from November 1992 to January 1994, when he became its President. At that point he was succeeded as President in June 1994 by one “Evsei Shnaider, Canadian citizen, resident in Zurich,” who was also listed as director of the company in September 1994.58 “Evsei Schnaider” is also listed in the Panama registry as a Treasurer and Director of “The Seabeco Group Inc.,” formed on December 6, 1991,59 and as treasurer and director of Seabeco Security International Inc.,” formed on December 10, 1991. As of December 2016, both companies are still in existence.60 Boris Birshtein is listed as president and director of both companies.61

The Case of Paul Manafort’s Ukrainian Oligarchs

Our fifth Trump associate profile concerns the Russo/Ukrainian connections of Paul Manafort, the former Washington lobbyist who served as Donald Trump’s national campaign director from April 2016 to August 2016. Manafort’s partner, Rick Davis, also served as national campaign manager for Senator John McCain in 2008, so this may not just be a Trump association.

One of Manafort’s biggest clients was the dubious pro-Russian Ukrainian billionaire Dmytro Firtash. By his own admission, Firtash maintains strong ties with a recurrent figure on this scene, the reputed Ukrainian/Russian mob boss Semion Mogilevich. His most important other links are almost certainly to Putin. Otherwise it is difficult to explain how this former used-car salesman could gain a lock on trading goods for gas in Turkmenistan and also become a lynchpin investor in the Swiss company RosUrEnergo, which controls Gazprom’s gas sales to Europe.62

In 2008, Manafort teamed up with a former manager of the Trump Organization to purchase the Drake Hotel in New York for up to $850 million, with Firtash agreeing to invest $112 million. According to a lawsuit brought against Manafort and Firtash, the key point of the deal was not to make a carefully-planned investment in real estate, but to simply launder part of the huge profits that Firtash had skimmed while brokering dodgy natural gas deals between Russia and Ukraine, with Mogilevich acting as a “silent partner.”

Ultimately Firtash pulled out of this Drake Hotel deal. The reasons are unclear—it has been suggested that he needed to focus on the 2015 collapse and nationalization of his Group DF’s Bank Nadra back home in Ukraine.63 But it certainly doesn’t appear to have changed his behavior. Since 2014 there has been a spate of other Firtash-related prosecutions, with the United States trying to extradict from Austria in order to stand trial on allegations that his vast spidernet “Group DF” had bribed Indian officials to secure mining licenses. The Austrian court has required him to put up a record-busting €125 million bail while he awaits a decision.64 And just last month, Spain has also tried to extradite Firtash on a separate money laundering case, involving the laundering of €10 million through Spanish property investments.

After Firtash pulled out of the deal, Manafort reportedly turned to Trump, but he declined to engage.Manafort stepped down as Trump’s campaign manager in August of 2016 in response to press investigations into his ties not only to Firtash, but to Ukraine’s previous pro-Russian Yanukovych government, which had been deposed by a uprising in 2014. However, following the November 8 election, Manafort reportedly returned to advise Trump on staffing his new administration. He got an assist from Putin—on November 30 a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry accused Ukraine of leaking stories about Manafort in an effort to hurt Trump.

The Case of “Well-Connected” Russia/FSU Mobsters

Finally, several other interesting Russian/FSU connections have a more residential flavor, but they are a source of very important leads about the Trump network.

Indeed, partly because it has no prying co-op board, Trump Tower in New York has received press attention for including among its many honest residents tax-dodgers, bribers, arms dealers, convicted cocaine traffickers, and corrupt former FIFA officials.65

One typical example involves the alleged Russian mobster Anatoly Golubchik, who went to prison in 2014 for running an illegal gambling ring out of Trump Tower—not only the headquarters of the Trump Organization but also the former headquarters of Bayrock Group LLC. This operation reportedly took up the entire 51st floor. Also reportedly involved in it was the alleged mobster Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov,66who has the distinction of making the Forbes 2008 list of the World’s Ten Most Wanted Criminals, and whose organization the FBI believes to be tied to Mogilevich’s. Even as this gambling ring was still operating in Trump Tower, Tokhtakhounov reportedly travelled to Moscow to attend Donald Trump’s 2013 Miss Universe contest as a special VIP.

In the Panama Papers database we do find the name “Anatoly Golubchik.” Interestingly, his particular offshore company, “Lytton Ventures Inc.,”67 shares a corporate director, Stanley Williams, with a company that may well be connected to our old friend Semion Mogilevich, the Russian mafia’s alleged “Boss of Bosses” who appeared so frequently in the story above. Thus Lytton Ventures Inc. shares this particular director with another company that is held under the name of “Galina Telesh.”68 According to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, multiple offshore companies belonging to Semion Mogilevich have been registered under this same name—which just happens to be that of Mogilevich’s first wife.

A 2003 indictment of Mogilevich also mentions two offshore companies that he is said to have owned, with names that include the terms “Arbat” and “Arigon.” The same corporate director shared by Golubchik and Telesh also happens to be a director of a company called Westix Ltd.,69 which shares its Moscow address with “Arigon Overseas” and “Arbat Capital.”70 And another company with that same director appears to belong to Dariga Nazarbayeva, the eldest daughter of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the long-lived President of Kazakhstan. Dariga is expected to take his place if he ever decides to leave office or proves to be mortal.

Lastly, Dmytro Firtash—the Mogilevich pal and Manafort client that we met earlier—also turns up in the Panama Papers database as part of Galina Telesh’s network neighborhood. A director of Telesh’s “Barlow Investing,” Vasliki Andreou, was also a nominee director of a Cyprus company called “Toromont Ltd.,” while another Toromont Ltd. nominee director, Annex Holdings Ltd., a St. Kitts company, is also listed as a shareholder in Firtash’s Group DF Ltd., along with Firtash himself.71 And Group DF’s CEO, who allegedly worked with Manafort to channel Firtash’s funding into the Drake Hotel venture, is also listed in the Panama Papers database as a Group DF shareholder. Moreover, a 2006Financial Times investigation identified three other offshore companies that are linked to both Firtash and Telesh.72

Anatoly Golubchiks Panama Papers Network NeighborhoodAnatoly Golubchik’s Panama Papers Network Neighborhood

Of course, all of these curious relationships may just be meaningless coincidences. After all, the director shared by Telesh and Golubchik is also listed in the same role for more than 200 other companies, and more than a thousand companies besides Arbat Capital and Arigon Overseas share Westix’s corporate address. In the burgeoning land of offshore havens and shell-game corporate citizenship, there is no such thing as overcrowding. The appropriate way to view all this evidence is to regard it as “Socratic:” raising important unanswered questions, not providing definite answers.

In any case, returning to Trump’s relationships through Trump Tower, another odd one involves the 1990s-vintage fraudulent company YBM Magnex International. YBM, ostensibly a world-class manufacturer of industrial magnets, was founded indirectly in Newtown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1995 by the “boss of bosses,” Semion Mogilevich, Moscow’s “brainy Don.”

This is a fellow with an incredible history, even if only half of what has been written about him is true.73Unfortunately, we have to focus here only on the bits that are most relevant. Born in Kiev, and now a citizen of Israel as well as Ukraine and Russia, Semion, now seventy, is a lifelong criminal. But he boasts an undergraduate economics degree from Lviv University, and is reported to take special pride in designing sophisticated, virtually undetectable financial frauds that take years to put in place. To pull them off, he often relies on the human frailties of top bankers, stock brokers, accountants, business magnates, and key politicians.74

In YBM’s case, for a mere $2.4 million in bribes, Semion and his henchmen spent years in the 1990s launching a product-free, fictitious company on the still-badly under-regulated Toronto Stock Exchange. Along the way they succeeded in securing the support of several leading Toronto business people and a former Ontario Province Premier to win a seat on YBM’s board. They also paid the “Big Four” accounting firm Deloitte Touche very handsomely in exchange for glowing audits. By mid-1998, YBM’s stock price had gone from less than $0.10 to $20, and Semion cashed out at least $18 million—a relatively big fraud for its day—before the FBI raid its YBM’s corporate headquarters. When it did so, it found piles of bogus invoices for magnets, but no magnets.75

In 2003, Mogilevich was indicted in Philadelphia on 45 felony counts for this $150 million stock fraud. But there is no extradition treaty between the United States and Russia, and no chance that Russia will ever extradite Semion voluntarily; he is arguably a national treasure, especially now. Acknowledging these realities, or perhaps for other reasons, the FBI quietly removed Mogilevich from its Top Ten Most Wanted list in 2015, where he had resided for the previous six years.76

For our purposes, one of the most interesting things to note about this YBM Magnex case is that its CEO was a Russian-American named Jacob Bogatin, who was also indicted in the Philadelphia case. His brother David had served in the Soviet Army in a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft unit, helping to shoot down American pilots like Senator John McCain. Since the early 1990s, David Bogatin was considered by the FBI to be one of the key members of Semion Mogilevich’s Russian organized crime family in the United States, with a long string of convictions for big-ticket Mogilevich-type offenses like financial fraud and tax dodging.

At one point, David Bogatin owned five separate condos in Trump Tower that Donald Trump had reportedly sold to him personally.77 And Vyacheslav Ivankov, another key Mogilevich lieutenant in the United States during the 1990s, also resided for a time at Trump Tower, and reportedly had in his personal phone book the private telephone and fax numbers for the Trump Organization’s office in that building.78

So what have we learned from this deep dive into the network of Donald Trump’s Russian/FSU connections?

First, the President-elect really is very “well-connected,” with an extensive network of unsavory global underground connections that may well be unprecedented in White House history. In choosing his associates, evidently Donald Trump only pays cursory attention to questions of background, character, and integrity.

Second, Donald Trump has also literally spent decades cultivating senior relationships of all kinds with Russia and the FSU. And public and private senior Russian figures of all kinds have likewise spent decades cultivating him, not only as a business partner, but as a “useful idiot.”

After all, on September 1, 1987 (!), Trump was already willing to spend a $94,801 on full-page ads in the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and the New York Times calling for the United States to stop spending money to defend Japan, Europe, and the Persian Gulf, “an area of only marginal significance to the U.S. for its oil supplies, but one upon which Japan and others are almost totally dependent.”79

This is one key reason why just this week, Robert Gates—a registered Republican who served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents Bush and Obama, as well as former Director and Deputy Director of the CIA—criticized the response of Congress and the White House to the alleged Putin-backed hacking as far too “laid back.”80

Third, even beyond questions of illegality, the public clearly has a right to know much more than it already does about the nature of such global connections. As the opening quote from Cervantes suggests, these relationships are probably a pretty good leading indicator of how Presidents will behave once in office.

Unfortunately, for many reasons, this year American voters never really got the chance to decide whether such low connections and entanglements belong at the world’s high peak of official power. In the waning days of the Obama Administration, with the Electoral College about to ratify Trump’s election and Congress in recess, it is too late to establish the kind of bipartisan, 9/11-type commission that would be needed to explore these connections in detail.

Finally, the long-run consequence of careless interventions in other countries is that they often come back to haunt us. In Russia’s case, it just has.

1Author’s estimates; see globalhavenindustry.com for more details.

2For an overview and critical discussion, see here.

3See Lawrence Klein and Marshall Pomer, Russia’s Economic Transition Gone Awry (Stanford University Press, 2002); see also James S. Henry and Marshall Pomer, “A Pile of Ruble,” New Republic, September 7, 1998.

4See this Washington Post report, which counts just six bankruptcies to the Trump Organization’s credit, but excludes failed projects like the Trump SoHo, the Toronto condo-hotel, the Fort Lauderdale condo-hotel, and many others Trump was a minority investor or had simply licensed his brand.

5For example, the Swiss federal and cantonal corporate registries, available here.

6For ICIJ’s April 2016 “Panama Papers” database of offshore companies, see here.

7Trump’s minority equity deal with Bayrock was unlike many others, where he simply licensed his name. See this March 2008 New York Magazine piece.

8“I dealt mostly with Tevfik,” he said in 2007.

9Case 1:09-cv-21406-KMW Document 408-1. Entered on FLSD Docket 11/26/2013. p. 15.


11Bayrock reported its co-ownership of six Rixos hotels in a 2007 press release.

12See also Salihovic, Elnur, Major Players in the Muslim Business World, p.107, and this Telegraph piece.

13See also Zambia, Mining, and Neo-LiberalismBrussels Times; and Le Soir.

14According to the Panama Papers database, “International Financial Limited” was registered on April 3, 1998, but is no longer active today, although no precise deregistration date is available. Source.

15According to the Panama Papers, “Group Rixos Hotel” is still active company, while three of the four companies it serves were struck off in 2007 and the fourth, Hazara Asset Management, in 2013.


17See also TurizmGüncel.com and Le Grand Soir.

18Case 1:09-cv-21406-KMW Document 408-1. Entered on FLSD Docket 11/26/2013. p. 16.

19The exact date that Sater joined Bayrock is unclear. A New York Times article says 2003, but this appears to be too late. Sater says 1999, but this is much too early. A certified petition filed with the U.S. Supreme Court places the time around 2002, which is more consistent with Sater’s other activities during this period, including his cooperation with the Department of Justice on the Coppa case in 1998–2001, and his foreign travel.

20See Financial TimesNew York Times, and Washington Post. Note that previous accounts of Sater’s activities have overlooked the role that this very permissive relationship with federal law enforcement, especially the FBI, may have played in encouraging Sater’s subsequent risk-taking and financial crimes. See here.

21See here, p. 13.

22Sater’s 1998 case, never formally sealed, was U.S. v. Sater, 98-CR-1101 (E.D.N.Y.) The case in which Sater secretly informed was U.S. v. Coppa, 00-CR-196 (E.D.N.Y.). See also this piece in the Daily Beast.

23Source. Sater also may have taken other steps to conceal his criminal past. According to the 2015 lawsuit filed by x Bayrocker Jody Kriss, Arif agreed to pay Sater his $1 million salary under the table, allowing Sater to pretend that he lacked resources to compensate any victims of his prior financial frauds. See Kriss v. Bayrock, pp. 2, 18. The lawsuit also alleges that Sater may have held a majority of Bayrock’s ownership, but that Arif, Sater and other Bayrock officers may have conspired to hide this by listing Arif as the sole owner on offering documents.

24See here, p. 155.

25Author’s interview with Sigrun Davidsdottir, Iceland journalist, London, August 2016.

26See “Report of the Special Investigation Commission on the 2008 Financial Crisis” (April 12, 2010).

27These loans are disclosed in the Kaupthing Bank’s “Corporate Credit – Disclosure of Large Exposures > €40 mm.” loan book, September 15, 2008. This document was disclosed by Wikileaks in 2009. See thisTelegraph piecehttps://file.wikileaks.info/leak/kaupthing-bank-before-crash-2008.pdf, p.145 (€79.5mm construction yacht loan to Russian vodka magnate Yuri Shefler’s Serena Equity Ltd.); p. 208 (€45.8 mm yacht construction loan to Canadian-Russian billionaire Alex Shnaider’s Filbert Pacific Ltd.).

28Kriss lawsuit, op. cit.; author’s analysis of Kaupthing/ FL G employees published career histories.

29Author’s interview with an “Iceland economist,” Reykjavik, July 2016.

30Source. The passage in Russian, with the father’s name underlined, is as follows: “Родители Алекса Шнайдера владели одним из первых успешных русских магазинов в русском квартале Торонто. Алекс помогал в бизнесе отцу—Евсею Шнайдеру, расставляя на полках товар и протирая полы. С юных лет в Алексе зрела предпринимательская жилка. Живя с родителями, он стал занимать деньги у их друзей и торговать тканями и электроникой с разваливающимися в конце 80-х годов советскими предприятиями.” “Евсею Шнайдеру” is the dative case of “Евсей Шнайдер,” or “Evsei Shnaider,” the father’s name in Russian.

31The Zurich company registry reports that “Seabeco SA” (CHE-104.863.207) was initially registered on December 16, 1982, with “Boris Joseph Birshtein, Canadian citizen, resident in Toronto” as its President. It entered liquidation on May 5, 1999, in Arth, handled by the Swiss trustee Paul Barth. The Zurich company registry listed “Boris Joseph Birshtein, Canadian citizen, resident in Toronto,” as the President of Seabeco Kirgizstan AG in 1992, while “Boris Joseph Birshtein, Canadian citizen, resident in Zurich,” was listed as the company’s President in 1993. “Boris Birshtein” is also listed as the President and director of a 1991 Panama company, The Seabeco Group, Inc. as of December 6 1991. See below.


33The Zurich company registry reports that “Seabeco SA” (CHE-104.863.207) was initially registered on December 16, 1982, with “Boris Joseph Birshtein, Canadian citizen, resident in Toronto” as its President. According to the registry, it entered liquidation on May 5, 1999. See also this. The liquidation was handled by the Swiss trustee Paul Barth, in Arth.

34For Seabeco’s Antwerp subsidiary, see here.

35“Royal HTM Group, Inc.” of Toronto, (Canadian Federal Corporation # 624476-9), owned 50-50 by Birshtein and his nephew. Source.

36Birshtein was a director of Seabeco Capital Inc. (Canadian Federal Incorporatio # 248194-4,) a Winnipeg company created June 2, 1989, and dissolved December 22, 1992.

37Since 1998, Boris Birshtein (Toronto) has also served as Chairman, CEO, and a principle shareholder of “Trimol Group Inc.,” a publicly-traded Delaware company that trades over the counter. (Symbol: TMOL). Its product line is supposedly “computerized photo identification and database management system utilized in the production of variety of secure essential government identification documents.” See Bloomberg. However, according to Trimol’s July 2015 10-K, the company has only had one customer, the former FSU member Moldova, with which Trimol’s wholly owned subsidiary Intercomsoft concluded a contract in 1996 for the producton of a National Passport and Population Registration system. That contract was not renewed in 2006, and the subsidiary and Trimol have had no revenues since then. Accordingly, as of 2016 Trimol has only two part time employees, its two principal shareholders, Birshtein and his nephew, who, directly and indirectly account for 79 percent of Trimol’s shares outstanding. According to the July 2015 10-K, Birshtein, in particular, owned 54 percent of TMOL’s outstanding 78.3 million shares, including 3.9 million by way of “Magnum Associates, Inc.,” which the 10-K says only has Birshtein as a shareholder, and 34.7 million by way of yet another Canadian company, “Royal HTM Group, Inc.” of Ontario (Canadian Federal Corporation # 624476-9), which is owned 50-50 by Birshtein and a nephew. It is interesting to note according to the Panama Papers database, a Panama company called “Magnum Associates Inc. was incorporated on December 10, 1987, and struck off on March 10, 1989. Source. As of December 2016, TMOL’s stock price was zero.

38See the case of Trimol Group Inc above. The Seabeco Group, Inc., a Panama company that was formed in December 1991, apparently still exists. Boris J. Birshtein is listed as this company’s Director and President. See “The Seabeco Group Inc.” registered in Panama by Morgan Y Morgan, 1991-12.06, with “Numero de Ficha” 254192; source here and here.

39As of December 2016, the Zurich company registry listed a Zurich company called “Conim Investment AG” (CH- was originally formed in May 1992, and in January 1995 was transferred to Arth, in the Canton of Schwyz, where it is still in existence. (CHE-102.029.498). This is confirmed by the Schwyz Canton registry. According to these registries, Conim Investment AG is the successor company to two other Zurich campanies, “Seabeco Kirgizstan AG,” formed in 1992, and “KD Kirgizstan Development AG,” its direct successor. Source. The Swiss federal company registry also reports the following Swiss companies in which Boris J.Birshtein has been an officer and or director, all of which are now in liquidation: (1) Seabeco Trade and Finance AG (CH-, 4/3/92-11/30/98 ), ; (2) Seabeco SA (CHE-104.863.207,12/16/82-5/9/99) ; (3) Seabeco Metals AG (4/3/92-6/11/96); (4) BNB Trading AG (CH-, 1/10/92-11/19/98 ); and (5) ME Moldova Enterprises AG (CH-, 11/10/92-9/16/94). All of these liquidations were handled by the same trustee, Paul Barth in Arth.

40As of December 2016, active Birshtein companies include “Conim Investment AG” (CH- in the Swiss Canton of Schwyz and he Seabeco Group, Inc. in Panama.

41For example, the Zurich and Schwyz company registries indicates that the following have been board members of Birshtein companies: (1) Seabeco Trade and Finance AG: Iouri Orlov (citizen of Russia, resident of Moscow), Alexander Griaznov (citizen of Russia, resident of Basserdorf Switzerland), and Igor Filippov (citizen of Russia, resident of Basel). (2) ME Moldova Enterprises: Andrei Keptein (citizen of FSU/ Moldova; Evsei Shnaider (Russian émigré to Canada); (3) Seabeco Kirigizstan/ Conim Investment AG: Sanjarbek Almatov (citizen of Bishkek, FSU/ Kirgizstan), Toursounbek Tchynguychev (citizen of Bishkek, FSU/Kirgizstan), Evsei Shnaider (Russian émigré to Canada); (4) BNB Trading AG: Yuri Spivak (Russian émigré to Canada; (5) Seabeco Metals AG: Alex Shnaider (Russian émigré to Canada).

42Charles Clover, “Ukraine: Questions over Kuchma’s adviser cast shadows,” Financial Times, October 30, 1999, available here. See also Misha Glenny, 2009. McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld (Vintage Books), pp. 63–5.

43Clover, “Ukraine: Questions over Kuchma’s adviser cast shadows.”

44See FBI, Organizational Intelligence Unit (August 1998), “Semion Mogilevich Organization: Eurasian Organized Crime,” available here.

45Clover, “Ukraine: Questions over Kuchma’s adviser cast shadows.”

46Clover, “Ukraine: Questions over Kuchma’s adviser cast shadows.”

47Boris knows everyone,” Toronto Star, August 28, 1993.

48See Zurich corporate registry for “Seabeco Metals AG” (CH-, formed 4/3/92 and liquidated 6/11/96.




52See Kaupthing Bank, “Loan Book, September 2008,” Wikileaks.

53The Panama Papers database provides an address for “Midland Resources Holding Limited” that exactly matches the company’s corporate address in Guernsey, as noted by Bloomberg’s corporate data base. Here are the 28 companies that are associated with Midland in database: Aligory Business Ltd.; Anglesey Business Ltd.; Blue Industrial Skies Inc.; Cl 850 Aviation Holdings Ltd.; Cl 850 Aircraft Investments Ltd.; Caray Business Inc.; Challenger Aircraft Company LimitedColley International Marketing S.A.; East International Realty Ltd.; Filbert Pacific LimitedGorlane Business Inc.; Jabar IncorporatedJervois Holdings Inc.; Kerryhill Investments Corp.; Leaterby International Investments Corp.; Maddocks Equities Ltd.; Maverfin Holding Inc.; Midland Maritime Holding Ltd.; Midland River-Sea Holding Ltd.; Midland Drybulk Holding Ltd.; Midland Fundco Ltd.; Norson Investments Corp.; Olave Equities LimitedOrlion Business IncorporatedPerseus Global Inc.; Sellana Investments Global Corp.; Stogan Assets IncorporatedToomish Asset Ltd.

54With the address “11 First Tverskaya-Yamskaya Street; apt. 42; Moscow; Russia.”: herehere, and here.

55As for the Midland-related offshore vehicles still listed as active, one shareholder in two of them—Stogan Assets Incorporated and Blue Sky Industries Inc.—happens to have the same name as Russia’s Deputy Culture Minister Gregory Pirumov, reportedly arrested in March 2016 on embezzlement charges. The “Gregory Pirumov” in the Panama Papers has a registered address in Moscow (4 Beregkovskaia Quay; 121059), as do the reported agent of these two companies: “Global Secretary Services Ltd. Mal. Tolmachevskiy pereulok 10 Office No.3 Moscow, Russia 119017 Attention: Katya Skupova).” See here. A “Georgy Pirumov” is also listed separately in the Panama Papers as having been a shareholder in the same two companies. For what it is worth, in September 2016, one “Georgy Pirumov” was convicted in Moscow of “illegally taking over a building in Gogolevsky Boulevard,” and sentenced to 20 months in a minimum-security correctional facility. See The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Sept 15, 2016. At this point, however, we need to emphasize that there is still plenty that needs to be investigated—we cannot yet confirm whether “Georgy” and “Gregory” are the same person, whether they are related, how they might be related to Shnaider’s Mineral Resources, or whether they are the same people named in the articles just noted above about criminal prosecutions.


57See Schwyz canton corporate registry, “ME Moldova Enterprises AG,” CH-

58See Zurich corporate registry, “ME Moldova Enterprises AG,” CH- (11/10/92-9/16/94).

59See “Seabeco Group Inc.,” Panama Corporate Registry # 254192, formed 12-6-1991.

60See “Seabeco Security Intl Inc.” Panama Corporate Registry #254206, formed 12-10-1991.”

61See footnotes 58 and 59.


63See Unian Information Agency.


65See Transparency International Russia.

66A.K.A. “Tochtachunov.” See FBI, Organizational Intelligence Unit (August 1998), “Semion Mogilevich Organization: Eurasian Organized Crime.”

67According to the Panama Papers, as of December 2016, Lytton Ventures Inc., incorporated in 2006, was still an active company but its registration jurisdiction was listed as “unknown.”

68For Telesh’s company the director’s name is given as “Stanley Williams,” as compared with “Stanley Edward Williams” in Golubchik’s, but they have the same address. See here. Telesh’s company, Barlow Investing, was incorporated in 2004. In the PP database, as of December 2016 its status was “Transferred Out,” although its de-registration date and registration jurisdiction are unknown.

69Westix Ltd., registered in 2005, is still active, according to the Panama Papers.

70In the Panama Papers, Telesh’s company and Golubchik’s reportedly have the same director, one Stanley Williams. Williams is also reportedly a director of Westix, which shares its address with two other offshore companies that use corporate names that Mogilevich has reportedly used at least twice each in the past. Arbat Capital, registered in 2003, was still active as of December 2016, as was Arigon Overseas, registered in 2007.

71See the diagram below.

72These three offshore companies are not in the Panama Papers database. Firtash acknowledged these connections to Telesh but still told FT reporters that he didn’t know her. The three companies identified in the report are (1) Highrock Holdings, which Firtash and Telesh each reportedly owned 1/3rd of, and where Firtash served as director beginning in 2001; (2) Agatheas Holdings, where Firtash apparently replaced Telesh as director in 2003; and (3) Elmstad Trading, a Cyprus company owned by Firtash which in 2002 transferred the shares of a Russian company named Rinvey to Telesh and two other people: one of them Firtash’s lawyer and the other the wife of a reputed Mogilevich business partner. See also here.

73On Mogilevich, see, for example, this.

74See also FBI, Organizational Intelligence Unit (August 1998), “Semion Mogilevich Organization; Eurasian Organized Crime,” available here.


76See FBI archives and Slate.

77David Cay Johnston, interview with the author, November 2016. Wayne Barrett, Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention (Regan Arts, 2016).

78Johnston, interview; see also here. In another interesting coincidence, the President of YBM Magnex was also reportedly a financial director of Highrock in the late 1990s, before Manafort-client Dmytro Firtash joined the company as a director in 2001. See note 151. Source.



James S. Henry, Esq. is an investigative economist and lawyer who has written widely about offshore and onshore tax havens, kleptocracy, and pirate banking. He is the author of The Blood Bankers (Basic Books, 2003,2005), a classic investigation of where the money went that was loaned to key debtor countries in the 1970s-1990s. He is a senior fellow at the Columbia University’s Center on Sustainable Investment, a Global Justice Fellow at Yale, a senior advisor at the Tax Justice Network, and a member of the New York Bar. He has pursued frontline investigations of odious debt, flight capital, and corruption in more than fifty developing countries, including Russia, China, South Africa, Brazil, the Philippines, Argentina, Venezuela, and Panama.

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The Trump administration is up to its neck in Russians

Chicago TribuneNov 6, 2017
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Ivanka Trump, senior adviser Jared Kushner and Vice President Mike Pence listen during a news conference with … really has their best interests at heart — and that he hasn’t prioritized his own personal profits or those of Vladimir Putin or his Russian business partners.”.
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Former Trump Aides Charged as Prosecutors Reveal New …

New York TimesOct 30, 2017
The United States has concluded that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia tried to tip the outcome of the 2016 election in favor of Mr. Trump. As part of that effort, Russian operatives hacked Democratic accounts and released a trove of embarrassing emails related to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. Mr. Mueller …
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Trump-Russia Probe: Are Paul Manafort and Rick Gates Crooks or …

NewsweekNov 3, 2017
The 30-year-old former member of the Trump campaign’s foreign policy advisory panel claimed he was in touch, according to the Mueller indictment, with a “female Russian national” whom he believed was President Vladimir Putin’s niece and could arrange a meeting between Trump officials and top …
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An excerpt from ‘Collusion’

MSNBCNov 16, 2017
Putin had missed perestroika and glasnost, Gorbachev’s reformist ideas, and had returned from provincial East Germany and Dresden. Putin was now carving …. One of Simpson’s subjects was Semion Mogilevich, a Ukrainian-Russian mafia don and one of the FBI’s ten most wanted individuals. Mogilevich …
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The Trump administration is up to its neck in Russians

Chicago TribuneNov 6, 2017
Two of its key owners are Kirill Shamalov, who is married to Putin’s youngest daughter, and Gennady Timchenko, the sanctioned oligarch whose … from a businessman and Ukrainian parliamentarian named Ivan Fursin, who is closely linked to one of Russia’s most notorious criminals: Semion Mogilevich.
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Former Trump Aides Charged as Prosecutors Reveal New …

New York TimesOct 30, 2017
The United States has concluded that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia tried to tip the outcome of the 2016 election in favor of Mr. Trump. As part of that effort, Russian operatives hacked Democratic accounts and released a trove of embarrassing emails related to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. Mr. Mueller …
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Trump-Russia Probe: Are Paul Manafort and Rick Gates Crooks or …

NewsweekNov 3, 2017
But anyone with basic knowledge of Russia—or access to Google—is aware that Putin is an only child (his two older brothers died before he was born) and … for businessman and Ukrainian parliamentarian Ivan Fursin, who is closely linked to one of Russia’s most notorious mobsters, Semion Mogilevich.
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Why FBI Can’t Tell All on Trump, Russia

WhoWhatWhy / RealNewsProject (blog)Mar 27, 2017
The Trump-Sater-MogilevichPutin saga, with its intertwining domestic and international threads, is almost certainly a battleground for powerful elements in the US intelligence complex. Even unravelling one thread — the FBI’s “running” of Felix Sater as an informant — is a challenge at every level. The FBI …
The Strange Ties between Semion Mogilevich and Vladimir Putin

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On March 23, 2009 the Moscow City Court ruled that Semion Mogilevich, also known as Sergiy Shneider, will remain in prison until May 23 while investigators continue to examine his case. (Kommersant Daily,March 24). This is the third extension of his detention the court has ordered since Mogilevich was arrested on January 23, 2008 and charged with abetting in a tax evasion scheme. What makes this case highly sensitive is that Mogilevich has been suspected of having close links to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the opaque gas trade between Gazprom and Ukraine and RosUkrEnergo.

Mogilevich is a former Ukrainian citizen, now residing in a prison cell in Moscow. He is wanted by the FBI on major fraud charges for his role in what is known as the “YBM Magnex Scam.” Numerous police sources claim that he is one of the leaders of the Russian mafia, a charge he denied in an interview with the BBC in 1999 when he was still at liberty living in an exclusive neighborhood in Moscow (BBC, June 12, 1999).

Mogilevich is alleged to be a secret billionaire linked to Vladimir Putin and is reputed to be a hidden business partner of Dmytro Firtash, the 50 percent owner of RosUkrEnergo, the Swiss-based gas trader, 50 percent owned by Gazprom. Firtash has consistently denied any criminal links to Mogilevich, yet he admits knowing him (Vedomosti, 27 June, 2006). Mogilevich has also been described by Leonid Derkach, the former head of the Ukrainian security service, the SBU, as a close friend of Vladimir Putin’s during a conversation with former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma.

The questions surrounding the Putin-Mogilevich relationship – if indeed there is one – are not simply theoretical; the answers touch on the nature of power in the Kremlin; how it functions and which players serve its purposes. Part of the answer can be found in the Kuchma-Derkach dialogue held in Kuchma’s office on February 8, 2000. According to a recording of the conversation made by a member of Kuchma’s security detail, Mykola Melnychenko:

Kuchma: “Have you found Mogilevich?”

Derkach: “I found him.”

Kuchma: “So, are you two working now?”

Derkach: “We’re working. We have another meeting tomorrow. He arrives incognito.

Later in the discussion Derkach revealed a few details about Mogilevich.

Derkach: “He’s on good terms with Putin. He and Putin have been in contact since Putin was still in Leningrad.”

Kuchma: “I hope we won’t have any problems because of this.”

Derkach: “They have their own affairs” (The transcript appears in the forthcoming book by J.V. Koshiw, The Politics of Kuchma – the Melnychenko Recordings August 1999 to September 2000).

A second key to the puzzle lies in the alleged relationship between Firtash and Mogilevich in the Eural Trans Gas and RosUkrEnergo, companies involved in the strategically important transit of natural gas from Central Asia to Ukraine which worked closely with Gazprom, the Russian state-owned gas company apparently controlled by Putin.

In December 2005, a confidential Austrian police report noted that:

In August 2005 the FBI gave their Austrian counterparts a confidential report on frauds committed by the SMO (Semion Mogilevich Organization) in connection with gas deliveries from Turkmenistan to the Ukraine and the illegal kickback payments to [a] member of the organization… According to the FBI the actual control of ETG and RUE is held by Ivan Fursin and Oleg Palchikov. Hungarian police reported about an April 2005 meeting in Vienna between Ivan Fursin, Oleg Palchikov and Dmitri Firtash The FBI described Ivan Fursin, Oleg Palchikov and Dmitri Firtash as senior members of the SMO (Austrian Federal Criminal Investigation Agency Report on the Semion Mogilevich Criminal Organization, December 1, 2005).

Another document linking Mogilevich to Andras Knopf, the executive director of Eural Trans Gas, the Hungarian gas intermediary company created by Firtash to act as the middleman in the transit of Turkmen gas to Ukraine, is a letter allegedly written by MVD Major-General Alexander Mordovets on November 14, 1998 to the former first Deputy Head of the Department for the Struggle Against Organized Crime of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, in which Mordovets described the close criminal relationship between Knopf and Mogilevich. However, on September 16, 2004, six years after this letter surfaced, Mordovets suddenly recanted. In an affidavit sent to Mark J. MacDougall, a lawyer working for the law firm Akin Gump in Washington, DC., Mordovets claimed that he never wrote this letter implying that it was a forgery.

Mogilevich was arrested in late January 2008 on charges of abetting a tax evasion scheme by Vladimir Nekrasov, the owner of “Arbat Prestige,” a chain of Russian cosmetic stores and has remained in jail while the investigation continues to this day. The Russian police insisted that they had been unable to find and arrest Mogilevich in Moscow earlier – yet his photograph, attending services in a Moscow Synagogue appeared on the front page of Izvestia on December 7, 2004.

The official Kremlin version of Mogilevich’s role in tax evasion is difficult to believe and it could well turn out to be that Mogilevich was arrested as part of a cover up operation by the Kremlin designed to distance Putin from Firtash and Mogilevich. Putin has remained silent on his links to Firtash and Mogilevich and this might prove to be an opportune moment for western intelligence agencies to shed some light on this murky and far reaching affair.

Semion Mogilevich – Wikipedia

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Semion Yudkovich Mogilevich[1] (Ukrainian: Семен Ю́дкович Могиле́вич, tr: Semen Yudkovych Mohylevych[sɛmˈɛn ˈjudkɔwɪt͡ʃ mɔɦɪˈlɛwɪt͡ʃ]; born June 30, 1946) is a Ukrainian-born, alleged Russian organized crime boss, believed by European and United States federal law enforcement agencies to be the “boss of bosses” of most Russian Mafia syndicates in the world.[2] Mogilevich is believed to direct a vast criminal empire and is described by the FBI as “the most dangerous mobster in the world.”[3][4] He has been accused by the FBI of “weapons trafficking, contract murders, extortion, drug trafficking, and prostitution on an international scale.”[5]

Mogilevich’s nicknames include “Don Semyon” and “The Brainy Don” (because of his business acumen).[6] According to US diplomatic cables, he is said to control RosUkrEnergo, a company actively involved in Russia–Ukraine gas disputes, and a partner of Raiffeisen Bank.[7]

He lives freely in Moscow, and has three children. He is most closely associated with the Solntsevskaya Bratva crime group. Political figures he has close alliances with include Yury Luzhkov, the former Mayor of Moscow, Dmytro Firtash and Leonid Derkach, former head of the Security Service of Ukraine.[8][9]Oleksandr Turchynov, who was designated as acting President of Ukraine in February 2014, appeared in court in 2010 for allegedly destroying files pertaining to Mogilevich.[10] Alexander Litvinenko, shortly before his assassination, claimed that Mogilevich has allegedly had a “good relationship” with Vladimir Putin since the 1990s.[11]

Mogilevich and Putin

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Semion Mogilevich remains a subject of fascination in the Trump-Russia story.

I’ve written before about Mogilevich’s ties to Trump Tower and how the man called the most powerful Mobster in the world may be a subject of interest to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

I thought it would be worthwhile to take a deeper dive into Mogilevich to understand who he is and what it means for Trump to be connected to him. If you want cut to the chase, here you go: Having a relationship with Mogilevich was in some ways like having a relationship with Putin himself.

Semion Mogilevich and Donald Trump both were born in June of 1946, only two weeks apart, in vastly different circumstances. Trump, as we know, was the son of a wealthy New York developer. Mogilevich was born to a Jewish family in Kiev and before he began his life of crime he earned an economics degree.

Calling Mogilevich a Mobster is a bit misleading. He is a Mobster, but he’s much more than a Russian version of Tony Soprano.

Mogilevich is better described as a secret billionaire who made his fortune in the murky gas trade between Russia and Ukraine. US Attorney Michael Mukasey said in 2008 that Mogilevich “exerts influence over large portions of the natural gas industry in parts of what used to be the Soviet Union.”

The man called “the Brainy Don” also ran a publicly-traded company that defrauded investors in the United States and Canada out of $150 million. He sells weapons and drugs, arranges contract killings, runs prostitutes — all on an international scale. He has connections and influence at the very top of the Russian oligarchy. But the biggest sign of his power and influence is that he today lives free in Russia.

How is this possible? How can an international criminal live openly in Moscow?

To understand this, consider this secretly recorded conversation between then Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Ihor Smeshko, who was then head of Ukraine’s military intelligence:

Smeshko:  “So, this is why [the American FBI]  thinks that Mogilevich’s organization, it is working completely under the cover of SBU [Ukraine’s secret service.] This is why there is this kind of cooperation there!”

Kuchma: “He [Mogilevich] has bought a dacha in Moscow, he keeps coming.

Smeshko: “He has received a passport already. By the way, the passport in Moscow is in a different name. And what is level in Moscow is … Korzhakov [the head of Boris Yeltsin’s personal security] sent two colonels to Mogilevich in Budapest in order to receive damaging information on a person … He himself did not meet them. His organization’s lieutenant, [Igor] Korol, met these colonels and gave them the documents relating to ‘Nordex’. Mogilevich has the most powerful analytical intelligence service. But Mogilevich himself is an extremely valuable agent of KGB, PGU … When they wanted to … Mogilevich … When the Soviet Union collapsed UKGB ‘K’ command did not exist yet. When one colonel wanted to he is retired, he lives there when he tried to arrest him, he got his pennyworth, they told him ‘Stop meddling! This is PGU [SVR, Russian foreign intelligence service] elite’. He has connections with [Russian businessman and former Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly] Chubais.”

This conversation, which was secretly recorded by a Kuchma bodyguard, is difficult to follow, but it gives you a sense of Mogilevich’s power and reach. First, he ran his own powerful intelligence service that was useful to a  Russian president. He was an agent of the KGB in the days of the Soviet Union and remains a source to modern Russian intelligence. And he is protected by powerful interests in Russia.

These tapes were of great interest to Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian FSB officer who was poisoned in a London hotel in 2006 with radioactive Polonium-210. Litvinenko, who hated Putin, had a role in transcribing them and publicizing them.

The British inquiry into his death went into considerable detail of the conversations on these tapes and his writings, which contain a few other fascinating bits of information on Mogilevich. In an email, Litvinenko revealed that Mogilevich had sold arms to al Qaida:

“I know beyond the doubt that Mogilevich is FSB’s long-standing agent and all his actions including the contact with al Qaida are controlled by FSB — the Russian special services. For this very reason, the FSB is hiding Mogilevich from the FBI.”

In Russia, criminals and intelligence services aren’t adversaries. They are birds of a feather. They share information. The Mob helps the state, and in return, Russian criminals like Mogilevich get to share in the riches and remain free.

As Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian history and security issues, writes,

“The Russian state is highly criminalized, and the interpenetration of the criminal underworld and the political upperworld has led the regime to use criminals from time to time as instruments of its rule.”

Mogilevich’s ties to the Russian political “upperworld” go deep. Very deep.


In another  secretly recorded conversation in 2000, Ukrainian PM Kuchma discusses Mogilevich with  Leonid Derkach, the former head of the Ukrainian security services.

Kuchma: “Have you found Mogilevich?”

Derkach: “I found him.”

Kuchma: “So, are you two working now?”

Derkach: “Were working. We have another meeting tomorrow. He arrives incognito.

Later in the discussion Derkach revealed a few details about Mogilevich.

Derkach: “Hes on good terms with Putin. He and Putin have been in contact since Putin was still in Leningrad.”

Kuchma: “I hope we wont have any problems because of this.”

Derkach: “They have their own affairs”

According to Litvinenko, the poisoned ex-FSB agent, Putin was Mogilevich’s “krishna” or protector in Russian underworld slang.

And this was a relationship that dated back to the early 1990s when the future Russian president was a deputy mayor in St. Petersburg.

Mogilevich have good relationship with Putin since 1994 or 1993, Litvinenko says in broken English on a tape made before his death.

Back in 1993 and 1994, Putin was deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. He was known in St. Petersburg as the man who could get things done. His approach to the criminal world  was a practical one, Karen Dawisha writes in Putin’s Kleptocracy.

The mafia and the KGB had always had points of intersection and conflict — the 1990s were no different, and the mafia had its uses. It was global, it could move money, it could hide money, and in any case, some of the money would come back to St. Petersburg for investment.  So how did Putin operate? First and foremost, he made illegal activity legal.

Most countries, even corrupt ones, go after their biggest criminals. But in Russia,  criminals have their uses.

One of these points where the interests of Mogilevich and Putin merge is in the natural gas trade. RosUkrEngero (RUE), a murky Swiss company that acts as an intermediary in gas sales between Russia and Ukraine is seen as a joint venture of sorts between the two men.

RUE is half owned by Gazprom, the Russian gas giant that is run by Putin’s cronies. The other half is nominally owned by two Ukrainian businessmen: Dmitry Firtash and a minority partner. But the U.S. government suspects that Mogilevich (see here) is the man behind the curtain at RUE.

The world was closely watching in 2008 when Russian police arrested Mogilevich on a tax evasion scheme. He posted bail and was released a year later.  Charges were dropped in 2011.

Mogilevich is part of the story, the tragedy really, of modern Russia.

Russia is a country rich in natural resources. It has great wealth below the ground. Above ground the wealth is shared by a small number of individuals who were close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin allowed this select few to enrich themselves by siphoning billions out of the country’s natural gas and oil fields, its steel and nickel mills, its fertilizer plants, the state railroads, and many more industries. In return for unimaginable wealth, these oligarchs pledged absolute fealty to Putin.

This is an operation that Mogilevich knew very well. Enriching yourself and your friends in exchange for loyalty — that’s the job of a Mafia Don. Which is exactly what Putin is.

As Sen. John McCain told late night host Seth Meyers, Russia is a “a gas station run by a mafia that is masquerading as a country.

Filed under: RussiaSemion MogilevichVladimir Putin

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Amid legal challenges, Gates, Manafort get OK to spend …

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(CNN) Former Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates will be able to spend Thanksgiving with their families and leave their …
Crime lord from FBIs Ten Most Wanted list seen at funeral of Russian mafia leader

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Officials, businessmen, and prominent figures of the Russian criminal world have come to bid final farewell to an alleged founder of the Solntsevskie OCG, Avera-mladshy (Avera-Junior).

Hundreds of people who came to see Aleksandr Averin (Avera-Mladshy, deceased on October 11) on his way included known businessmen, officials, and major figures of the Russian criminal world.

Eyewitnesses of the funeral service counted at least ten representative cars with AMR series state numbers. According to Pyaty Kanal (Channel 5), even President of the Russian Wrestling Federation, Mikhail Mamiashvili, and unnamed high-ranking employees of Prosecutor’s Office came to say goodbye to the deceased.


As reported by the Telegram channel Oper Slil, which regularly publishes insider information of law enforcement agencies, apart from the alleged leader of the Solntsevskie OCG (Sergey Mikhaylov aka Mikhas’), Averin’s funeral was also attended by Semion Mogilevich, who was included in the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list up to 2015.

To recall, the Russian-Ukrainian businessman linked to the Solntsevskie OCG – Semion Mogilevich – is an odious character in the West.

Law enforcement bodies of a number of countries consider Mogilevich (also known under the surnames Telesh, Schneider, Palagnyuk, Saiman, and Suvorov), who has multiple citizenships, one of the largest criminals of the world scale. In 1999, Mogilevich was declared wanted for financial crimes in the UK, and in 2003, the FBI also put him on the wanted list. In the state of Pennsylvania, Mogilevich and several of his accomplices were charged in absentia with 45 items in the case of $150-million embezzlement from the shareholders of YBM Magnex. In addition, he was suspected of money-laundering via Bank of New York. Mogilevich’s aggregate penalty in the United States amounted up to 400 years in prison. Moreover, it was previously reported about the police of Israel and Hungary (the states of which Mogilevich is also a national) having a number of questions to his business activities.


Picture from FBI website

In Russia, where Semion Mogilevich has resided continuously for the past few years, he was detained in the case of tax evasion by Arbat-Prestige trading network along with the network’s co-owner Vladimir Nekrasov in January 2008. After a year and a half spent in a pre-trial detention center, Mogilevich was released on his own recognizance; in April 2011, the criminal case against him and Nekrasov was terminated for lack of evidence constituting an offense. It was when it became known that Semion Mogilevich under the surname Schneider had been excluded from the list of persons wanted by Interpol back in 2005. However, the Russian Interpol National Central Bureau has not given the reason for Mogilevich’s exclusion from the list.

In December 2015, the FBI also excluded Semion Mogilevich from its search register, as it became known that he resided in Russia, with which the United States did not have an agreement on extradition.

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Mueller Reveals New Manafort Link to Organized Crime

Daily BeastNov 2, 2017
Mogilevich is frequently described as “the most dangerous mobster in the world.” Currently believed to be safe in Moscow, he is, according to …
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An excerpt from ‘Collusion’

MSNBCNov 16, 2017
One of Simpson’s subjects was Semion Mogilevich, a Ukrainian-Russian mafia don and one of the FBI’s ten most wanted individuals.
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Crime lord from FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list seen at funeral of …

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To recall, the Russian-Ukrainian businessman linked to the Solntsevskie OCG – Semion Mogilevich – is an odious character in the West.
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Yulia Tymoshenko Warned Us About Paul Manafort Years Ago

Reason (blog)Oct 31, 2017
Tymoshenko, who served as prime minster from 2007 through 2010, was not just an enemy of Tanukovych’s but also of Firtash and Mogilevich.
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Donald Trump’s Russia Ties: How Is Paul Manafort’s Work in …

NewsweekNov 8, 2017
RUE—the entity run by Firtash—was the conduit through which gas came from Central Asia through Gazprom’s pipes to Ukraine. The suit …
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How Paul Manafort Helped Elect Russia’s Man in Ukraine

TIMEOct 31, 2017
“I can tell you he’s a real specialist,” says Manafort’s friend Dmitry Firtash, the Ukrainian billionaire and former partner to the Kremlin in the …
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Diane Francis: Ukraine’s next revolution won’t be on the streets

Kyiv PostOct 27, 2017
Firtash has worked closely with the Kremlin. “There is a serious criminal investigation (into Firtash) by the general prosecutor. And (Firtash) …
Kremlin Still Labors to Destabilize Ukraine
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Russia Playbook against Democratic World Forged in Ukraine

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Firtash made billions for himself, and for Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs and officials, by controlling the sales of Russian energy through …
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Exclusive: Manafort flight records show deeper Kremlin ties than …

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Ukrainian oligarch Firtash had been arrested there the prior month on U.S. charges that he helped orchestrate an $18.5 million bribery scheme …
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Feds claim ‘thousands of intercepts’ in the case of Ukrainian …

Chicago TribuneSep 15, 2017
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Extradition of Ukrainian oligarch with links to Trump campaign …

Chicago TribuneAug 31, 2017
Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash arrives for the start of his trial at the courts of justice in Vienna, Austria on Feb. 21, 2017. Firtash was arrested …
Manafort took 18 trips to Moscow while working for Putin allies.

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Political guru Paul Manafort took at least 18 trips to Moscow and was in frequent contact with Vladimir Putin’s allies for nearly a decade as a consultant in Russia and Ukraine for oligarchs and pro-Kremlin parties.

Even after the February 2014 fall of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych, who won office with the help of a Manafort-engineered image makeover, the American consultant flew to Kiev another 19 times over the next 20 months while working for the smaller, pro-Russian Opposition Bloc party. Manafort went so far as to suggest the party take an anti-NATO stance, an Oppo Bloc architect has said. A key ally of that party leader, oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, was identified by an earlier Ukrainian president as a former Russian intelligence agent, “100 percent.”

It was this background that Manafort brought to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, which he joined in early 2016 and soon led. His web of connections to Russia-loyal potentates is now a focus of federal investigators.

Manafort’s flight records in and out of Ukraine, which McClatchy obtained from a government source in Kiev, and interviews with more than a dozen people familiar with his activities, including current and former government officials, suggest the links between Trump’s former campaign manager and Russia sympathizers run deeper than previously thought.

What’s now known leads some Russia experts to suspect that the Kremlin’s emissaries at times turned Manafort into an asset acting on Russia’s behalf. “You can make a case that all along he …was either working principally for Moscow, or he was trying to play both sides against each other just to maximize his profits,” said Daniel Fried, a former assistant secretary of state who communicated with Manafort during Yanukovych’s reign in President George W. Bush’s second term.

“He’s at best got a conflict of interest and at worst is really doing Putin’s bidding,” said Fried, now a fellow with the Atlantic Council.

A central question for Justice Department Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and several congressional committees is whether Manafort, in trying to boost Trump’s underdog campaign, in any way collaborated with Russia’s cyber meddling aimed at improving Trump’s electoral prospects.

His lucrative consulting relationships have already led a grand jury convened by Mueller to charge him and an associate with conspiracy, money laundering and other felonies – charges that legal experts say are likely meant to pressure them to cooperate with the wider probe into possible collusion.

Government investigators are examining information they’ve received regarding “talks between Russians about using Manafort as part of their broad influence operations during the elections,” a source familiar with the inquiry told McClatchy.

Suspicions about Manafort have been fueled by a former British spy’s opposition research on Trump. In a now-famous dossier, former MI6 officer Christopher Steele quoted an ethnic Russian close to Trump as saying that Manafort had managed “a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between the campaign and the Kremlin.

You can make a case that he …was either working principally for Moscow, or he was trying to play both sides against each other just to maximize his profits.

Daniel Fried, an assistant secretary of state in the Bush administration

Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, called that allegation “false,” saying that Manafort “never – ever – worked for the Russian government.” He also denied that Manafort ever recommended Ukrainian opposition to NATO, saying he “was a strong advocate” of closer relations with the western military alliance while advising political parties there.

“Paul Manafort did not collude with the Russian government to undermine the 2016 election,” Maloni said. “No amount of wishing and hoping by his political opponents will make this spurious allegation true.”

Maloni declined to say whether, while in Moscow, Manafort met with any Russian government officials.

Land of the oligarchs

The trail of Manafort’s decade of dealings 5,000 miles from America’s capital is murky. But the previously unreported flight records, spanning from late 2004 through 2015, reflect a man seemingly always on the move. Over those years, Manafort visited Ukraine at least 138 times. His trips between Ukraine and Moscow all occurred between 2005 and 2011 and were mostly in 2005 and 2006.

Prosecutors have charged that Manafort and associate Rick Gates funneled through a maze of foreign accounts at least $75 million in consulting fees from an array of Kremlin-leaning clients: Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who secretly paid them $10 million annually for several years; a second Ukrainian oligarch; and the ruling Party of Regions, which supported Yanukovych until corruption allegations and bloody protests led to his overthrow in February 2014.

Maloni said Manafort’s trips to Russia were “related to his work on behalf of Oleg Deripaska’s commercial interests.”

The further unmasking of Manafort’s relationship with Deripaska in recent months, however, has heightened suspicions about Manafort.

In July 2016, weeks after he was named Trump’s campaign chairman, Manafort crafted an unusual, eyebrow-raising proposal for Deripaska, a member of Putin’s inner circle. In emails first reported by the Washington Post, Manafort offered in seemingly coded language to provide “private briefings” on the U.S. presidential race for the Russian aluminum magnate. Manafort directed a trusted associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, to relay his message to Deripaska, remarking that it could be a way to make himself “whole” — possibly an allusion to a multimillion-dollar legal action Deripaska had filed against Manafort. Kilimnik, a Ukrainian citizen, once attended a Russian military academy known for training spies.

Deripaska, who did not respond to a request for comment, has denied seeing Manafort’s proposal and says it went nowhere. Kilimnik did not respond to emailed questions, but he has denied in published reports having any connection to Russian intelligence services.

Paul Manafort did not collude with the Russian government to undermine the 2016 election. No amount of wishing and hoping by his political opponents will make this spurious allegation true.

Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni

California Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead Democrat in the House Intelligence Committee’s inquiry, told McClatchy: “It certainly looks like Mr. Manafort viewed his position on the campaign as a way of further profiting personally from the work that he was doing on behalf of Russian interests.”

Manafort’s proposal to Deripaska “shows a certain willingness to trade information in the hope of obtaining financial rewards from pro-Russian interests,” Schiff said in a phone interview. “If accurate, that’s a dangerous quality to have in a campaign chairman for a presidential campaign.”

Two former U.S. government officials with knowledge of the way Putin operates said three of the oligarchs with whom Manafort had contacts – Deripaska, Dmitry Firtash, who helped finance the party behind Yanukovych, and Medvedchuk – were potential conduits with the Kremlin.

“All three of those guys are able to pass messages directly to Putin, as well as to his subordinates and aides within the Russian presidential administration,” said one of the ex-officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. “So they all have access and Manafort knew all three or their close associates fairly well.”

No evidence has surfaced that Manafort used any of them to pass messages between the campaign and the Kremlin.

During Manafort’s five-month tenure with the campaign, Russian emissaries made at least two behind-the-scenes offers to deliver “dirt” about Clinton to Trump’s campaign, including at a June 9, 2016 meeting in Trump Tower three weeks after Manafort was promoted to campaign chairman; he attended the meeting along with Donald Trump Jr., Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and a Russian lawyer. Trump’s aides say nothing came of that discussion, or a similar offer conveyed in April 2016 to foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos; Manafort was copied on an email relaying that offer, which said the Russians had “thousands” of emails from Democrats.

In July, days before the Democratic National Convention, the British transparency group WikiLeaks began publishing thousands of embarrassing emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia was behind the hacking, and also was responsible for the social media dissemination of a blizzard of fake and harshly critical news about Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Schiff, emphasizing he could only discuss what’s on the public record, said “these are some of the communications and interactions that are of deep interest to us, because obviously the timing is highly suggestive. It’s one of the reasons why Manafort is such a key figure in all of this.”

He certainly brought a pro-Russian proclivity to a campaign that already seemed to have one. Whether he was attracted to the trump campaign or the campaign was attracted to him on the basis of his Russian contacts … he did bring those Russian contacts and pro-Russian prejudices with him to the campaign and apparently found a welcome environment there.

California Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee

Globe-trotting consultant

Manafort first began to establish connections in Ukraine – ground zero in the geopolitical struggle between Putin’s Russia and the West – in late 2004. His reputation as a masterful political strategist and fixer was earned over decades hopping planes to the Congo, Philippines and elsewhere to advise authoritarian rulers friendly with the United States.

By the end of that year, the former Soviet republic of Ukraine was paralyzed by widespread protests amid allegations that Yanukovych, the prime minister in a government rife with corruption, had won the presidency in a rigged election. What became the Orange Revolution persisted until another, internationally monitored vote was held and rival Victor Yushchenko was declared the winner.

Manafort and a partner formed Davis Manafort Partners Inc. in early 2005 and opened offices in Kiev.


Manafort’s first client in Ukraine was Rinat Akhmetov, the country’s richest man and a key funder of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. Deripaska introduced Manafort to Akhmetov, who hailed from Russia-leaning Eastern Ukraine. In the summer of 2005, Akhmetov tapped Manafort to help Yanukovych and his party in the 2006 elections, according to an American consultant based in Kiev, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid damaging relationships.

The multimillion-dollar political consulting deal was sealed at a meeting in an elite Moscow hotel attended by Manafort, Akhmetov and a half dozen other wealthy Ukrainians.

Manafort spent the next several years advising Deripaska, Akhmetov and other Ukrainian oligarchs and giving the gruff-talking Yanukovych a makeover down to his hair style and attire. Yanukovych won the presidency in 2010.


In 2014, however, Manafort’s business took a hit when Yanukovych fled to Russia, days before Kremlin-backed forces invaded Eastern Ukraine. He was quickly hired by the Opposition Bloc, which leaned even more toward Moscow.

His work drew rave reviews from one Oppo Bloc leader, Nestor Shufrych, whom multiple people in positions to know described as a close ally of Medvedchuk. Shufrych told a Ukrainian publication that Manafort urged the new party to take an anti-NATO stance and be the “voice of Russians in (Ukraine’s) East.”

Calling Manafort “a genius,” Shufrych said the party had paid him about $1 million, and the investment “paid off.”

Philip Griffin, a former associate of Manafort’s who consults in Kiev, said he could not imagine Manafort opposing NATO. “Paul Manafort is a Reagan Republican,” Griffin said. “He would never betray that legacy by doing Russia’s bidding.”

Maloni said Manafort argued strongly that “Ukraine was better served by having closer relations with the West and NATO.”

He also said Manafort succeeded in pushing “a number of major initiatives that were strongly supported by the U.S. government and opposed by Russia,” including the denuclearization of Ukraine and the expansion of NATO exercises in the region.

138 The number of trips Paul Manafort took to Ukraine between 2004 and 2015 while consulting for Russian and pro-Russian oligarchs.

Some former U.S. government officials, though, are skeptical.

Despite Ukraine’s popular uprising against Yanukovych that led to at least 75 deaths, “Paul Manafort maintained ties to the Opposition Bloc party and Viktor Yanukovych’s former cronies, thus choosing to associate himself with crooks and kleptocrats rather than Ukraine’s pro-Western reformers,” said Mike Carpenter, who focused on Russia matters as a top Pentagon and National Security Council official during the Obama administration. “This speaks volumes about his character and lack of respect for democratic values.”

One of Shufrych’s and Oppo Bloc’s behind-the-scenes allies was Medvedchuk, who is so close to Putin that the Russian president is the godfather of his daughter.

Partial transcripts from tape recordings of then-Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, published in 2002, show Kumcha saying: “Well, we know about it, that he was a KGB agent, 100 percent.”

Details of Manafort’s contacts with Medvedchuk could not be learned. But Medvedchuk, who is under U.S. sanctions, has acknowledged meeting Manafort once in 2014.

Flights of interest

Several of the trips in Manafort’s flight records could draw investigators’ interest.

In April 2014, for instance, Manafort traveled to Vienna. Ukrainian oligarch Firtash had been arrested there the prior month on U.S. charges that he helped orchestrate an $18.5 million bribery scheme involving the government of India, a U.S. firm and a Firtash company in the Virgin Islands. A former U.S. government official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Manafort met with Firtash in Vienna, where he is awaiting extradition to the United States.

Another Manafort trip that could interest investigators took place in July 2013 when Manafort and Kilimnik flew to Frankfurt on a private plane owned by Andrey Artemenko, a pro-Moscow Ukrainian legislator.

American experts on Russia said privately they suspect the trip was a prelude to a broader Russian influence effort to dissuade Yanukovych’s government from signing an agreement to associate with the European Union. That decision, experts say, opened the door to Russia’s 2014 invasion of eastern Ukraine. This year, Artemenko was expelled from the Ukrainian legislature and his citizenship was revoked after disclosures he and a Trump attorney had pitched a “peace plan” for Ukraine and Russia widely seen as favoring Moscow.

Pro-Russia stances

Some of Trump’s most remarked-upon statements about foreign policy that directly or indirectly implicated Russia occurred on Manafort’s watch in the 2016 campaign. For example, Trump launched broadsides against NATO allies for not contributing enough money and suggested the United States might rethink its commitment to the European mutual defense alliance credited with deterring Russian military ambitions.

Trump also raised doubts about whether he would stand behind U.S. sanctions that President Barack Obama imposed in December 2014 in retaliation for the Crimean invasion.

As the GOP platform committee drew up party positions a week before the Republican National Convention, a plank calling for the United States to provide “lethal weapons” for Ukraine’s defense wasaltered in a controversial and mysterious move. The American consultant in Ukraine said that Manafort aide Kilimnik had boasted he played a role in easing the language to recommend only “appropriate assistance” to Ukraine’s military.


Charlie Black, a onetime partner of Manafort’s, says he remains baffled by the change.

“It was inexplicable to me that a majority of platform members would have taken a pro-Russian position on Ukraine,” he said. “They must not have known this was a pro-Russia provision.”


In late July after FBI Director James Comey said he would not back prosecution of Clinton over her use of a private email server to conduct State Department business, Trump took a bizarre step. He publicly beseeched Russia to help unearth 30,000 emails that Clinton said she had deleted because they dealt with personal matters.

Paul Manafort maintained ties to the Opposition Bloc party and Viktor Yanukovych’s former cronies, thus choosing to associate himself with crooks and kleptocrats rather than Ukraine’s pro-Western reformers.

Mike Carpenter, senior Pentagon and White House official who specialized in Russia during the Obama administration.

During the summer, a U.S. group supporting Ukraine asked both presidential candidates for a letter recognizing the country’s 25th year of independence since the fall of the Soviet Union. Clinton obliged. But the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America was unable to wrest a letter from the Trump campaign, said a person familiar with the matter. The group’s president did not respond to phone messages.

Manafort resigned from the campaign on Aug. 19, 2016 after The New York Times disclosed a secret Ukrainian ledger indicating he was to receive more than $12 million in off-the-books payments from Yanukovych’s party from 2007 to 2012.

Schiff said he found an intriguing symmetry between Trump’s Russia stances and Manafort’s work in Kiev that might explain their mutual attraction.

“Whether he was attracted to the Trump campaign or the campaign was attracted to him on the basis of his Russian contacts,” Schiff said, “the fact of the matter is, he did bring those Russian contacts and pro-Russian prejudices with him to the campaign and apparently found a welcome home there.”

Kevin G. Hall, James Whitlow and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project contributed to this story. Peter Stone is a McClatchy special correspondent.

Russias Lies Are Aimed at Undermining European Democracies

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Exclusive: Manafort flight records show deeper Kremlin ties than previously known
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A key ally of that party leader, oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, was identified by an earlier Ukrainian president as a formerRussian intelligence agent, 100 percent. It was this background that Manafort brought to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign 

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Alt-America and English Uprising review Trump, Brexit and the far right

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Both David Neiwerts book on the US radical right and Paul Stockers on Brexit argue that economic factors take second place in explaining populismDonald Trump is US president because just under 80,000 people in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin flipped those states his way. Many of his extra voters were working-class white men who had voted for Obama in 2012 and switched because of Trumps pledge to bring jobs back to the rust belt. They may not have liked Obamas liberal policies on gay people and guns, but for them the big issue remained the economy.

But Trump would not have won without the support of three other groups: his gains in suburban and rural counties outweighed Hillary Clintons success in the big cities; despite the reservations of the Republican establishment about his candidacy, Trump retained the partys base, particularly among religious voters (the three times married pussy-grabber won more than 80% of white evangelicals); and he energised a movement of supporters that gained him the Republican nomination, without which he wouldnt have got any votes at all.

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Report: Trump Revealed Israeli Commando and Mossad Operation …

Haaretz3 hours ago
Trump reportedly passed the intelligence to the Russians without first notifying and discussing the decision with Israeli principals. According to Vanity Fair, this violation of U.S.-Israeli trust implicated the larger Middle East, as Israel assumed Russia would pass this intelligence information to their allies: the …
Media image for Trump and Israel from The Independent

The Independent

Media image for Trump and Israel from The Jerusalem Post

The Jerusalem Post

Media image for Trump and Israel from The Times of Israel

The Times of Israel

Media image for Trump and Israel from Arutz Sheva

Arutz Sheva

Media image for Trump and Israel from Raw Story

Raw Story

Media image for Trump and Israel from Anadolu Agency

Anadolu Agency
Story image for Trump and Israel from Vanity Fair

Exclusive: What Trump Really Told Kislyak After Comey Was Canned

Vanity Fair17 hours ago
On a dark night at the tail end of last winter, just a month after the inauguration of the new American president, an evening when only a sickle moon hung in the Levantine sky, two Israeli Sikorsky CH-53 helicopters flew low across Jordan and then, staying under the radar, veered north toward the twisting …
Trump, Brexit and the far right – Google Search

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Alt-America and English Uprising review – TrumpBrexit and the far …

The Guardian5 hours ago
In Alt-America, journalist David Neiwert argues that Trump won not because of economic stagnation in the northern midwest, but because a farright racist movement had been growing since the early 90s, which both enabled Trump’s victory and has been legitimised by it. Neiwert’s narrative begins with the …
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Everything you need to know about the investigations into the Brexit …

QuartzNov 21, 2017
EU illegally used the services of Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm largely owned by American billionaire Robert Mercer, who backed US president Trump, and until recently owned a stake in farrightnews organization Breitbart. British elections have a hard spending limit, and there are questions …
Story image for Trump, Brexit and the far right from Quartz

Another German election risks boosting the farright and ending …

QuartzNov 21, 2017
This could spell bad news not only for Germany, stuck for months with a weakened, caretaker chancellor, but also for the stability of the European Union. Merkel has been a kingpin in all the bloc’s decisions and a bastion of steadiness in a world roiled by Brexit, Donald Trump, and the rise of populist parties …
Merkel battles turmoil as German coalition talks collapse
InternationalThe Local GermanyNov 20, 2017

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Even France’s FarRight Doesn’t Like Trump

HuffPostNov 3, 2017
Trump’s victory, along with the Brexit referendum, also gave Le Pen and other farright figures a narrative that a populist uprising was going to sweep across Europe during a series of high-profile elections this year. But that narrative never came to fruition, and Le Pen suffered a landslide loss to the centrist …
Story image for Trump, Brexit and the far right from Bloomberg

TrumpBrexit and Echoes of World War I

BloombergNov 11, 2017
For the British people, World War I has now come to be seen as the supreme tragedy, because far more British lives were lost than in World War II. …. Today, with Brexit, Catalan independence, the tussle over immigrants and open borders, rising popularity of right-wing parties in France, Germany and …
Story image for Trump, Brexit and the far right from Newsweek

Donald Trump Was a Hero to Europe’s Far Right, But They Still Can’t …

NewsweekNov 8, 2017
Thousands of miles away in France, Florian Philippot, then vice president of France’s hard-rightNational Front, was smiling, too. “Their world is collapsing. Ours is being built,” he tweeted. Nigel Farage, Britain’s populist Brexit campaigner, went one better, adding a stop at Trump Tower to his perpetual …
Ynetnews News – Classified Israeli intel Trump disclosed to Russia revealed

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New information on the classified Israeli intelligence US President Donald Trump revealed to Russia has been uncovered, detailing a special operations mission by the IDF special commando unit Sayeret Matkal and the Mossad deep inside Syrian territory, it was reported in the US magazine Vanity Fair.

It was revealed in June that Israeli cyber operators were able to penetrate a small cell of extremist bomb makers in Syria who were working to make explosives resembling laptop batteries capable of bypassing X-ray machines unnoticed.

According to Vanity Fair’s report, the operation—which took place in February—aimed to acquire information on new explosive technology being developed by Ibrahim al-Asiri, an al-Qaeda’s chief bombmaker.

The meeting. R to L: Kislyak, Trump, Lavrov (Photo: EPA)The meeting. R to L: Kislyak, Trump, Lavrov (Photo: EPA)

Intelligence for the classified mission, according to an ABC report from American sources, was provided by an Israeli spy who was planted deep within ISIS territory. His life was reportedly put in danger due to Trump’s disclosure.

According to Israeli and American intelligence sources, a Sayeret Matkal commando unit and Mossad tech agents flew two Yasur helicopters over Jordanian territory into Syrian territory.

The helicopters landed a few kilometers from the target, unloaded two jeeps bearing Syrian army insignia, which the Mossad and Sayeret Matkal personnel drove into enemy territory. The details of their operation are scarce, and specifics on how they managed to gather the information is contradictory at times. According to one source, the forces installed a microphone in the room where the ISIS terror cell was to meet, but a second source claimed that the forces had retooled a telephone booth in the meeting area to pick up and transmit surrounding sounds to the IDF Intelligence Corps Unit 8200, which is responsible for collecting signal intelligence and deciphering codes.After a few days of Unit 8200 crews listening at their base in the Golan Heights to the terror cell, there was concern that Israel had been misled by their sources in the field.

Eventually, the unit picked up the voice of an ISIS soldier who described how to turn a laptop into a bomb that can be transferred to airport airfields and board a passenger plane.

When the information reached the Mossad headquarters, officials in the organization decided to share the information with their American counterparts. According to an Israeli military source, the decision to share was also due to professional arrogance stemming from a desire to impress their partners in Washington by the tasks they were able to perform.

IDF soldier repelling from a Yasur helicopter (Photo: Herzel Yosef)IDF soldier repelling from a Yasur helicopter (Photo: Herzel Yosef)

According to the magazine, the American espionage community considered the Israeli mission to be a “casebook example” of intelligence gathering of valued information being put to good use.As a result of this information, US officials, followed by the United Kingdom, have banned people from bringing laptops and electronic devices larger than a mobile phone on flights from several Muslim-majority countries.

Only four months later, after the airports adopted the new and tougher US safety regulations, the ban was gradually lifted.

The achievement was then overshadowed when, on May 10, Trump boasted to Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak in a White House meeting about the his access to classified information.”I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” Trump reportedly bragged in the White House meeting, going on to brief the two on “code-word information” the US received from Israel which compromised Israel’s sources in enemy territory.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters that Trump’s disclosure was “wholly appropriate.” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeted that the allies will continue to have a “deep, meaningful and unprecedented” security relationship.

President Trump himself defended his decision by saying he had an “absolute right” to share information with Moscow.

During a press conference at the White House with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump said that his meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak was “very successful and will contribute to the war on terrorism.”

Revealed: The highly sensitive Israeli intelligence on Isis that Donald Trump gave away to Russia – The Independent

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The Independent
Revealed: The highly sensitive Israeli intelligence on Isis that Donald Trump gave away to Russia
The Independent
Details have emerged of the highly-classified Israeli intelligence revealed by Donald Trump to Russian officials earlier this year. The US President’s decision to spill the information during a meeting with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was described 
Report: Trump Revealed Israeli Commando and Mossad Operation in Syria to RussiansHaaretz
Trump divulged to Russia details of a daring Israeli raid in Syria reportThe Times of Israel
Report: Trump told Russian officials of Israeli operation in Syria in MayThe Jerusalem Post
all 16 news articles »
Who is Bijan Kian? Feds Probe Ex-Flynn Associate for Payments From Companies With Russian and Turkish Ties

mikenova shared this story from Newsweek.

Federal investigators probing the lobbying work of ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn are focused in part on the role of Bijan Kian, Flynn’s former business partner, according to a person interviewed by the FBI.

Investigators are also looking at whether payments from foreign clients to Flynn and his company, the now-inactive Flynn Intel Group, were lawful, according to two separate sources with knowledge of the broad inquiry into Flynn’s business activities. That includes payments by three Russian companies and Inovo, a Netherlands-based company controlled by Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin, they said.

The FBI’s interest in Kian had not been previously reported. Kian played a central role in securing and overseeing the Inovo contract, two people with knowledge of that project said.

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It is not clear whether Kian is a target of the criminal investigation or whether investigators are trying to build a fuller understanding of how Flynn’s company operated.

A person recently interviewed by the FBI in connection with the Flynn investigation said agents from the bureau’s criminal division had asked as much about Kian and his work on the project with Alptekin as they had about Flynn.

Kian did not respond to repeated requests for comment, nor did the lawyer he recently hired, Robert Trout. The FBI declined to comment.

Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, did not respond to requests for comment. Alptekin declined to comment for this story but last month told Reuters that he was satisfied with the work done by Flynn Intel Group and denied any wrongdoing.

The FBI has been investigating whether Flynn’s consulting firm lobbied on behalf of Turkey—after being paid $530,000 by Inovo—without making the proper disclosure, Reuters reported earlier this month.

The federal investigation is being run by special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller has a mandate to investigate contacts between Russia and Trump’s 2016 election campaign team and any related matters. Flynn was fired by the Trump administration in February after officials said he mischaracterized a series of phone calls with Russia’s ambassador last December.

The top Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which has separately been looking into whether Flynn made false statements in applying for security clearance, said he was also scrutinizing Kian.

“I have an interest in Bijan Kian and his interactions with General Flynn based on specific documents already obtained by the committee,” Elijah Cummings told Reuters in an email.

Kelner has sought immunity for Flynn in exchange for his testimony, saying his client “certainly has a story to tell.”

Failed Coup Opens Door

In private conversations with potential clients, Kian portrayed himself as a rainmaker for Flynn, tapping into connections cultivated during a five-year tenure as a director at the U.S. Export-Import Bank, according to one person who worked with the firm.

Alptekin told Reuters in May that his firm hired Flynn Intel Group to research Fethullah Gulen’s activities in the United States, which he suspected were “poisoning” relations between the United States and Turkey. Like Turkey President Tayyip Erdogan, Alptekin blamed the coup on followers of Gulen.

Gulen has denied any role in the coup and dismisses Turkey’s allegations that he heads a terrorist organization.

Kian oversaw key elements of the project that emerged, including a still-unfinished documentary on Gulen, according to two people involved in the project.

Inovo paid Flynn Intel Group a total of $530,000, starting in September, according to a Justice Department filing by the company in March. Flynn Intel Group paid $80,000 to Inovo in “consultancy fees,” according to the filing, which does not provide more detail on why payments were made in both directions.

On September 19, 2016, Kian and Flynn met in New York with Turkey’s foreign minister and energy minister, who is Erdogan’s son-in-law, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting.

In late October Kian invited staff of the House Homeland Security Committee to Flynn Intel Group’s headquarters in Virginia. The meeting was called to show off new mobile-phone security technology, but Kian also used the opportunity to try to get a congressional hearing on Gulen, according to a person at the meeting.

At that point, the Flynn Intel Group had only disclosed its work for Alptekin’s Inovo in a filing with Congress. It had not mentioned Inovo’s ties to Turkey.

When Justice Department officials became aware months later that Kian and other Flynn Intel Group officials had met with Turkish officials, they insisted on a fuller disclosure, people involved in those discussions said.

The Flynn Intel Group made the more detailed disclosure in its March filing with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act that said the work that Flynn and Kian did for Inovo “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.”

Bijan Kian – Google Search

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Mike Flynn business partner Bijan Kian now subject of Mueller probe

<a href=”http://NBCNews.com” rel=”nofollow”>NBCNews.com</a>14 hours ago
Federal investigators are zeroing in on Bijan Kian, an Iranian-American who was a partner at the now-dissolved Flynn Intel Group, and have …
Mueller is zeroing in on Michael Flynn
Business Insider11 hours ago
Media image for Bijan Kian from Daily Beast

Daily Beast

Media image for Bijan Kian from Business Insider

Will Mueller Indict Kushner? Trump’s Son-in-Law Natural Target For Russia Probe, Legal Experts Say

mikenova shared this story from Newsweek.

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner’s failure to properly list foreign contacts on his national security clearance forms and his vast financial holdings make him a “natural” target for special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, legal experts told Newsweek.

Indeed, while there are no official indications that Kushner is a target of Mueller’s probe, he figures prominently in several exchanges that are known to be of interest to the special counsel’s team.

Kushner had contact with foreign officials during last year’s transition to the White House, at the behest of then President-elect Donald Trump. He also directly worked with data company Cambridge Analytica, whose CEO reportedly reached out to WikiLeaks to help organize the damaging Democratic emails the site published. Kushner’s also a member of Trump’s family, had glaring omissions on his security clearance forms, and his potential influence in former FBI Director James Comey’s dismissal makes him an integral player in the ongoing Trump-Russia saga that’s cast a shadow over the administration’s first year in office.

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“In the broader context here, one of the main lines of inquiry about Jared Kushner is about the omissions from his national security forms,” Savannah Law School associate professor and former White House associate counsel Andrew Wright told Newsweek Wednesday. “To the extent that he had to revise his S-86 forms…to add foreign contacts that he hadn’t done, that’s going to be a natural source of investigative interest.

“That’s going to then lead the special counsel folks to start looking into that, to all the different contacts he’s had,” added Wright, who worked in the Obama administration.

Kushner and his foreign contacts during the transition have reportedly been the focus of questions by Mueller’s team, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Trump and his administration, including Kushner, have resoundingly denied any collusion with Russia to win the election last year. Trump himself has called Mueller’s probe the greatest “political witch hunt” in the country’s history.

The special counsel’s wide-ranging probe is specifically curious about Kushner’s contacts while a United Nations resolution pertaining to Israel’s occupied settlements was before the General Assembly in December 2016, during the heart of the transition. The resolution passed 14-0, as the Obama administration opted not to use its veto power despite lobbying by the incoming Trump administration and Israel.

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner waits for President Donald Trump and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to speak at a joint statement at the White House on October 23. Kushner is now reportedly the focus of questions by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in the Trump-Russia probe.REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

To Wright’s point, Kushner’s “multiple attempts” to wrap up his security clearance forms was labeled as unprecedented by the head of the government agency charged with reviewing the forms, Newsweekreported last month.

“I have never seen that level of mistakes,” the director of the National Background Investigations Bureau, Charles Phalen, told a House subcommittee during a hearing.

Kushner has since submitted the security clearance forms three times and added an addendum with more than 100 interactions or meetings with foreign contacts, including Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, The New York Times reported in July. She was the Kremlin-linked attorney whom Kushner, Donald Trump Jr. and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort met with at Manhattan’s Trump Tower in June 2016 to possibly obtain political opposition research on Hillary Clinton.

Kushner dismissed the meeting, but the possibility of creating a diplomatic back channel between Trump and Moscow in order to evade detection by U.S. intelligence services—as reported by The Washington Postonly brings extra scrutiny to the omissions on his clearance forms.

“I’m not sure the questions themselves signal an imminent indictment or anything, but I think they are a natural progression when you start looking at someone’s foreign contacts in total,” Wright said.

Mueller’s 12-count indictment of Manafort, which included charges of laundering $75 million through offshore accounts, was written in a way that could be applied to others within Trump’s world.

“I think a number of the counts or theories that you see in the Manafort indictment are translatable to other people within the Trump orbit, and Kushner’s one of them,” Pace Law School associate professor David Dorfman told Newsweek. “The use of real estate transactions to hide money, and possible money laundering, I think is definitely a possibility.”

While drawing similarities in how Kushner and Trump each rose in the real estate world and took over their family’s business, Dorfman noted that the potential for Kushner to lose a prized 666 Fifth Avenue property in New York and his $285 million loan with German financial titan Deutsche Bank makes him potentially vulnerable to Mueller and the Russia probe.

“Supposedly the jurisdiction of the Mueller investigation is collusion with Russians,” Dorfman said. “He’s going get there by first finding and proving substantial financial crimes and failures to report…and put the clamps on these people. And then hopefully, in his mind, someone will crack and say, ‘OK, if you give me leniency on this I’ll tell you the real story about what’s going on between people in the Trump Organization, and Trump himself maybe, and the Russians.’”

Mueller Probing Pre-Election Flynn Meeting With Pro-Russia Congressman

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WASHINGTON — Investigators for Special Counsel Robert Mueller are questioning witnesses about an alleged September 2016 meeting between Mike Flynn, who later briefly served as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a staunch advocate of policies that would help Russia, two sources with knowledge of the investigation told NBC News.

The meeting allegedly took place in Washington the evening of Sept. 20, while Flynn was working as an adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign. It was arranged by his lobbying firm, the Flynn Intel Group. Also in attendance were Flynn’s business partners, Bijan Kian and Brian McCauley, and Flynn’s son, Michael G. Flynn, who worked closely with his father, the sources said.

Mueller is reviewing emails sent from Flynn Intel Group to Rohrabacher’s congressional staff thanking them for the meeting, according to one of the sources, as part of his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Image: Republican U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher speaks at a news conference in Moscow, Russia on June 2, 2013.Rohrabacher, a California Republican, has pushed for better relations with Russia, traveled to Moscow to meet with officials and advocated to overturn the Magnitsky Act, the 2012 bill that froze assets of Russian investigators and prosecutors. The sources could not confirm whether Rohrabacher and Flynn discussed U.S. policy towards Russia in the alleged meeting.

The Washington Post reported in May that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, also a California Republican, was secretly recorded telling other party members, in what seemed to be a joke, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.”

In September, the Wall Street Journal reported that Rohrabacher offered Trump a deal that to protect Julian Assange, creator of WikiLeaks, which released emails damaging to Hillary Clinton ahead of the 2016 election, from legal peril. In return for not prosecuting him for his group’s 2010 leak of State Department emails, Assange would allegedly provide proof that Russia was not the source of the hacked Democratic emails. The intelligence community has pointed to Russia as the secret provider of the email trove to WikiLeaks.

Rohrabacher’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mueller’s interest in the nature of Flynn and Rohrabacher’s discussion marks the first known time a member of Congress could be wrapped into the investigation.

Most of what has been reported about Mueller’s questioning of Flynn’s lobbying work has concerned his efforts on behalf of Turkey. Less is known about his lobbying ties to Russia, though he was paid $45,000 plus expenses for attending a gala in Moscow in December 2015 and being interviewed by RT, the Kremlin-financed cable TV news channel.

Image: Mike FlynnFlynn was fired after just 24 days as Trump’s national security adviser over misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak.

Multiple sources have told NBC News that Mueller has gathered enough evidence to lead to an indictment in the investigation into Flynn and his son.

Federal investigators have been probing Flynn’s lobbying efforts on behalf of Turkey, including an alleged meeting with senior Turkish officials in December 2016 where he was offered millions of dollars to secure the return of the Turkish president’s chief rival to Turkey and see that a U.S. case against a Turkish national was dismissed.

In a statement, Flynn’s lawyers, led by Robert Kelner, said that “out of respect for the process of the various investigations” regarding the 2016 campaign, they have avoided responding to every “rumor or allegation” in the media. “But today’s news cycle has brought allegations about General Flynn, ranging from kidnapping to bribery, that are so outrageous and prejudicial that we are making an exception to our usual rule: they are false.”

A grand jury impaneled by Mueller is continuing to interview witnesses with knowledge of Flynn’s business activities over the next week, the two sources said.

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