A recent article in Newsweek highlights gargantuan investments on the part of Russian oligarchs in Trump properties. President Trump, throughout the course of his 2016 campaign, repeatedly asserted that he had no investments or interests in the Russian Federation. Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, underscoring his problems with veracity, Trump continues to insist that he has no ties with Russia. Yet, a constant stream of information continues to emerge.
In 2008, Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, purchased a property from Trump in Palm Springs for almost $100 million dollars. According to many local real estate brokers in Palm Springs this represented a gross over-payment for the property. Rybolovlev never resided on the property and a mere two years after the purchase demolished the residence. This transaction prompted a great deal of speculation as to what, exactly, took place with this exchange of funds.
In New York, a number of wealthy Russians with ties to organized crime, either leased or bought high-priced Trump properties, including such infamous figures as Felix Sater.
The Extent of Investments by Russian Oligarchs in Trump Properties
First of all, the reason why Russian oligarchs invest heavily in U.S. real estate in the United States, is political and economic instability in the Russian Federation. Under Putin, what has transpired is an acceleration of economic disparity–the transference of gargantuan measures of power and wealth from middle and lower classes to the top 1% of the population. Sound familiar?
Secondly, it remains exceedingly difficult to assess the full extent of Russian investments in the U.S. real estate market due to loopholes in State and national disclosure practices under law. Frequently, foreign investors are able to hide their identities through the setting up of Limited Liability Companies or LLCs. Investors set up a company either through proxies often using monikers which sound innocuous and seldom tied, by name, to the name of the investor. Often, investments are made through a series of such companies making it nearly impossible to identify the actual property holder. As the Newsweek article points out, New York and Florida, due to State loopholes, have been particularly amendable to such practices.
It is estimated that Russian oligarchs have invested well over $100 million dollars in Trump properties in Florida alone. Among the Russian billionaires who have invested in such properties are the following;
Oleg Miserva: A former police commander who has received lavish praise from Vladimir Putin, he was accused of murder, blackmail and slander.
Alexander Yuzvik: A former Senior Executive with Spetstroi, a state-owned Russian company specializing in the construction of military facilities.
Vadim Valeryevich Gataullin: A politician from the semi-autonomous Russian Republic of Bashkortostan, an oil-rich region of the Russian Federation.
Alexey Ustaev: Founder of the St. Petersburg-based bank, Viking.
Pavel Uglanov: Former Deputy Minister of the regional government of Saratov from 2010 to 2011. He also has close ties with groups that have been sanctioned by the U.S. for their participation in the illegal annexation of the Crimea by the Russian Federation.
All of these men hold properties valued at over $1 million dollars sold by Trump in south Florida. Reuters reports that 63 individuals holding Russian passports purchased over $98 million dollars in seven Trump properties in South Florida.
The Blissful Assertion that this is Normal and Just Good Business
In some quarters, when confronted with such irregularities, Trump apologists are wont to note that the President is doing nothing wrong and nothing that other political figures have done—it’s just good business, they say. Really? Okay, name a former President who personally profited to the tune of $100 million dollars from the sale of properties to recognized figures from organized crime circles and politicians from a hostile foreign state. Take your time.
“But Hillary”, the common refrain and fallback position. Here’s the thing, we have 30 years of tax returns from the Clintons and their aggregate assets don’t come close to those of Donald Trump so don’t even go there. Be nice to see Trump’s tax returns so we could get a better idea of the extent of his Russian involvements. He did promise he would release those after his election to the Presidency. We’re still waiting. Yet again, Trump lied. He does that a lot. Meanwhile, keep holding on to that ludicrous notion that what we’re seeing–the piecemeal dismantling of our institutions–is, somehow, Making America Great Again. You can regret and weep later, right along with the rest of us….when our Republic ends up being a full-blown Kleptocracy just like Russia.