Don’t do as I do

It will not surprise you to learn that I am no fan of Donald Trump; I think he is ill-informed, unprepared, tactless, uncontrolled and just plain nasty – and that’s on a good day.  But there’s not much I can do about him, except what I do about everyone, which is ask whether there is money laundering involved.  I have no wish to bring down the might of American lawyers on my head, so I will confine myself to repeating allegations and observations that have been made by reputable agencies and sources.  To be honest, I’m spoilt for choice.

  • Back in March 2016, FinCEN (the American FIU) imposed a penalty of US$10 million on the [now bankrupt and shuttered] Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City for “several willful BSA violations, including violations of AML program requirements, reporting obligations, and recordkeeping requirements”. This was not the first time of telling: “Trump Taj Mahal has a long history of prior, repeated BSA violations cited by examiners dating back to 2003.  Additionally, in 1998, FinCEN assessed a $477,700 civil money penalty against Trump Taj Mahal for currency transaction reporting violations.”
  • On 2 August 2016, Time magazine alleged that “as major banks in America stopped lending [Trump] money following his many bankruptcies, the Trump organization was forced to seek financing from non-traditional institutions. Several had direct ties to Russian financial interests in ways that have raised eyebrows.”  The Trump property arousing most interest was the Trump SoHo hotel in New York, which is the subject of a lawsuit claiming that Bayrock, the business group underpinning the hotel, was supported by Russian criminals: “Tax evasion and money laundering are the core of Bayrock’s business model.”
  • On 19 October 2016, the UK’s Financial Times announced that its investigation “has found evidence that one Trump venture has multiple ties to an alleged international money laundering network. Title deeds, bank records and correspondence show that a Kazakh family accused of laundering hundreds of millions of stolen dollars bought luxury apartments in a Manhattan tower part-owned by Mr Trump and embarked on major business ventures with one of the tycoon’s partners.”  The story was carried and repeated by Fortune magazine in the US.
  • On 25 November 2016, the Independent newspaper in the UK reported that Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash was facing extradition to Spain to answer charges of money laundering; Mr Firtash was also “part of a consortium including former Trump aide Paul Manafort in a major Manhattan property deal”.

It is therefore perhaps not surprising to see Trump already starting to dismantle the regulations that have been put in place partly to prevent another economic and banking collapse and partly to ensure the probity and transparency of the American financial system.  As quoted by CNBC on 3 February 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren was quick to see the irony: “[Trump’s actions] will put two former Goldman Sachs executives in charge of gutting the rules that protect you from financial fraud and another economic meltdown.”

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