Trump Has Been a Tool for Russian Organized Crime For Decades

Introduction: Ian Douglas Rushlau, a fine writer who publishes his work primarily on the Daily Kos community site, is in the process of writing a series of essays documenting how Donald Trump has been a stooge of Russian organized crime for decades. This is the first of those essays. You can also find it on the Kos itself.

Trump has been a tool for Russian organized crime for decades.

This diary began as a comment in response to Mark Sumner's most excellent diary from earlier today – Trump's wealth comes from money laundering, and it's gotten worse since he entered the White House.

One can only begin to wonder what Bobby "the kneecapper" Mueller has on Trump, his family, and his cronies at this point, since the corruption and criminality that is already publicly known is staggering:

This is how easy it is to find out about Trump's connections to the Russian mafia: you find it out the first 72 hours you're looking at Trump generally. — Seth Abramson on Twitter
Simpson notes the crime family Sater is connected to is linked to Russian natural-gas pipeline issues – so now the Trump-Russia energy tie was already in play nine months before any Democrats were involved. So too were Russian political figures and Russian intelligence (FSB). — Seth Abramson on Twitter
For those readers who haven't seen me tweet out the Paul Wood (BBC) article on Trump and the alleged Ritz Moscow "tapes," here it is (from January 2017 – and it remains one of the most important pieces of journalism in the whole Trump-Russia affair). — Seth Abramson on Twitter

Oh, and there's this:

When Trump Tower was built, as David Cay Johnston reports in The Making of Donald Trump, it was only the second high-rise in New York that accepted anonymous buyers.

In 1987, just three years after he attended the closing with Trump, Bogatin pleaded guilty to taking part in a massive gasoline-bootlegging scheme with Russian mobsters. After he fled the country, the government seized his five condos at Trump Tower, saying that he had purchased them to "launder money, to shelter and hide assets." A Senate investigation into organized crime later revealed that Bogatin was a leading figure in the Russian mob in New York. His family ties, in fact, led straight to the top: His brother ran a $150 million stock scam with none other than Semion Mogilevich, whom the FBI considers the "boss of bosses" of the Russian mafia. At the time, Mogilevich – feared even by his fellow gangsters as "the most powerful mobster in the world" – was expanding his multibillion-dollar international criminal syndicate into America …

At the top of the sprawling criminal enterprise was Semion Mogilevich. Beginning in the early 1980s, according to the FBI, the short, squat Ukrainian was the key money-laundering contact for the Solntsevskaya Bratva, or Brotherhood, one of the richest criminal syndicates in the world. Before long, he was running a multibillion-dollar worldwide racket of his own. Mogilevich wasn't feared because he was the most violent gangster, but because he was reputedly the smartest. The FBI has credited the "brainy don," who holds a degree in economics from Lviv University, with a staggering range of crimes. He ran drug trafficking and prostitution rings on an international scale; in one characteristic deal, he bought a bankrupt airline to ship heroin from Southeast Asia into Europe. He used a jewelry business in Moscow and Budapest as a front for art that Russian gangsters stole from museums, churches, and synagogues all over Europe. He has also been accused of selling some $20 million in stolen weapons, including ground-to-air missiles and armored troop carriers, to Iran. "He uses this wealth and power to not only further his criminal enterprises," the FBI says, "but to influence governments and their economies." …

Mogilevich's greatest talent, the one that places him at the top of the Russian mob, is finding creative ways to cleanse dirty cash. According to the FBI, he has laundered money through more than 100 front companies around the world, and held bank accounts in at least 27 countries. And in 1991, he made a move that led directly to Trump Tower. That year, the FBI says, Mogilevich paid a Russian judge to spring a fellow mob boss, Vyachelsav Kirillovich Ivankov, from a Siberian gulag. If Mogilevich was the brains, Ivankov was the enforcer – a vor v zakone, or "made man," infamous for torturing his victims and boasting about the murders he had arranged. Sprung by Mogilevich, Ivankov made the most of his freedom. In 1992, a year after he was released from prison, he headed to New York on an illegal business visa and proceeded to set up shop in Brighton Beach …

The feds wanted to arrest Ivankov, but he kept vanishing. "He was like a ghost to the FBI," one agent recalls. Agents spotted him meeting with other Russian crime figures in Miami, Los Angeles, Boston, and Toronto. They also found he made frequent visits to Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, which mobsters routinely used to launder huge sums of money. In 2015, the Taj Mahal was fined $10 million – the highest penalty ever levied by the feds against a casino – and admitted to having "willfully violated" anti-money-laundering regulations for years.

The FBI also struggled to figure out where Ivankov lived. "We were looking around, looking around, looking around," James Moody, chief of the bureau's organized crime section, told Friedman. "We had to go out and really beat the bushes. And then we found out that he was living in a luxury condo in Trump Tower."

There is no evidence that Trump knew Ivankov personally, even if they were neighbors. But the fact that a top Russian mafia boss lived and worked in Trump's own building indicates just how much high-level Russian mobsters came to view the future president's properties as a home away from home. (emphasis added) — Craig Unger

There's a bit of a pattern here, and it doesn't take much investigating to see it – the Trump family business is built on allowing criminals to wash money through Trump branded real estate, as detailed by the indispensable repository of Trump/Putin material, The Moscow Project:

Global Witness, a London-based non-profit focused on exposing corruption, released a report finding that Donald Trump made millions of dollars from a deal licensing his name to a development in Panama that was used to launder drug money from drug cartels. While Trump may not have deliberately sought to benefit from this criminal activity, Global Witness finds that he "seems to have done little to nothing to prevent this." The report also finds that some of the Trump Ocean Club investors were allegedly linked to the Russian Mafia, and it seems as though Trump's "willful blindness" may have landed him in bed with illicit Russian money.

The Trump Ocean Club appears to have been built for the purpose of laundering money – and the Trump Organization seems to have looked the other way, ignoring many 'red flags' …

* In interviews with NBC and Reuters, Nogueira suggested that Ivanka Trump, who was extensively involved with the Panama project, was aware he was selling to the Russian buyers.

* Trump met with some of these Russian investors in person, posing for a photo Andrey Bogdanov and his associate, Ivan Kazanikov, at the inauguration ceremony for Trump Ocean Club. Bogdanov and Kazanikov have no known links to Russian organized crime, but Monte Friesner, a "convicted money launderer and former Central Intelligence Agency contractor" who reportedly knew the men, indicated that he believed they may have used their Panama-based business to launder money (reports do not indicate that any formal charges have been filed against the two men.) The report indicates that Kazanikov was interviewed by Global Witness, during which he described managing investments and indicated that he and Bogdanov "still own property in [Trump Ocean Club]." The report does not include a comment from either man regarding the allegations of money laundering.

* Bogdanov and Kazanikov bought at least six units worth nearly $4 million in Trump Ocean Club. Bogdanov is reportedly the former director of a Russian bank that allegedly lost its operating license due to "its failure to observe anti-money laundering laws," although there is no indication that Bogdanov himself was personally implicated in that case.

The Trump Organization's ties to money laundering schemes have made it vulnerable to leverage.

* In addition to linking Trump Ocean Club units to Russian organized crime, the report illustrates how David Helmut Murcia Guzman, a convicted Colombian money launderer pursued by Preet Bharara and sentenced in the US in 2010, had invested in Trump Ocean Club units.

* Global Witness concluded that Murcia Guzman's investment in the Trump Ocean Club "laundered the proceeds of narcotics trafficking, and that Donald Trump was one of the beneficiaries." It should be noted that Ivanka Trump has not yet responded to the Global Witness report, and the Trump Organization has released a statement distancing itself from the project and denying any relationship with Ventura Nogueira.

* If Trump failed to act on the knowledge that the units may have been used to launder money, this would have opened the Trump Organization up to leverage.

* Trump has a record of working with individuals allegedly connected to organized crime, including the infamous Trump SoHo collaboration with Felix Sater. When this record is combined with the recent report, it reinforces a pattern of questionable partnerships that could have left him and his organization vulnerable to blackmail. — The Moscow Project

In short, Trump, his family and his cronies (including a sizable chunk of the GOP) are so ensconced in doing business with Russian organized crime (which, as we all know, answers to Putin), it’s fair to call the Trump White House and the GOP wholly owned subsidiaries of Putin, LLC:

Whereas terrorists aim to substitute the essence of the state itself, organized crime [OC] seeks to be a complement to state structures. The Government of Russia [GOR] strategy is to use OC groups to do whatever the GOR cannot acceptably do as a government. As an example, Kalashov worked for Russian military intelligence to sell weapons to the Kurds to destabilize Turkey. The GOR takes the relationship with OC leaders even further by granting them the privileges of politics, in order to grant them immunity from racketeering charges.

Putin's power is founded on his links to organised crime. Putin has a close circle of criminal oligarchs at his disposal and has spent his career cultivating this circle …

Certain political parties in Russia operate "hand in hand" with OC. For example, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was created by the KGB and its successor, the SVR, and is home to many serious criminals. Grinda further alleged that there are proven ties between the Russian political parties, organized crime and arms trafficking. Some cite the strange case of the "Arctic Sea" ship in mid-2009 as "a clear example" of arms trafficking.

The threat and use of violence is a defining characteristic of Russian organized crime. Violence is used to gain and maintain control of criminal markets, and retributive violence is used within and between criminal groups. The common use of violence is not surprising since extortion and protection rackets are such a staple of Russian criminal activity.

ROC had relatively little or no involvement in some of the more traditional crimes of US organized crime, such as drug trafficking, gambling, loan sharking, etc. On the other hand, these varied criminal groups are extensively engaged in a broad array of frauds and scams [of the sort they perfected in the Soviet Union during the Period of Stagnation], including health care fraud, insurance scams, stock frauds, antiquities swindles, forgery and gasoline tax evasion schemes …

To all evidence, Donald Trump is the Manchurian Candidate. Trump has a variety of prior connections with Russian interests. He has said strangely friendly things about Russia, and early on in 2015 the Russians had clearly endorsed him as their preferred candidate. — Global Security

Elections have consequences. (выборы имеют посты)