jay greinsky / Flickr trump soho condos...
jay greinsky / Flickr

This is news that is likely to be heard wherever Donald Trump is staying tonight.

… Russia-born real estate dealmaker Felix Sater, who allegedly has organized crime links, had agreed to assist in an international probe into a Kazakh family’s real estate dealings in the U.S.— including one of Trump’s most famed properties, the Trump SoHo in downtown New York City.

Donald Trump’s relationship to former Bayrock executive Felix Sater is both complicated and deep. A decade ago, Trump was nursing a fresh bankruptcy and had burned so many bridges that legitimate sources wouldn’t lend him a dime.

By the 2000s, the property developer and casino owner with ready access to the capital markets and the biggest New York banks was no more. 

Donald Trump, pretend real estate guy, did his pretending at the Trump Soho—a building actually constructed by a Kazkh oligarch and a company called Bayrock, where the number two guy was Felix Sater.

As a principal in the Bayrock Group, which worked with both Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump on a number of real estate deals between 2002 and roughly 2011, Sater worked to construct the Trump SoHo, Bloomberg reports. Sater has also previously claimed to have links to both the Kremlin and Russia’s KGB, the older version of Russia’s top security and intelligence services—now the FSB and SVR.

For Sater, the KGB isn’t even the most sordid part of his past—a past that features a stint as a mob informant.

He dropped out of college and began working as a stock broker. But in his late 20s he got into bar fight where he stabbed a fellow broker in the face with a shattered glass. He did time in prison for this attack. After he got out he got involved in a major securities fraud scheme (basically a ‘pump and dump’ operation) tied to the Genovese and Colombo crime families. 

For Donald Trump, Sater’s agreement to roll over on Bayrock and its collection of former Soviet oligarchs is a very big deal. From the KGB, to the Mafia, to Donald Trump. Felix Sater has followed the money no matter what he had to do to find it. But he hasn’t been exactly mum about his former associates.

Mr. Sater pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering in the Wall Street case in 1998 as part of an agreement with US prosecutors to serve as a confidential informant in investigations involving organised crime and national security.

Now Sater seems set to protect himself again by describing his relationship to Trump.

In May, Trump told NBC that he has no property or investments in Russia. “I am not involved in Russia,” he said.

But that doesn’t address national security and other problems that might arise for the president if Russia is involved in Trump, either through potentially compromising U.S. business relationships or through funds that flowed into his wallet years ago. In that context, a troubling history of Trump’s dealings with Russians exists outside of Russia: in a dormant real-estate development firm, the Bayrock Group, which once operated just two floors beneath the president’s own office in Trump Tower.

Trump made efforts to disown Sater during the campaign, even saying that he had no idea who ran the Bayrock Group. He should expect a reminder. Including a refresher about this little incident:

Trump testified under oath in a 2007 deposition that Bayrock brought Russian investors to his Trump Tower office to discuss deals in Moscow, and said he was pondering investing there.

Trump didn’t buy any towers in Moscow. Why? Because in 2007, Donald Trump had no money. He was busy faking returns for the Taj Mahal Casino to make it look profitable to investors while hiding from tax collectors. It was the year that Trump was dragged into court and made to face that his “empire” was built on lies.

Trump had brought it on himself. He had sued a reporter, accusing him of being reckless and dishonest in a book that raised questions about Trump’s net worth. The reporter’s attorneys turned the tables and brought Trump in for a deposition. …

Trump had misstated sales at his condo buildings. Inflated the price of membership at one of his golf clubs. Overstated the depth of his past debts and the number of his employees.

Trump’s funds were disappearing. His ability to secure new finances was nonexistent. His visit from Russian investors wasn’t about bringing Trump to Moscow. It was about bringing Moscow to Trump.

… a series of very deep studies published in the [Financial Times] examined the structure and history of several major Trump real estate projects from the last decade—the period after his seventh bankruptcy and the cancellation of all his bank lines of credit. …

The money to build these projects flowed almost entirely from Russian sources. In other words, after his business crashed, Trump was floated and made to appear to operate a successful business enterprise through the infusion of hundreds in millions of cash from dark Russian sources.

He was their man.

And now the man who delivered Trump to the Russian investors is ready to tell his story to investigators. A story that other people involved are already starting to spill.
In a series of interviews and a lawsuit, a former Bayrock insider, Jody Kriss, claims that he eventually departed from the firm because he became convinced that Bayrock was actually a front for money laundering.

This is a hunt that’s likely to find a whole cauldron full of witches. Let’s have one more description of Trump’s long-time partner.

One of Bayrock’s principals was a career criminal named Felix Sater who had ties to Russian and American organized crime groups. Before linking up with the company and with Trump, he had worked as a mob informant for the U.S. government, fled to Moscow to avoid criminal charges while boasting of his KGB and Kremlin contacts there, and had gone to prison for slashing apart another man’s face with a broken cocktail glass.

Talk up a storm, Felix. Maybe Robert Mueller would like to hear from you, as well.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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