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Thursday, March 30, 2017
Interesting facts on the Trump, russia, Ukraine connection
Behind Trump’s Russia Romance, There’s a Tower Full of Oligarchs
Down on his luck, the mogul found help from émigrés from the old Soviet empire.
On the 78th floor: a Russian who once was accused of mob ties and extortion by an oligarch. On the 79th, an Uzbek jeweler investigated for money laundering who was eventually executed on the street in Manhattan. And four floors higher, a pro-Moscow Ukrainian politician whose party hired a Donald Trump adviser.
When Trump World Tower at 845 United Nations Plaza began construction two decades ago as the tallest residential building in the country (90 stories), its most expensive floors attracted wealthy people getting their money out of what had been the Soviet Union. Trump needed the big spenders. He was renegotiating $1.8 billion in junk bonds for his Atlantic City resorts, and the tower was built on a mountain of debt owed to German banks. As Trump wrote in The Art of the Comeback, “It crushed my ego, my pride, to go hat in hand to the bankers.”
Trump’s soft spot for Russia is an ongoing mystery, and the large number of condominium sales he made to people with ties to former Soviet republics may offer clues. “We had big buyers from Russia and Ukraine and Kazakhstan,” says Debra Stotts, a sales agent who filled up the tower. The very top floors went unsold for years, but a third of units sold on floors 76 through 83 by 2004 involved people or limited liability companies connected to Russia and neighboring states, a Bloomberg investigation shows. The reporting involved more than two dozen interviews and a review of hundreds of public records filed in New York.
The 1990s were a sobering period for Trump, and it’s noteworthy that among those who helped him exit the decade are people to whom he’s shown deep loyalty. Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway and Michael Cohen, his personal lawyer, bought units. Cohen got his Ukrainian in-laws to buy, too. Most of the units were bought before the tower was built, and prices weren’t disclosed. Trump World Tower ended up as a model for future developments—with money drawn from sales in Moscow.
Two months before Trump broke ground in October 1998, Russia defaulted on $40 billion in domestic debt, the ruble plummeted, and some of the biggest banks started to collapse. Millionaires scrambled to get their money out and into New York. Real estate provides a safe haven for overseas investors. It has few reporting requirements and is a preferred way to move cash of questionable provenance. Amid the turmoil, buyers found a dearth of available projects. Trump World Tower, opened in 2001, became a prominent depository of Russian money.