A long read as the corruption runs much deeper and goes beyond Russia to include Azerbaijan, Israel, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. A merry-go round of military adventures in Iran and Afghanistan and the heroine trade of drug lords. A splendid place to position spooks of all colors and invest with ears and eyes closed. A haven for money laundering, and thus Donald Trump enterprises took a front row seat …
Glenn Simpson’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee [Nov. 14] was actually far more informative than that he gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee. I get the feeling we all might have been better served had Simpson released Fusion’s own research on Trump rather than the Steele dossier (and it might have avoided all the drama over the dossier).
I was particularly interested in Simpson’s extended comments about Sergei Millian, who ran a sketchy Russian-American chamber of commerce organization (here’s a David Corn profile that surely is influenced by Fusion), who has been alleged by many outlets (WSJ, ABC, WaPo) to be one (D) or another (E) source for the Steele dossier (note, Steele’s labels for sources in the dossier were not consistent, and other figures must be one or another of those letters in some reports).
More below the fold …
Simpson described that his own, unpublished research showed that Millian had ties to the Trump camp going back years, first in conjunction with an effort to help Trump brand vodka under his own name in Russia.
MR. SIMPSON: Well, one of the guys who organized this trip was a guy who’s currently known as Sergi Millian. And he’s been in the press a good bit, I think, although not recently. And, you know, he came up in connection with that, and then he came up in connection with Chris’ work as one of the people around Trump who had a Russian background, and unexplained, you know, a lot of unexplained things. So when we looked at him, we found that he ran a sort of shadowy kind of trade group called the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, which is — Russians are known to use chambers of commerce and trade groups as fronts for intelligence operations. [Exactly! How the US intelligence works with expats in preparation for the Orange Revolt in Ukraine – Oui]
And this guy, his name – his real name or his original n_ame that he came to the United States wasn’t Sergi Millian. It was Siarhei Kukuts, and that’s a pretty different name.
And he changed his name when he got to Atlanta. And when we looked at him some more, we found two different resumes for him. In one resume he said he was from Belarus and he went to Minsk State; and then in another he was from Moscow and went to Moscow State. In one he said he worked for the Belarussian Foreign Ministry; in the other, he said he worked for the Russian Foreign Ministry.
○ Trump’s Ties to Sergei Millian, Russian Intelligence (& Detailed Timeline) – Jan. 22, 2017
○ Russian businessman named as source for spy’s dossier of filthy claims about Trump has asked for U.S. government protection – and was refused | Daily Mail – Jan. 31, 2017 |
Article in RIA Novosti of April 2016 [Updated Sept. 30, 2016] …
“Suppose a new face comes-Donald Trump.” What do you think should be expected in your opinion?
– First, it will improve relations with Russia. He is a practical and practical man, and I know for sure that he has no business conflict in Russia. For large entrepreneurs who worked with the Russian Federation, this is a rarity. Trump in Russia did not build anything, but he registered his trademark there in 1993. By the way, one of the areas of our cooperation with him was the study of the Moscow market. We expressed our opinion, it is our own. I do not want to voice his position, but he keeps Moscow in sight and is waiting for the right time.
– Now there are sanctions, there is a lot of negativity. What will Trump do with all this in relation to Russia?
– I think he will be able to agree on how to resolve political conflicts, agree on Syria and Ukraine. And this will clear the way for the American society, the political establishment and the business community to realize that it is time to lift sanctions and resume a full-fledged dialogue with Russia. After all, if you look from the perspective of history, in no way can Putin be compared to Stalin, but even under Stalin, the US did not have such a negative as now. Then in the USSR American engineers came, in America equipment was purchased for Soviet plants. Now, compared with the period of the Iron Curtain and the Cold War, there are no such difficulties that politicians can not solve them. In my opinion, the current dispute is greatly exaggerated by the powers that be and the middle class suffers from this. I know many American companies that have completely turned off business in Russia, and Russian firms that have stopped working in the US.
– Will you vote for Trump in November, if, of course, he is elected as a candidate from the Republican Party at the congress in July?
– I am a Republican and will vote for the candidate, whom the party will propose. But for someone who will maintain good relations with Russia.
○ Meet The Man Who Is Spinning For Donald Trump In Russia | The Daily Beast – Sept. 8, 2016 |
○ Who is ‘Source D’? The man said to be behind the Trump-Russia dossier’s most salacious claim | WaPo – March 29, 2017 |
From Glenn Simpson’s testimony …
S. SPEIER: The investment in the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto. It appears that Mr. Trump’s original partner was Leib Waldman, who was a fugitive who fled to Toronto from the United States after pleading guilty to bankruptcy fraud and embezzlement in 1995.
Born in St. Petersburg, Alex Shnaider and his family got to Israel via Ukraine when he was 4 years old and wound up in Toronto nine years later. His parents ran a deli in a Russian enclave of north Toronto.
He has already built a $4 billion (sales) empire sprawling from Yerevan to Toronto. Much of that business-and his $1.4 billion in net worth-comes from trading Ukrainian steel and grabbing control of that country’s fourth-largest steel mill, Zaporizhstal. There is also a power grid in Armenia; two hotels, a bakery chain and a meat-packing company in Serbia; small interests in Turkey and Israel; a Russian steel mill in Volgograd; and an ornate office building and casino in Moscow’s Arbat pedestrian mall. They’re all under his holding company, Midland Resources, registered in the British tax haven of Guernsey.
Even the First World has presented pratfalls, as Shnaider grapples with his more public image. In Canada he can’t seem to escape the stigma of having made his fortune in eastern Europe. The Toronto Star calls its adopted son “the man in the shadows.” The tower project has been scandal-laced since its origin in 2000. The Trump International Hotel & Tower started out as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Condominium Residences, backed by a developer named Leib Waldman, who had fled Pennsylvania years earlier to avoid serving time there for embezzlement. When his past was uncovered by the media in 2002, the Ritz pulled out and Waldman disappeared again. (Extradited last June, he is awaiting sentencing on related charges in a New York federal prison.)
Brought into the deal by Waldman’s former Toronto partner, Shnaider bought the downtown site for $28 million in cash late last year, assuming majority control of the equity in a putative $500 million, 70-story tower that, so far, exists only on paper. With the exception of some interest from Asia, sales have been slow-few Torontonians care to spend $484,000 for a studio apartment-and Shnaider is waiting for 50% occupancy before breaking ground. Trump is licensing his name and will manage the property. No equity yet; no profit participation. The two barely know each other. “We heard fantastic things about [Shnaider],” Trump said by phone from his honeymoon. “But sometimes people say wonderful things whether they mean them or not.”
- ○ UK at centre of secret $3bn Azerbaijani money laundering and lobbying scheme | The Guardian – 2017 |
Trump’s lawyer, Garten, who was in the room at the time of Trump’s statement, told the AP that it was unreasonable to expect Trump to know the full range of the company’s diligence efforts.
Any American contemplating a business venture in Azerbaijan faces a risk: “endemic public corruption,” as the State Department puts it. Much of that money flows from the oil and gas industries, but the State Department also considers the country to be a waypoint for terrorist financiers, Iranian sanctions-busters and Afghan drug lords.
The environment is a risky one for any business venture seeking to avoid violating US penalties imposed against Iran or anti-bribery laws under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Trump’s choice of partners in Baku was Anar Mammadov, the son of the country’s transportation minister. Anar Mammadov did not respond to AP’s emails or messages sent to his social media accounts or messages left with his company.
Garten said the Trump Organization had performed background screening on all those involved in the deal and was confident Mammadov’s father played no role in the project. Experts on Azerbaijan were mystified that Trump or anyone else could reach that conclusion.
The President helped build a hotel in Azerbaijan that appears to be a corrupt operation engineered by oligarchs tied to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
Heydar Aliyev Prospekti, a broad avenue in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, connects the airport to the city. The road is meant to highlight Baku’s recent modernization, and it is lined with sleek new buildings. The Heydar Aliyev Center, an undulating wave of concrete and glass, was designed by Zaha Hadid.
The state oil company is housed in a twisting glass tower, and the headquarters of the state water company looks like a giant water droplet. “It’s like Potemkin,” my translator told me. “It’s only the buildings right next to the road.” Behind the gleaming structures stand decaying Soviet-era apartment blocks, with clothes hanging out of windows and wallboards exposed by fallen brickwork.
As you approach the city center, a tower at the end of the avenue looms in front of you. Thirty-three stories high and curved to resemble a sail, the building was clearly inspired by the Burj Al Arab Hotel, in Dubai, but it is boxier and less elegant. When I visited Baku, in December, five enormous white letters glowed at the top of the tower: T-R-U-M-P.
The Azerbaijanis behind the project were close relatives of Ziya Mammadov, the Transportation Minister and one of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful oligarchs. According to the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, Azerbaijan is among the most corrupt nations in the world. Its President, Ilham Aliyev, the son of the former President Heydar Aliyev, recently appointed his wife to be Vice-President. Ziya Mammadov became the Transportation Minister in 2002, around the time that the regime began receiving enormous profits from government-owned oil reserves in the Caspian Sea. At the time of the hotel deal, Mammadov, a career government official, had a salary of about twelve thousand dollars, but he was a billionaire.
These reports cited a series of cables sent from the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan in 2009 and 2010, which were made public by WikiLeaks. In one of the cables, a U.S. diplomat described Ziya Mammadov as “notoriously corrupt even for Azerbaijan.” The Trump Organization’s chief legal officer, Alan Garten, told reporters that the Baku hotel project raised no ethical issues for Donald Trump, because his company had never engaged directly with Mammadov.
Azerbaijan’s embassy is hosting a Hanukkah party at a hotel owned by President-elect Donald Trump and his family.
The party will take place Dec. 14 and will celebrate “freedom and diversity,” said the invitation, obtained Friday by JTA, in a signal of closer ties between the west Asian nation and Israel and some of its supporters in the United States. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is co-hosting the event.
A perfect example where global corruption meets …. the prize: Jerusalem for the Jewish State.
Some amazing oldies mentioning Azerbaijan, diaries here @BooMan …
○ Attacking Iran: Did US just torpedo Israeli deal for a base in Azerbaijan? CSM – March 2012 |
○ America’s New Cold War by poemless @EuroTrib on June 29, 2006
○ Khodorkovsky, oligarchs and the former Soviet bloc by profmarcus on May 3, 2005
○ Super-Duper Imminent Iran Invasion Update, with links and poll by DuctapeFatwa on April 21, 2005
From the preponderance of the evidence, I believe that she discovered evidence of the 9/11 plot in the Azeri language. Why would that be?
In August 1998, the Azerbaijani branch of the “Islamic Jihad” organization, which by then had merged with Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, reportedly coordinated the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people and wounded nearly 4,600. The FBI was able to trace about 60 phone calls made from the satellite phone used by Bin Laden to his associates in Baku and from them to operatives in East Africa. The U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan also feared an attack, but as a local radical claimed, they did not attack the Embassy so as “not to spoil their good relations in Azerbaijan” (Zerkalo 7/22/00; Bill of Indictment in U.S.A. vs. Bin Laden et. al. 4/01; Washington Post 5/3/01; Ekho 8/28/01).
By 1998, Ayman al-Zawahiri’s organization (Egyptian Islamic Jihad) had taken up residence in Baku, Azerbaijan. It also merged with bin-Laden’s organization that year and issued a fatwa targeting American civilians. Zawahiri had spent time in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Albania, Bulgaria and Poland. All of these places are major transit lines for the heroin trade from Asia into Europe.
That fact is extremely important because Edmonds claims that she discovered evidence of the 9/11 plot in intercepts that were not part of counter-terrorism investigations, but that were part of counter-intelligence investigations related to money laundering. And that money laundering was for cleansing the proceeds from arms and drug smuggling.
Most likely, she was translating intercepts of Azerbaijani businessmen or politicians that were involved in laundering large quantities of cash raised by Afghan heroin smuggling. She has also made clear that the drug dealers and the arms dealers are mixed up together and that the divisions become blurred between these organizations.
Do any of these folks have any interest in Azerbaijan? In fact, yes, they all do. They also have links to the mujahideen from the Soviet-Afghan War.