December 2016

Trump Ends Azerbaijan Development Deal

Trump formally cancels his licensing deal in Azerbaijan.


Along with its failed attempts to develop properties in Russia, the Trump Organization has also pursued multiple projects in former Soviet states, including Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Kazakhstan. The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson has written extensively on developments in Baku, Azerbaijan, and Batumi, Georgia, where the Trump Organization has dealt with companies and oligarchs with extensive histories of corruption and ties to not only Russian entities but also, in Azerbaijan, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. These projects, Davidson argues, are worrisome not only because of the specific actors involved but also because they leave the president open to accusations of abetting corruption abroad and demonstrate the Trump Organization’s tendency to skimp on due diligence, which could expose Trump to prosecution under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA.

  •        In 2012, The Trump Organization signed contracts to begin the development of a luxury apartment building in Azerbaijan. This licensing agreement involves wealthy Azerbaijani oligarchs with ties to both the Azerbaijani government and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The deal was formally canceled in December 2016.
  •        In late 2010, the Trump Organization signed a letter of intent to license the Trump name for a development in Georgia, to be developed by the Silk Road Group. In March 2011, Trump Tower Batumi in Georgia was officially announced. This project represented a licensing deal between Trump and the Silk Road Group, which was at least partially funded by Kazakhstan’s B.T.A. Bank, whose former chairman Mukhtar Ablyazov was under investigation for “allegedly siphoning” billions of dollars out of Kazakhstan. Mikhail Saakashvili, the president of Georgia, traveled to Trump Tower in Manhattan to announce this project. In 2012, Trump visited Georgia and toured Tbilisi and Batumi with President Saakashvili, holding groundbreaking ceremony for Trump Tower Batumi. In November 2016, mere days after the election, a spokesman announced that the long-stalled project would soon be moving forward; however, in January 2017, Trump formally ended the project.
  •        In 2011, Silk Road executive Giorgi Rtskhiladze and Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, began “promoting the idea of a Trump Tower in Astana,” Kazakhstan Cohen and Rtskhiladze visited Astana to meet with the Kazakh Prime Minister. In 2012, the Trump Organization reportedly signed a letter of intent, ultimately not executed, to license Trump name to the Trump Diamond tower near Akoda, Nursultan Nazarbayev’s presidential palace in Astana, Kazakhstan (Nazarbayev has ruled Kazakhstan since 1989). The Trump Organization reportedly negotiated with then-Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov over this tower; the design was done by John Fotiadis, who has worked with the Silk Road Group, Rinat Akhmetov’s System Capital Management, AS Group Investment, and Kyiv Gaz. The project never got off the ground, but Trump remained interested in the region; in 2012, he sought to trademark his brand for use in hotels and real estate in Armenia, Belarus, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan

 

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