Trump Sells Palm Beach Mansion to Russian Billionaire
Though Trump has never succeeded in developing property in Russia, his company has benefited significantly from Russian money in the form of its clientele. For example, according to a Bloomberg investigation into Trump World Tower, which broke ground in 1998, “a third of units sold on floors 76 through 83 by 2004 involved people or limited liability companies connected to Russia and neighboring states.” Trump World Tower sales agent Debra Stotts told Bloomberg that they had “big buyers from Russia and Ukraine and Kazakhstan.” New York real estate broker Dolly Lenz sold “about 65 units in Trump World Tower […] to Russian buyers looking for real estate.” Lenz is quoted as saying “I had contacts in Moscow looking to invest in the United States […] what do you have to recommend?’ They all wanted to meet Donald. They became very friendly.” In 2002, “the push to sell units in Trump World to Russians expanded,” when Sotheby’s International Realty reportedly teams up with Kirsanova Realty, a Russian company.
The Trump Organization reportedly welcomed the Russian clientele. For example, a 2013 article in The Nation about the influx of Russian money in Miami real estate noted that Elena Baronoff, a Russian-American socialite once described on the cover of a Russian magazine as “The Russian Hand of Donald Trump,” operated a real-estate company catering to Eastern European buyers out of the lobby of the city’s Trump International Beach Resort. The New Republic has also extensively documented how the Trump Organization actively sought Russian buyers, so much so that the area around Trump Sunny Isles in Florida became known as “Little Moscow.” Within Trump’s Florida licensing developments, Reuters identified a total of twenty units in Trump Towers I, II, and III that were purchased by individuals with Russian passports or addresses. Individuals with Russian passports or addresses also purchased sixteen units in Trump Palace, twenty-seven units in Trump Royale, and thirteen units in Trump Hollywood. Trump accepted Russian money on a personal level, as well; Russian fertilizer magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev’s 2008 purchased of one of Trump’s mansions in Palm Beach for $53 million more than Trump had paid for it four years earlier. Some of these Russian buyers have brought more than just money to the Trump Organization—they’ve also brought links to Russian organized crime. In 1984, a Russian by the name of David Bogatin purchased five condos in Trump Tower for a total of $6 million. Bogatin, who was linked to Russian mob boss Semion Mogilevich, pleaded guilty three years later to “evading millions of dollars in state fuel taxes in what state officials called one of the largest gasoline bootlegging operations in the nation.” The five condos were seized by the government, who claimed that he had used the purchase to launder money. Separately, In April 2013, New York police arrested “29 suspects in two gambling rings” run out of condos in Trump Tower. A condo directly below a unit owned by Trump reportedly “served as the headquarters for a ‘sophisticated money-laundering scheme’” run by an individual who worked for Semion Mogilevich. Until he began running for president, Trump not only did not deny his extensive dealings with Russian investors and clients but actually spoke about it frequently, boasting of the amount of Russian money that flowed through his projects in numerous interviews. So, too, did his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric: In 2008, Donald Jr. told investors in Moscow that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” while Eric reportedly told a golf reporter in 2014 that the Trump Organization was able to expand during the financial crisis because “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”