Team Trump’s ties to Russian interests — Felix Sater

“As long as Donald Trump was just a high-profile and frequently clownish real estate tycoon from New York and the star of The Apprentice, this probably didn’t matter very much. It seems quite probable that as Trump moved closer to the presidency in the early months of 2016, alarm bells started to go off in the FBI and the CIA, as the relevance of business partnerships with Sater and reliance on capital out of the former Soviet Union suddenly became dramatically more relevant.”

Josh Marshall — Editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo

Trump has frequently said he doesn’t remember Sater, who was the managing director of Bayrock Group, the firm that developed Trump SoHo. Sater is known to have work for the CIA and the FBI. And one of Trump-Sater strategic partners — Alexander Mashkevich — is a man known to have set up front companies for Russian Intelligence Services in Western Europe. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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Trump business partner

Felix Sater — Russian-born — tried to help get a deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow in 2005 and again in 2015. In January 2017, he helped bring a pro-Russia peace plan for Ukraine to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen who is said to have passed the document — contained in a sealed envelope — to Former National Security Adviser General Mike Flynn.

Short Bio

Sater began his professional life as a New York City stock broker; spent 15 months in prison for stabbing a man in the face with a broken wine glass in a bar fight; and then became involved in a pump and dump penny stock scheme in association with the Gambino and Genovese crime families. When he and his associates were arrested in the securities fraud scheme in 1998, Sater tried to make a deal to save himself.

According to reliable accounts, what Sater offered to do was work with the CIA to facilitate the purchase of Stinger missiles on the weapons black market in post-Soviet Central Asia.

According to his accomplice and business partner, Salvatore Lauria, who wrote a book detailing the story, the CIA was more keen on working with Sater than was the FBI, which had recently been burned by its longstanding and close working relationship with Whitey Bulger. The plan eventually fell apart.

It seemed like Sater and Lauria might end up doing hard time. They had defrauded investors over more than $40 million. Then 9/11 happened and everything changed. Suddenly the federal government was much more interested in Sater’s help. [TPM]

Alexander Mashkevich

Is Russia playing in the U.S. like it has been in Europe? Russian investment has been a major target of the Trump organization. The Republican nominee’s son, Donald Jr, told a 2008 real estate conference, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.” According to the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication, he added: “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Investors have included Alexander Mashkevich, a Kazakh who in 2011 was investigated by Turkish prosecutors for organizing a sex party on a luxurious yacht involving underage girls. Mashkevich denied any wrongdoing.

He was also at the heart of one of the longest-running cases in Belgian history involving allegations of money-laundering. The case was eventually settled after he and two associates agreed to pay an undisclosed fine in return for the dropping of the case.

Another investor is former Soviet official Tevik Arif, who has been investigated off-and-on for organized-crime links. [The Hill]

In October 1991, Alexandre Machkevitch started a company — Seabeco Belgium — which was a front for the KGB financial operations. His associated was Patokh Chodiev who is today at the center of a extraordinary political scandal — dubbed Kazakhgate — involving a dozen of high–profile politicians in France and Belgium as well as the Intelligence Services of these countries.

TIMELINE

1974 — Felix Sater emigrates from the Soviet Union. His family moves to Brighton Beach, N.Y.

1990s — In his 20s, Sater works as a stockbroker on Wall Street. He loses his trading license after he stabs a man in the face with the stem of a margarita glass during a bar fight. The incident leads to a year in prison.

1998 — Sater pleads guilty to one charge of racketeering for a stock fraud scheme that involved the Mafia. Sater becomes a confidential informant for the FBI and cooperates with federal prosecutors on national security and organized crime matters, which delays his sentencing and keeps his court records sealed.

2005 — Sater is part of the development company Bayrock Group located at Trump Tower. He, his Bayrock partners and Trump agree to explore developing a hotel in Moscow and the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Fort Lauderdale. The Moscow deal later fell through. 

February 2006 — Trump asks Sater to escort Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump around Moscow, according to Sater. “He asked if I wouldn’t mind joining them and looking after them while they were in Moscow,” Sater said. 

2007 — Sater testifies in a deposition that he had found Russian investors for the Trump Tower in Moscow. He also says the project had a site picked out, a shuttered pencil factory named after U.S. anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.

Sept. 19, 2007 — Sater, Trump and Bayrock founder Tevfik Arif attend the launch party for Trump SoHo, a hotel project on which they collaborated. 

2008 — Sater leaves Bayrock following stories that surface about his tumultuous past.

2009 — At a court hearing, FBI officials back up Sater’s claims that he was an informant. He’s fined $25,000 and avoids prison time. He also testifies that Bayrock was a company that he built with his “own two hands.” 

Nov. 5, 2013 — In sworn testimony, Trump claims he barely knows Sater and “wouldn’t know what he looked like.” As of April 2017, Sater’s LinkedIn profile states that he was a Trump adviser for a year beginning in January 2010. 

2015 — At her Senate confirmation hearing to become U.S. attorney general, Loretta E. Lynch was asked why the government hid Sater’s court records. Lynch said Sater had “provided valuable and sensitive information” for more than a decade. 

Jan. 27, 2017 — Sater, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and Ukrainian politician Andrii V. Artemenko meet privately in New York to discuss a peace proposal for Ukraine and lifting sanctions against Russia. 

BBC Panorama 2017 —  Trump & Felix Sater

Donald Trump interviewed by Jon Sweeney. Trump walks out after being asked about Felix Sater.

 

Felix Sater – Man Of The Year: Chabad of Port Washington

Felix Sater, managing partner of Bayrock Group and former senior advisor to Donald Trump, speaking at the Chabad of Port Washington.

REFERENCES

Russia probe reaches current White House official, people familiar with the case say — Washington Post (May 19 2017)

Team Trump — WP

What The CIA and FBI Knew About Trump Before 2016 — TPM

Russia probe reaches current White House official, people familiar with the case say — WP

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Team Trump’s ties to Russian interests — Felix Sater

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