A top Democratic Senator just demanded a lengthy list of anti-money laundering suspicious activity reports from the Treasury Department to reveal the money trail behind Donald Trump’s sale of the most expensive single-family home in America to a Russian oligarch.
Senate Finance Committee Ranking member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent a civil investigatory demand letter (embedded below) to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin seeking records to determine how Trump was paid in the $95-100 million dollar deal to sell a house in ritzy Palm Beach, Florida to Dimitry Rybovlev.
Wyden’s letter notes that at the time of the sale, in the summer of 2008 the Trump Chicago tower was on the verge of default to Deutsche Bank and Donald Trump would’ve been hard up for capital for his businesses to survive. As the Palm Beach Post reports, local real estate professionals thought Trump’s 100 million dollar deal didn’t make rational sense or represent a fair market value deal:
The deal, however, did raise the eyebrows of some in Palm Beach.
“I remember at the time, thinking: ‘Why did he pay so much?’” said longtime Palm Beach accountant Richard Rampell. “The property just to the north was owned by financier Nelson Peltz and he had an asking price of $75 million. It was a bigger piece of property and he had been unable to sell it and then all of a sudden this Russian comes by and pays $20 million more.”
“I thought it was very suspicious.”
Dimitri Rybovlev – a Russian oligarch known as the “Fertilizer King” for his business portfolio – bought the massive house from Trump sight unseen and never visited once.
The Russian oligarch became briefly famous last year after flight records showed his plane flying into the same American cities as the Trump Campaign.
Later, Rybovlev demolished the home and sold two of the three parcels as vacant land.
Last year, the Miami Herald would call Trump’s house “the mansion that nobody wanted,” which is decidedly odd for a record-breaking sale, let alone a sale of real estate just for the land value that is smaller than an also cheaper home next door.
The Democratic Senator also asked for more recent suspicious banking reports related to Rybovlev’s sales of those vacant properties in the last two years.
The Russian’s more recent sales are even subject to a stricter than usual anti-money laundering targeting order by the US Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, covering all-cash deals over a million dollars in South Florida.
Now that the Special Counsel’s concurrent investigation into the deal has been ongoing for 6 months, there may be new suspicious activity reports filed by the bankers who dealt with Trump or the Russian oligarch.
That’s because banks are required to report suspicious money laundering linked transactions within 30 days from the time of discovering that a money laundering transaction may have happened, with no limitation on when they file a report.
If the money trail on Trump’s sale has gone cold, Senator Wyden’s new request could expose a much more recent and traceable transactional record from his Rusian buyers’ activities.
What we know about the Donald Trump’s big payoff in Palm Beach comes from reports about his son’s travels to Russia in 2008 and his comments at a 2016 press conference.
Back in June 2008, Donald Trump Jr. gave a keynote speech at a major Russian real estate conference, right as global markets were hitting the skids, and the family company released this statement to the press:
The Trump Organization corporation has announced that it wants tobuild elite housing and hotels in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sochi, and to sell licenses to other developers to use the Trump name, according to Donald Trump, Jr., speaking at the “Real Estate in Russia” conference.
The Trump family’s Palm Beach home named Maison de L’Amitie (House of Friendship) was sold to 38 days later to Rybovlev for $100,000,000.
Two months after that, Don Jr. was famously quoted as saying:
“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.” Donald Trump Jr. added, “we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Trump’s remarks at the 2016 campaign press conference were remarkably brief for someone of his propensity to spin even the smallest details into major conspiracy theories. This is all he had to say about his record-setting sale:
“You know, the closest I came to Russia, I bought a house a number of years ago in Palm Beach, Florida.”
“Palm Beach is a very expensive place. There was a man who went bankrupt, and I bought the house for $40 million, and I sold it to a Russian for $100 million, including brokerage commissions. So I sold it. So I bought it for 40 (million), I sold it for 100 (million) to a Russian.”
There is a lot about Trump’s high-profile sale in Palm Beach that just doesn’t add up, from the deal happening after Don Jr.’s splashy visit to Moscow to the President downplaying his big deal to locals suspecting that the Russian oligarch buyer didn’t behave like an arm’s length participant in the deal.
Senator Wyden’s requests to the Treasury Department could unravel the mansion mystery which has placed the braggadocious President in the odd position of keeping a low profile about completing the largest sale of a home in American history.