Robert Mueller Investigating Donald Trump’s Business Dealings In Eastern Europe
Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly looking at President Donald Trump‘s connections to other prominent business figures in Eastern Europe now. The work of architect John Fotiadis, who was involved in several projects for Trump, shows the complexity of Trump’s real estate business.
One name that shows up is Rinat Akhmetov, richest man in the Ukraine with a net worth of $5.8 billion. Fotiadis received numerous orders from Akhmetov. He is particularly interesting because he also is closely associated with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Manafort has been charged on multiple counts, most recently of tampering with potential witnesses. The New York Times has reported that Ukraine’s chief prosecutor has frozen four investigations into Manafort in an effort to avoid “irritating” Trump Administration officials.
Fotiadis decided to open a local branch of his company in Kiev and hired an employee in Ukraine. Columbia University’s Alexander Cooley observed that this is very unusual for an American architect, especially as the Ukrainian real estate industry is widely considered to be corrupt. Cooley told CNBC, “What so striking to me is the fact that someone as prominent as Akhmetov was Fotiadis’ first commission as an independent architect,” Cooley said. “You’re making a decision to hire this person knowing relatively little about them, because they’ve only just opened their doors. And that is not how guys like Akhmetov hire their architects.”
The New Yorker has reported about about another foreign deal — a plan to build a Trump Tower in Batumi, Georgia, with the Silk Road Group in 2011. The deal, for which Trump was reportedly paid $1 million, involved unorthodox financial practices that several experts described as “red flags” for bank fraud and money laundering — moreover, it intertwined his company with a Kazakh oligarch who has direct links to Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin.
Georgia’s extravagant President Mikeil Saakashvili reportedly hoped for some domestic advantage resulting from Trump’s interest in Georgia and inserted himself into the publicity surrounding the deal. In 2012, however, Saakashvili’s party lost in the elections and the deal fell through. Ukrainian new prime minister, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, accused Trump for never planning to invest in Georgia. “Not a single cent has been invested by Trump. It’s a complete lie,” Ivanishvili told The Atlantic. “Quite the contrary: Trump wanted to sell his brand, and we don’t know what actually happened.”
The following year, money laundering investigations were launched into the Silk Road Group. However, due to lack of evidence, the case was dropped in 2014.
In 2016, of course, Trump won the U.S. election and the Trump Organization dropped out of the deal. Silk Road Group’s Giorgi Rtskhiladze told Forbes that he had received a phone call from Trump’s attorneys telling him the deal with the Silk Road Group could create potential conflicts of interest now that Trump was president.