From his continued praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin to his dealings with Azeri higher-ups accused of money laundering, Donald Trump has maintained closer ties with post-Soviet autocratic regimes than any major presidential nominee the United States has ever seen. A new investigation from Financial Times, meanwhile, expands on those relationships and sees Trump land one step closer to the transnational corruption that Central Asian elites, buoyed by hydrocarbon wealth and outright predation, have exported through the West.
Per the new report, Trump was involved in real estate dealings involving a network of Kazakhstani individuals entrenched in an alleged money laundering ring. As FT found, “Title deeds, bank records and correspondence show that a Kazakh family accused of laundering hundreds of millions of stolen dollars bought luxury apartments in a Manhattan tower part-owned by Mr Trump and embarked on major business ventures with one of the tycoon’s partners.” The story, for those who’ve tracked post-Soviet laundering networks — especially when involving Western property assets — hits familiar notes. In this instance, one of Trump’s partners, Bayrock, dealt with the family of the former Almaty mayor, Viktor Khrapunov, in tapping into New York’s real estate market. Trump, meanwhile, licensed his name to the project in question. However, according to Almaty, Khrapunov’s family — including his daughter, Elvira Kudryashova, and his son, Ilyas — are “a key link in the family’s laundering network,” as FT wrote. As The Diplomat’s Katie Putz further noted, both Viktor and Ilyas “are presently listed on the Interpol wanted persons database – at the behest of Kazakh authorities.” Likewise, the New York sale went through “two years after the family was charged in Kazakhstan with financial crimes[.]”
The chapter is not only the latest development in Trump’s obscure dealings with post-Soviet oligarchs, but also adds that much more to the saga of Khrapunov, currently based in Switzerland. Last year, the city of Almaty joined BTA Bank in alleging that Khrapunov, along with former BTA Bank chair Mukhtar Ablyazov, were beneficiaries of a further $40 million parked in New York real estate. Almaty has also filed prior suit claiming that Khrapunov had stored assets in southern California — an area that has rapidly become the second-most-popular destination for post-Soviet regimes making dodgy property purchases.
There’s little likelihood such dealings will sway the American presidential election, only a few weeks out. Nonetheless, they shine a bit more light on the obfuscation Trump has brought to his financial dealings, as well as the manners in which post-Soviet elites accessed American property markets — and, as of 2016, presidential nominees.