Tuesday 17 September 2019

Committee discusses possibility Russian money was funneled through Trump’s exclusive golf course in Doonbeg

Doonbeg Lodge, with Donald Trump (inset). Composite Image (Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Doonbeg Lodge, with Donald Trump (inset). Composite Image (Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Colm Kelpie

US politicians have discussed the possibility that Russian money was funnelled through President Donald Trump’s exclusive golf course in Doonbeg.

The US House Intelligence Committee has released the transcript of a November closed-door interview with Glenn Simpson, whose firm, Fusion GPS, hired a former British spy to research then-presidential candidate Mr Trump’s campaign ties to Russians. Fusion is a commercial research and strategic intelligence firm based in Washington, DC.

The House of Representatives panel is conducting one of the three congressional investigations into possible collusion between Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.

In the course of the questioning, Mr Simpson was asked if he believed there was any Russian money involved with Mr Trump’s golf courses in Ireland and Scotland.

The Doonbeg resort owned by Donald Trump. Photo: PA
The Doonbeg resort owned by Donald Trump. Photo: PA

"We saw what [President Donald Trump’s son] Eric Trump said about Russian money being available for his golf - for the golf course projects, making remarks about having unlimited sums available," Mr Simpson replied.

"And, you know, because Mr Trump’s companies are generally not publicly traded and don’t do a lot of public disclosure, we can only look - have a limited look into the financing of those projects.

"But because the Irish courses and the Scottish courses are under UK, you know, Anglo corporate law, they have - they file financial statements. So we were able to get the financial statements. And they don’t, on their face, show Russian involvement, but what they do show is enormous amounts of capital flowing into these projects from unknown sources and - or at least on paper it says it’s from The Trump Organisation, but it’s hundreds of millions of dollars.

"And these golf course are just, you know, they’re sinks. They don’t actually make any money. So, you know, if you’re familiar with Donald Trump’s finances and the litigation over whether he’s really a billionaire, you know, there’s good reason to believe he doesn’t have enough money to do this and that he would have had to have outside financial support for these things."

Mr Trump paid €8.7m for the luxurious Doonbeg golf resort in Co Clare, which was sold in February 2014 to Mr Trump by receivers for the property.

Later in the House Intelligence hearing, Republican Party Congressman Tom Rooney said the stories that Mr Simpson was telling were "fascinating".

"I mean, the story about him financing Doonbeg in Ireland through money that we can’t really trace but has sort of the fingerprints of Russian mobsters," Mr Rooney said.

Separately, Mr Simpson said that his firm closely examined sales of condominiums in Trump properties in New York, Miami, Panama City and Toronto.

"There were a lot of real estate deals where you couldn’t really tell who was buying the property," Simpson said. "And sometimes properties would be bought and sold, and they would be bought for one price and sold for a loss shortly thereafter, and it really didn’t make sense to us."

"We saw patterns of buying and selling that we thought were suggestive of money-laundering," he continued.

Alan Garten, the Trump Organisation’s chief counsel, told financial newswire Reuters that the deals Mr Simpson referenced primarily involve properties to which Mr Trump licensed his name, rather than owning, developing or selling them.

"These accusations are completely reckless and unsubstantiated," Mr Garten said. "These issues have nothing to do with the scope of the investigation" by the House intelligence committee, Mr Garten said.

"But it’s not surprising the minority (Democrats) would focus on this given they’ve found absolutely no evidence of collusion." Russia has denied the conclusions of US intelligence agencies that it interfered in the 2016 election to help Mr Trump and Mr Trump denies any collusion.

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