Saturday 21 April 2018

Trump plays down his links to Russian fraudster

Donald Trump addresses members of the National Rifle Association. Photo: Reuters
Donald Trump addresses members of the National Rifle Association. Photo: Reuters

Edward Malnick and Ruth Sherlock

A Russian-born businessman convicted of fraud was a key player in several of Donald Trump's business ventures, despite the billionaire's attempts to play down their ties.

An investigation by 'The Daily Telegraph' disclosed that Mr Trump signed off on paperwork which made clear that Felix Sater was one of the figures in "control" of Bayrock Group, the property firm building three developments using his name.

The findings appear to contradict statements by the would-be president and his lawyer distancing him from Sater, who was convicted for helping to lead a $40m mafia-linked stock fraud scheme. Mr Sater also spent time in jail for stabbing someone in the face with the stem of a margarita glass.

The disclosures come as Mr Trump faced criticism after the 'Telegraph' revealed he signed off on a $50m deal involving Bayrock designed to deprive the US government of tens of millions of dollars in tax.

In response, Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign said Mr Trump's aim was "to enrich himself at the expense of the American people".

Sater joined Bayrock in around 2002 and in a 2010 deposition said he had been "probably number two" at the company. Mr Trump started working with Bayrock in 2004.

Alan Garten, Mr Trump's general counsel, told ABC News in December that "[in the] long term there was very little involvement" by Sater in the projects that carried the billionaire's name, including his Trump SoHo hotel in New York.

He suggested Sater was just one of many employees, saying: "When you go into business with another company, you're not going to vet every employee, it's not appropriate."

Documents show Mr Trump signed off on papers in 2007 which made Sater's influential position at Bayrock clear. In May 2007, Mr Trump signed a consent letter for the $50m deal between Bayrock and FL, an Icelandic company. It asked him to "indicate your consent to the Transaction as evidenced by the Transaction Documents by counterexecuting and returning to the undersigned a copy of this letter". The main enclosed document was the loan agreement, which listed Sater - who used the spelling Satter - as a "manager" whose departure at any point during the time frame of the deal could put it at risk.

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