A recent Buzzfeed News report indicates that properties owned by President Donald Trump were involved in at least two cases of money laundering, one including a former Haitian dictator believed to have laundered several hundred thousand dollars of stolen treasury funds through his purchase of an apartment in Trump Tower.
The Haitian government claimed in the 1980s that ousted dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier laundered stolen treasury funds when he bought Trump Tower apartment 54-K for $446,875 in August 1983. Duvalier used a Panama shell company called Lasa Trade and Finance to buy the apartment in cash. Trump signed the deed of sale.
Within the same decade, several Trump Tower condos were involved in another case of money laundering:
In 1984, federal prosecutors charged a Russian native living in Brooklyn with taking part in a massive gasoline bootlegging operation and buying five Trump Tower condos for $4.9 million to launder the proceeds. The suspect, David Bogatin, pleaded guilty in 1987. He was released from federal prison in 1998.
There is no evidence that Trump or his company was involved in the illegal activity, but unrelated matters involving one of Trump's casinos indicate such activity might not be outside the scope of Trump's business practices:
The Trump Taj Mahal, was charged with violating anti-money-laundering regulations 106 times in 1990 and 1991 by failing to file timely reports identifying gamblers who bought or cashed out $10,000 or more in chips. The reports aim to spot gamblers who might be laundering money. The casino paid the Treasury Department a $477,000 fine in 1998 without admitting wrongdoing.
Trump companies doing business with shady characters, knowingly or not, becomes all the more curious in light of Trump's concern that special counsel Robert Mueller might look into his personal finances during the Russia investigation.
Former White House strategist Steve Bannon is quoted in Michael Wolff’s new book saying that Mueller’s investigation “is all about money laundering.” And the two founders of a research firm that commissioned a controversial intelligence dossier wrote in a New York Times op-ed that their investigation of Trump found “widespread evidence” that Trump had worked with “dubious Russians in arrangements that often raised questions about money laundering.”
Stefan Cassella, a former deputy chief of the Justice Department’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, said it’s difficult to discern secretive sales that are done for legal reasons from those that hide criminal activity.
“If a money launderer is doing his job well, he’s making the transaction look legitimate,” Cassella told BuzzFeed News.