A former Trump property in Panama has been linked to drug trafficking and terrorism. Ivanka Trump flew to Panama City in 2006 to hear a sales pitch from real estate salesman Alexandre Ventura Nogueira.
Ventura told Ivanka that he could sell condos in the proposed Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower for three times the price of comparable Panama city units because the project would bear the Trump name. He and Ivanka agreed that if he could sell condos for those prices, he would become the main sales representative for the building project.
"The agreement was, I had a week to sell 100 units," Ventura said in a recent interview with NBC News. "I said, 'I'm going to do better, I’m going to sell without telling (the buyers) the price."
Ventura made good on his promise, selling the units and later many more. In May 2009 he was arrested for real estate fraud on charges unrelated to Trump’s project. During his investigation, complaints against Ventura poured in, where he was accused of selling the same apartments twice and even three times at properties including the Trump Ocean Club.
Ventura was not the only shady person involved in the project. Brokers, investors and customers were linked to drug trafficking and international crime. The project’s investigator, Mauricio Ceballos, called the project “a vehicle for money laundering.”
Although there is no proof that anyone in the Trump family did anything illegal, they certainly never asked where the money was coming from. According to legal experts, the Trump family should have asked more questions, especially because Panama is considered to be extremely corrupt.
During his interview with NBC News, Ventura said that he had brokers and clients for the Trump Ocean Club who were connected to the Russian mafia and other criminal groups.
“I had some customers with questionable backgrounds,” Ventura said. “Nobody ever asked me. Banks never asked. Developer didn’t ask and (the) Trump Organization didn’t ask. Nobody ask, ‘Who are the customers, where did the money come from?’ No, nobody ask.”
In one case, Ventura sold seven to ten units in the building to David Murcia Guzmán, who is now in U.S. custody. He was convicted of laundering money for drug cartels.
One of the investors in the project was Louis Pargiolas, who pleaded guilty in 2009 to conspiracy to import cocaine. Another investor, Arkady Vodovozov, was convicted of kidnapping in Israel.
The Trump organization did not actually develop the building. The Trump organization simply licensed its brand, operated the hotel, and made a portion of each condo sale. In a statement, the Trump organization shied away from any responsibility.
“The Trump Organization was not the owner, developer or seller of the Trump Ocean Club Panama project,” the statement said. “Because of its limited role, the company was not responsible for the financing of the project and had no involvement in the sale of units or the retention of any real estate brokers.”
The statement mentions that the company does not have a relationship with Ventura. Yet, Ventura said Ivanka Trump spoke with him at length about the project.
“The Trump Organization has to approve everything because of his name on the project,” Ventura said.
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