Rep. of Congo: President's daughter used tainted money to buy a Trump apartment in New York City says a new report

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Article
10 April 2019

$7 Million Trump Building Condo Tied to Scandal-Scarred Foreign Leader

Author: Jesse Drucker, New York Times

Unit 32G, a two-bedroom, 1,767-square-foot apartment with sweeping views of the park, is owned by an entity called Ecree, which bought the condo in 2014 for $7 million in cash. Documents unearthed by the nonprofit group Global Witness show that the purchase was funded by the daughter of the Republic of Congo’s president, a longtime target of anti-corruption investigators. The funds for the all-cash purchase appear to have been siphoned from that country’s government, according to a report by Global Witness. The purchase took place more than two years before Donald J. Trump became president. Owners of units in the building — 1 Central Park West — pay tens of thousands of dollars a year in condo fees to Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization...

A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, Kimberly Benza, said that Unit 32G had not recently been owned by the Trump Organization and that whoever bought it in 2014 purchased it from an unrelated party. She said the condo fees were for building-maintenance purposes “and are not fees paid to Trump for profit.” There is no indication that Mr. Trump or his company broke the law...The Global Witness report alleges that a Cyprus company belonging to the president’s daughter, Claudia Sassou-Nguesso, bankrolled the purchase of the Trump apartment in July 2014...A spokesman for President Sassou-Nguesso and a representative at the Republic of Congo’s embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment...

Letters cited by Global Witness and reviewed by The New York Times show that a Portuguese businessman, José Veiga, wrote reference letters on behalf of the president’s granddaughter to the condo association ahead of the sale. He called her “one of my best friends” and said she would be a “valued addition” to the Trump property...It is unclear what sort of background check, if any, the Trump Organization did on the purchase financed by Ms. Sassou-Nguesso. A lawyer for Mr. Veiga, who Portuguese authorities have arrested on suspicion of money laundering, declined to comment. According to New York real estate records, the entity used to make the purchase, Ecree, used a Manhattan address at the law firm K&L Gates.

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Article
10 April 2019

Letter to House Intelligence Committee

Author: Global Witness

Dear Chairman Schiff and Vice Chairman Nunes,
 
Please find here a report that Global Witness has released today entitled, “Trump’s Luxury Condo: A Congolese State Affair”.
 
The underlying investigation of this report focuses on the purchase of an apartment; the Trump Organization brokered and profited from the apartment sale. Claudia Sassou-Nguesso, the first daughter of the Republic of Congo, used millions of dollars of apparently stolen Congolese state funds to buy this luxury apartment at the Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York City. 
 
The investigation provides evidence that Claudia Sassou-Nguesso purchased the New York City luxury apartment while hiding behind a front man, José Veiga. Mr. Veiga is a controversial businessperson who is the target of a Portuguese probe into corruption and money laundering in Congo. Trump companies played key roles in the deal and further disclosures are required to clarify whether Trump has profited from the apartment since taking office. 
 
Global Witness sent written questions to the Trump Organization asking for comment on the details and allegations laid out in this article. No response to the allegations put to it for comment were received within the deadline provided, but the Trump Organization has consistently refuted allegations of wrongdoing around property ventures and deals.
 
We urge you to investigate these concerns and, if appropriate, hold the Trump Organization and Donald Trump accountable. 
 

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Article
10 April 2019

Letter to Senate Intelligence Committee

Author: Global Witness

Dear Chairman Burr and Vice Chairman Warner,
 
Please find here a report that Global Witness has released today entitled, “Trump’s Luxury Condo: A Congolese State Affair”.
 
The underlying investigation of this report focuses on the purchase of an apartment; the Trump Organization brokered and profited from the apartment sale. Claudia Sassou-Nguesso, the first daughter of the Republic of Congo, used millions of dollars of apparently stolen Congolese state funds to buy this luxury apartment at the Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York City. 
 
The investigation provides evidence that Claudia Sassou-Nguesso purchased the New York City luxury apartment while hiding behind a front man, José Veiga. Mr. Veiga is a controversial businessperson who is the target of a Portuguese probe into corruption and money laundering in Congo. Trump companies played key roles in the deal and further disclosures are required to clarify whether Trump has profited from the apartment since taking office. 
 
Global Witness sent written questions to the Trump Organization asking for comment on the details and allegations laid out in this article. No response to the allegations put to it for comment were received within the deadline provided, but the Trump Organization has consistently refuted allegations of wrongdoing around property ventures and deals.
 
We urge you to investigate these concerns and, if appropriate, hold the Trump Organization and Donald Trump accountable. 
 

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Article
10 April 2019

Millions of apparently stolen dollars paid for apartment in Trump property: Congo case shows authorities must act to close real estate money-laundering loopholes

Author: Global Witness

Recommendations:

- Law enforcement in the U.S. and Europe should investigate whether the Presidential family of Republic of Congo laundered public funds by purchasing property in New York, building on investigations into the family’s assets and middlemen pioneered by French and Portuguese authorities, and seize the apartment if appropriate. 

- U.S. investigators and relevant Congressional committees should carefully consider these allegations and, if appropriate, hold Donald Trump and the Trump Organization accountable for their part in the transactions in question.  

- In the U.S., the Treasury Department should initiate a rulemaking to require the real estate sector to perform anti-money laundering checks on clients, including enhanced checks on politically exposed persons. As part of this rule, the Treasury Department should also require the disclosure of ultimate beneficial owners of companies purchasing real estate throughout the U.S.  

- Every country should require lawyers that carry out transactions for their clients, including the buying and selling of real estate and the creation of companies, to know the real identity of their clients and the source of their clients’ funds. 

- Every country should require all companies and trusts to disclose publicly who ultimately owns and controls them, and to make this information public. 

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Article
10 April 2019

Trump Organization profited from tainted money used to buy an apartment at Trump’s flagship hotel in New York City

Author: Global Witness

Claudia Sassou-Nguesso, the daughter of Republic of Congo’s President, paid for a luxury apartment at the Trump International Hotel & Tower (Trump International) in New York City with funds that appear to have been stolen from the Congolese treasury, Global Witness reveals today in a new investigation. Her front man was José Veiga, a controversial businessperson who is the target of a Portuguese probe into corruption and money laundering in Congo...Claudia Sassou-Nguesso and Veiga together set up a murky scheme to purchase the apartment in Trump’s flagship hotel and tower in New York using offshore accounts, secrecy jurisdictions, anonymous companies and enabling lawyers...

“Our latest investigation provides further evidence that some of the world’s most notorious politicians and businesspeople choose to stash their cash in Trump property”, said Mariana Abreu, Campaigner at Global Witness. “The Trump Organization must face serious questions as to the quality of its procedures for background checks on the purchaser of this apartment. It should explain why it proceeded with this transaction despite the apparent risks of money laundering and corruption associated with it.”...

“Claudia Sassou-Nguesso and José Veiga used many of the tools of the global financial system to enable them to siphon, hide and potentially launder millions of dollars of apparently public funds through a luxury Trump property. Such money should be spent in the best interests of Congolese citizens,” said Abreu. “This highlights the urgent need to address the ways in which opaque companies can move funds around the world at ease, facing no tough questions on provenance or legitimacy despite multiple corruption warning signs.”...

The consequences of transactions like these can be devastating, often for people battling poverty and corrupt governments in places like Congo, where leaders give public contracts to the least scrupulous investors and the most opportunistic criminals. Global Witness does not allege that either K&L Gates or the Trump Organization broke any laws in their roles in the acquisition of apartment 32G. There are no legal requirements in the U.S. for law firms or real estate actors to do due diligence on their clients, so the firm and Trump Organization may argue they were entitled to take on this business...Global Witness wrote to Trump Organization, Claudia Sassou-Nguesso, José Veiga’s lawyer, K&L Gates, and the Congolese government spokesperson asking for comment on the details and allegations laid out in this article. No substantive responses were received by any of these parties, but the Trump Organization has consistently refuted allegations of wrongdoing around property ventures and deals.

 

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Report
10 April 2019

Trump’s Luxury Condo: A Congolese State Affair - How the Congolese Presidential family used tainted money to buy a Trump apartment in New York City

Author: Global Witness

The daughter of the kleptocratic ruler of Republic of Congo used millions of dollars of apparently stolen state funds to buy a luxury apartment at the Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York City, Global Witness’ new investigation reveals. Despite the risks associated with the transaction, the Trump Organization brokered and profited from the apartment deal...Global Witness’ new investigation reveals that the daughter of Congo’s President appears to have helped herself to almost 20 million dollars in public funds and laundered part of the cash through U.S. property – specifically, a luxurious Trump apartment in Manhattan worth more than 7 million dollars...What follows is the story of apartment 32G in Trump International, and how Claudia Sassou-Nguesso, daughter of Congo’s President, used apparently stolen public funds to purchase it in the summer of 2014. The tale involves a notorious Portuguese middleman, a world-renowned American law firm, a complex network of secretive companies in multiple jurisdictions, and a now-defunct bank, and raises serious questions about the role Trump Organization played in a suspected money laundering scheme...the Portuguese media became interested when Veiga’s name was linked with the apartment in the Trump International. Pereira, the journalist looking at the story in 2017, contacted Veiga for comment. Veiga was happy to claim the apartment was his..."The apartment in question is owned by a company, of which I am the shareholder. The acquisition made by this company was financed by my own means, in a business that has nothing to do with third parties, namely the family of the President of Congo" [he said]...[Refers to Asperbras, Asperbras LLCBanco Espirito Santo, SebritVoxxiLeezu, K&L Gates LLPEcree].  

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