Two years into his presidency, Donald Trump continues to make money from properties and licensing deals in nearly two dozen countries around the world, fanning the flames of concerns that the Trump administration is subject to unprecedented levels of foreign influence.
Trump continued to hold more than $130 million in foreign assets in a revocable trust as his second year in office came to a close, according to OpenSecrets’ analysis of the president’s most recent annual personal financial disclosure released by the Office of Government Ethics last month.
Trump’s business entanglements continue to leave him with positions, assets, trademarks and other business interests in more than 30 countries.
Annual disclosure forms only require assets held at the end of the reporting period to be disclosed and require only minimal documentation of transactions. Income and property values are also often listed in wide ranges so the total amount may, in actuality, be much higher or lower.When it comes to foreign properties, the Trump Organization often charges a licensing fee to put the Trump name on the building and in some cases agrees to manage the property in exchange for a cut of the profits. This business model allows Trump to put his name on as many hotels and golf courses as possible while mitigating risk.Trump transferred control of the family-owned company to his adult children, who he said would pursue “no new deals” during his time in the Oval Office. Although the Trump Organization ended some proposed deals around the world, it has opened several new properties since 2017, with several providing direct income to Trump.
Trump’s sprawling web of foreign properties and investments, which includes some projects completed during his presidency or still under development, reveals a litany of apparent efforts by foreign business leaders and governments to gain influence with the leader of the free world. Some of the developers behind Trump-branded projects are under scrutiny for exploitative business practices. In many of these countries, developers work in close proximity to political power and wealthy businessmen have outsized influence with the government.
In addition to foreign-based business interests, Trump properties in the U.S. have also raked in considerable sums from foreign clientele. Foreign actors looking to influence U.S. policy in several cases have coupled foreign influence efforts with visits to Trump properties.
The Trump Organization pledged to contribute all profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury. In February, the company announced it had contributed $191,538 in foreign profits to the U.S. Treasury. Details of how that number is calculated have been kept under wraps and the comparably small sum donated to the Treasury raise questions about what is and isn’t included in that number. For example, Saudi Arabia’s government alone spent more at Trump International Hotel in the four months after Trump won the presidency than the entire Trump Organization donated to cover foreign profits either year.
Several groups have filed lawsuits alleging Trump has violated the Emoluments Clause, a section of the Constitution that restricts members of the government from receiving gifts or other benefits from foreign states or leaders without permission from Congress.
Trump has decades of history with Argentine President Mauricio Macri, including a hot and cold business relationship.
Macri’s father, Franco, reportedly tried to buy a majority share in one of Trump’s Manhattan real estate projects in 1979 and ended up losing tens of millions when the deal fell through.
According to a book written by Franco Macri, Trump threw a tantrum after losing a golf game to his son in the heat of those negotiations and broke his rival’s golf clubs one by one. When Macri was kidnapped and held for ransom in 1991, his father briefly speculated that Trump may have been the “true intellectual author” of the crime.
Trump made his “debut” in South America’s real estate market in 2012 with a project in Uruguay reportedly financed by Argentine investors. Trump Organization spokespeople said that their goal was to “bring the Trump brand to Buenos Aires.”
In Trump’s first call with Macri following the election in November 2016, Trump reportedly asked the Argentine leader to “deal with the permitting issues that are currently holding up” development of a building in Buenos Aires, a claim spokespeople for the former business partners turned world leaders have denied.
Trump’s business partner on the project, Felipe Yaryura, attended Trump’s election night victory celebration at Trump tower in New York City.
Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku never opened and likely never will, as the empty building was badly damaged in an April 2018 fire.That did not, however, stop Trump from reportedly raking in millions of dollars from the hotel.
The 33-story tower stands out, both as a unique structure planted in a marooned downtown neighborhood and as perhaps one of the Trump Organization’s most controversy-laden projects.
Developed with relatives of Azerbaijan Transportation Minister Ziya Mammadov — who a U.S. diplomat described as “notoriously corrupt even for Azerbaijan” — the project linked the Trump Organization to a family with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the Trump administration recently labeled a foreign terrorist organization.Construction on the building began in 2008, and the Trump Organization began working on the property in 2012 to transform it into a luxury hotel. As usual, Trump was not financially invested in the property, instead licensing his name and agreeing to manage the property when it was completed, for a fee. Still, the Trump Organization was heavily involved in the design of the hotel, with Ivanka Trump personally overseeing its development.
The Trump Organization’s working relationship with the Mammadovs, including Azerbaijan parliament member Elton Mammadov, raised the eyebrows of members of Congress. According to leaked diplomatic cables, the Mammadovs built up significant clout in Azerbaijan, leveraging their positions in government to lucrative contracts for their businesses.
The New Yorker reported that the Mammadovs paid for initial construction of the building with giant piles of cash, one of which totaled $2 million.
The Trump Organization did not deny that the Mammadovs engaged in corrupt activities, instead arguing that the company was not liable to U.S. anti-corruption laws as it did not have a financial stake in the project. The company told the New Yorker it did not learn of the Mammadovs’ possible ties to the Revolutionary Guard until 2015.Trump reportedly earned up to $2.8 million in management fees from the hotel between 2012 and 2016. But as a luxury hotel located in an underdeveloped section of downtown Baku, the project may have been doomed from the start. The Trump Organization canceled its licensing deal for the hotel in December 2016, shortly after the project stalled before Trump took office due to an apparent lack of interest.
Azerbaijan is considered a hotbed for money laundering, with members of the government’s ruling class engaging in a multi-billion dollar money laundering scheme. Some of that money went to shell companies, then found its way to an obscure U.S. lobbying firm that only had a few clients.
The Azerbaijan government stepped up its foreign lobbying and influence spending in 2017, spending $926,587 and enlisting the once-powerful Podesta Group to promote the country’s rich oil opportunities and strong relationship with Israel, among other things.
Just before the former Trump-branded tower burned in April 2018, Azerbaijan hired Ballard Partners, run by former Trump fundraiser Brian Ballard, primarily to help promote the country’s centennial celebration. Following the registration, a number of congressmen, including Robert Aderholt, Bill Shuster, Steve Cohen and Gene Green took to the floor to enter their congratulations to Azerbaijan into the Congressional Record.
Trump’s ownership of a Bermuda-based company called D.J. Aerospace Ltd remains shrouded in mystery.
The absence of corporate income tax in Bermuda has led some to speculate it may be used as an offshore account, but it isn’t clear if the company or account are still active.
The name suggests it may have been linked to a Boeing 727 luxury jet Trump owned with a tail number beginning ‘VP-B’, a code indicating Bermuda registration.
New York City Department of Finance records show that Trump recorded a security interest in the Boeing 727 jet in 1997 but that plane had been sold to a company called Westar Aviation Services in 2011.
The Trump Organization’s involvement in a luxury Rio de Janeiro hotel ostensibly came to an abrupt end after it was revealed the project may have had dubious beginnings.
The Trump Organization withdrew its licensing and management agreement with the 13-story luxury hotel in December 2016. The move came just weeks after a Brazilian federal prosecutor opened a criminal investigation into the hotel and several other real estate projects centering on suspicious investments from state-owned pension funds.
The investigation also looked into Trump Towers Rio, a project to build five office towers proposed in 2012 but never started. Trump cancelled his involvement in that project in January 2017.
Since then, Brazilian prosecutors rolled out charges against several of Trump’s former business partners for diverting public pension funds into the projects in exchange for bribes and illegal commissions. The Trump Organization, which was not involved in funding the project, has not been implicated in the scheme.
Paulo Figueiredo Filho, the developer and owner of the luxury hotel project, was among those charged. Figueiredo, the grandson of a former military dictator, previously touted his ties to Trump and said he wasn’t worried about Trump’s run for president upsetting the hotel’s brand. In an August 2015 interview with the New York Times, he expressed confidence that Trump’s run would increase exposure of the project.
According to Brazilian news outlets, Brazil has issued an Interpol “red notice” in an attempt to arrest Figueiredo, who currently lives in the U.S. It doesn’t appear that attempt worked. According to Florida property records, Figueiredo currently owns a home in Weston under his business Olive-Fig Tree International, which was still active as of April 2019.
In a separate investigation, another former Trump partner living in the U.S., Arthur César de Menezes Soares Filho, was charged in an alleged bribery scheme related to Rio de Janeiro’s bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Prosecutors reportedly could not reach an agreement with the U.S. to extradite the Miami resident or freeze his bank accounts as of June 2017. U.S. prosecutors in December 2017 reportedly subpoenaed the Brazilian businessman, known by his nickname “King George,” for financial documents relating to corruption with the 2016 Olympics.
While Trump’s focus as president was south of the border, his sons were busy putting a bow on his business deal north of the border.
Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump celebrated the opening of Trump International Hotel and Tower Vancouver in February 2017. The 63-story tower was funded by wealthy Malaysian developer Tiah Joo Kim, who inked a licensing deal with Trump that netted the president up to $5 million during his first year in office. Trump reported making $213,946 to manage the property last year.
The reaction from the Canadian government was mixed. Local officials expressed opposition to the Trump name being on the building following Trump’s controversial rhetoric during the 2016 Republican primaries. On the other hand, Tourism Vancouver promoted the Trump’s Vancouver hotel before it was finished and again in 2017 during its grand opening, noting that the city needed more hotel rooms during the summer season due to high occupancy rates. The tourism agency, which is partially funded by the government of British Columbia and lists itself as a government of a foreign country in FARA filings, contributed to Canada’s sky-high $27 million in foreign influence spending in the U.S. in 2017.
Joo Kim attended Trump’s inauguration and took a picture with the newly elected president, but he soon began to fret about the Trump brand’s staying power, calling Trump’s comments on Muslims, Mexicans and women “extremely stressful.” Joo Kim added that he was “locked in” to the licensing deal.
Trump’s other licensing deal in Canada ended in June 2017. Workers removed the “TRUMP” sign from the hotel formerly known as Trump Tower Toronto after the building’s new owner JCF Capital ended the licensing and management agreement. The financially-troubled tower was opened in 2012 and fell into disrepair almost immediately. An Ontario court placed the hotel into receivership in November 2016 after its owner, Russian-born Toronto investor Alex Shnaider, failed to make debt payments.
By all accounts, the hotel was a disaster. As investors lost substantial sums of money on the project, Trump walked away with millions, thanks to the Trump Organization’s risk-free licensing and management agreement. Trump in 2007 said he was invested in the property, but by 2011, the Trump Organization changed its tune, saying it did not pump money into the hotel.
The hotel has come under scrutiny as a way for Russian actors to funnel money to Trump. In May 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported that Shnaider funded the tower using assets he obtained by selling his stake in a Ukrainian steel mill for an estimated $850 million in 2010. Russian state-owned bank VEB, which was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2014, reportedly financed the sale.
In July 2018, the Financial Times reported that Shnaider previously made a secret $100 million payment to Moscow-based “introducers” representing the Kremlin’s interests to help facilitate the sale. The deal eventually provided money for Trump himself through his licensing and management deal. Trump reported making $559,904 in management fees in his 2017 financial disclosure.
Trump’s seemingly perpetual battle with China has been riddled with apparent attempts by the Chinese government to influence the president.
Although it’s difficult to ascertain whether these attempts have been successful, they demonstrate that foreign governments will use whatever avenues they can in attempts to influence U.S. policy amid crucial negotiations and foreign policy decisions.
Right off the bat, China did its best to appease the incoming president, approving a “TRUMP” trademark for Trump’s construction-related services in China just days after Trump’s election night win. Although it might not seem like much, the trademark had proven to be elusive one for Trump. He unsuccessfully filed for the trademark in December 2006, then unsuccessfully appealed to Chinese courts.
The trademark was one of 77 approved Chinese trademarks Trump owned as of February 2017. One month later, China granted preliminary approval for another 38 trademarks in a hasty move described as “weird” by one Hong Kong intellectual property consultant.
Still, Trump did not maintain an equable relationship with China going into his presidency.
On Dec. 2, 2016, Trump broke prior protocol with a phone call to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. Trump followed that up by musing that the U.S. might not be bound by its longstanding position that Taiwan is part of “one China,” further antagonizing China.
The call may not have been happenstance. Former Senator Bob Dole worked behind the scenes as a foreign agent lobbying for the government of Taiwan, arranging contacts for high-level Taiwanese officials with Trump campaign staff and facilitating a Taiwanese delegation’s attendance at the Republican convention when Trump was nominated.
Multiple reports indicate Trump was considering developing a series of luxury hotels and resorts in Taiwan around that time. Shortly before Trump’s election, a businesswoman with a letter stating that she is a “sales ambassador” for Trump’s businesses named Chen Siting, who is also known as Charlyne Chen, reportedly met with the mayor of the northern Taiwanese city of Taoyuan about a “major investment” in building luxury hotels as part of the island’s new airport development. Reportedly giving a speech at a Friends of Trump banquet in central Taipei on November 1, 2016, she claimed that Trump’s business was interested in investing in Taiwan and that his son, Eric, would visit later that year.
The month before Trump’s election, Anne-Marie Donoghue, the global director of transient sales & Asia for Trump, hotels posted a photo from a visit to Taiwan noting that she was in Taipei for work with the message “Work trip but it has been so fun!!!” The Trump Organization denied making visits to Taiwan for development purposes.Following a February 2017 call with China’s leader Xi Jinping, Trump appears to have reversed course on Taiwan, agreeing to honor the “one China” policy. No further developments on prospective Trump business interests in Taiwan have been reported since that time. As Trump’s term continued, it became evident that Ivanka Trump would also benefit from China’s apparent attempts to tempt the Trump administration. On April 6, 2017, the same night Ivanka Trump dined with Jinping at Mar-A-Lago, the Chinese government granted her approval for three new trademarks to sell products related to jewelry, bags and spa services.
Along with trade, Chinese telecoms ZTE and Huawei emerged as major focal points in the foreign policy battle between the U.S. and China. U.S. officials consider both companies to be controlled by the Chinese government and thus a potential national security threat. The Trump administration in April 2018 banned American firms from selling parts to ZTE for seven years, dealing a crippling blow to the Chinese firm.
That ban didn’t last long. In what was considered a quid-pro-quo by some and a coincidence by others, Trump in May 2018 tweeted he would to find a way to save ZTE shortly after China approved seven new trademarks for Ivanka Trump’s various business measures. The deal also came shortly after reports that a state-owned Chinese company would provide $500 million for a Trump-licensed project in Indonesia.
Trump delivered on his promise, striking a deal with ZTE last June to lift crippling sanctions in exchange for a $1 billion fine and a restructuring of the company’s leadership. The decision was widely panned by Trump’s advisers and Republican allies in Congress. The Senate swiftly voted to block the deal, arguing that ZTE is a national security threat, but both chambers of Congress later agreed to drop an effort to derail the deal. Trump followed up in July 2018 by lifting the ban on ZTE just three months after it was enforced.
In November 2018, Ivanka Trump received approval for another 16 new Chinese trademarks ranging from voting machines to sausage casing to handbags. Amid heated trade talks with the U.S. in January 2019, China approved five new trademarks for Ivanka Trump.
However, the relationship between Trump and Beijing has since turned hostile, further provoked by an escalating trade war between the two powers, as well as the U.S.’s attempt to extradite Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou from Canada over charges of financial fraud. Since working out a deal with ZTE, Trump has paved the way to ban Chinese telecommunications firms from taking part in the next-generation 5G wireless network in the U.S.
ZTE, for its part, has directly lobbied the Trump administration and Congress, spending a company record $3.8 million in 2018 and hiring a host of former members including Connie Mack, Norm Coleman and Joe Lieberman, who argued he isn’t actually lobbying for ZTE despite formally registering as a lobbyist for the telecom giant.
Huawei has spent less on domestic lobbying — $165,000 last year — but the embattled company in March hired several U.S. firms as foreign agents to shape its image in the states.
Trump’s efforts to limit the companies came as Trump indicated they could be a bargaining chip in a potential U.S.-China trade deal.At least 49 of Trump’s Chinese trademarks are up in 2020, potentially giving China a bargaining chip of its own as it negotiates with the Trump administration. Additionally, the state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has a lease with Trump Tower in New York City worth an estimated $1.5 million per year, slated to end in October 2019. Trump’s New York property on 1290 Avenue of the Americas, partially indebted to the state-owned Bank of China, earned Trump more than $5 million last year. In China, the business of attempting to sell access to Trump through Mar-a-Lago memberships and straw campaign contributions has become a new industry of sorts, the Washington Post reported.
Trump has tested the limits of his “no new deals” pledge in the Dominican Republic.
The Trump Farallon Estates at Cap Cana were initially envisioned as a series of luxury seaside villas serving as an anchor for the larger Cap Cana project described as “Disneyland for Chavistas,” a reference to adherents of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s political doctrine in which a powerful centralized state implements socialist policies.
Trump personally appeared to launch the development in 2007 but sued Cap Cana and developers tied to the project in 2012 after reportedly missing around $6 million in licensing fees the Trump organization was owed. Settlement of the lawsuit resulted in two luxury ocean view properties in the Dominican Republic gifted to Trump.
The project appeared to go dormant and the deal seemed all but dead.
In April 2015, shortly before Trump made his infamous escalator descent into the gilded lobby of the eponymous Trump Tower to officially announce his candidacy for President, the Trump Organization sold one property in the Dominican Republic to a shell company that appears to be tied to Venezuelans reportedly closely linked to Venezuela’s Socialist Party and Diosdado Cabello, the second most powerful man in President Nicolás Maduro’s government. Cabello is currently under U.S. sanctions for alleged drug trafficking and money laundering.
Financial disclosures indicate that the Trump entity controlling the property earned $3.2 million from land sales last year. Earlier promotional materials showed an asking price of $3.5 million for the property.
Then in February 2017, weeks after Trump’s inauguration, Capa Cana executives announced that Eric Trump traveled to tour the project.
“We are excited to be working with the Trump Organization in the future phases of the project,” they said of the decade-old development. A Trump Organization attorney described the deal as “never dead” and that discussions were “very preliminary” despite the years of inactivity.
In March 2011, Trump signed a deal with Giorgi Ramishvili, chairman of Georgian investment firm Silk Road Group, to license his name on two major Georgia-based projects. At an estimated cost of $300 million, the partners planned to build a tower in the capital city of Tbilisi and a complex in the coastal city Batumi. The plan came together thanks to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who had formed a friendship with Trump and urged him to invest in the former Soviet Union state. Trump flew to Georgia in 2012 to officially announce Trump Tower Batumi.
In 2005, Kazakhstan-based BTA Bank loaned hundreds of millions of dollars to Silk Road Group to help develop Georgia. The New Yorker reported that the deal was mired in allegations of money laundering and fraud, which Silk Road Group denied. After BTA Bank’s former chairman stole billions from the bank in 2009, BTA Bank hired Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and a firm owned by Trump business partner Felix Sater to help recover the stolen money. The bank later alleged that Sater helped launder stolen money through a potential Trump Tower Moscow.
The Trump tower Batumi project hit a roadblock later in 2012 when Saakashvili’s party lost parliamentary elections and he fled the country in fear of retribution from his political opponents. Incoming Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili criticized the Georgian government’s promotion of the Trump Tower Batumi project, noting that Trump wasn’t actually investing in the development of the property.
Shortly following Trump’s election, Bloomberg reported that there was revived interest in Georgia over the high-rise project. But in January 2017, the Trump Organization pulled out of the project. The company declined to provide a reason why the deal fell through, though Silk Road Group said the president did so to avoid a conflict of interest, despite a Trump attorney’s earlier claim that the move was “normal housekeeping” and “not part of a strategy to reduce potential conflicts of interests.”
The Trump Organization covets perhaps no other foreign country more than India, where it has begun developing several real estate projects. The Trump Organization’s successes in India have coincided largely with Trump’s November 2016 election win.
Trump Tower Mumbai has easily been the most fruitful licensing deal for Trump so far. The 78-story tower, expected to open in June 2019, netted the president between $1 million and $5 in upfront license fees in 2017. Developed by Lodha Group, a massive real estate company founded by prominent Indian politician Mangal Lodha, the luxurious hotel reportedly plans to offer a private jet service for its residents. Promotional materials for the building heavily featured Trump, even playing up the fact that he was president of the U.S.
The Mumbai project wasn’t always a sure thing. Lodha Group subsidiaries were reportedly under investigation by several Indian agencies on allegations of money laundering and tax fraud, according to a report from The New Republic.
Things began to change following India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rise to power in 2014. In August 2014, Trump flew to Mumbai to promote the tower, all while heaping praise on the new prime minister. In his first visit to the Trump White House in June 2017, Modi reminisced over Trump’s kind comments made during his 2014 trip to India.
An internal memo obtained by The New Republic found that the Lodha Group had subsidiaries that were likely acting as shell companies for money laundering activities. But investigations into Lodha Group stalled as of March 2017, reportedly hampered by Modi’s political appointees. The litany of investigations into Lodha Group were closed as of 2018.
Trump and Modi continued to praise each other through Trump’s first term, and the Trump Organization was eager to take advantage of the strong relationship between world leaders. The Trump Organization’s luxury hotels in Pune reportedly drew millions of dollars in real estate sales during Donald Trump Jr.’s February 2018 trip to India. Then, he hosted a dinner with investors and planned to host a separate foreign policy speech alongside Modi. Trump Jr. cancelled the foreign policy speech the next day amid criticism.
Just after his election victory, Trump personally met with Indian property developers, including Kalpesh Mehta, with whom the Trump Organization would do plenty of business over the course of Trump’s presidency.
In what can only be considered a “new foreign deal,” Trump Jr. launched a series of residential projects with Mehta in October 2017, including Trump Tower Kolkata, a high-rise hotel that netted Trump between $100,001 and $1 million last year under a licensing agreement. They launched a project in January 2018 to build another luxury development, this time in the northern district of Gurgaon.
Trump recently congratulated Modi for his May 2019 election win and said he looked forward to working together. But even India hasn’t been able to avoid Trump’s aggressive trade policy. The Trump administration in June 2019 announced it would subject India to tariffs it has long been exempt from.
Indonesian billionaire Hary Tanoesoedibjo had big plans. He and Trump were going to build a massive resort and golf course in the secluded forests of West Java and a new Trump tower on the island of Bali. Then, wielding a connection with Trump, Tanoesoedibjo would run for president of Indonesia.
Within months of Trump’s June 2015 presidential campaign launch, Trump and Tanoesoedibjo announced licensing deals for two luxury resort properties in Indonesia.But only one of the two men would be elected president. And one of the projects appears to be in doubt too. Nearly two years after a large Bali hotel was demolished to make way for the Trump-branded property, construction has reportedly stalled.
Instead, the West Java resort and “smart city” has become the main focus for Tanoesoedibjo’s real estate company MNC Land. One of the project’s contractors, South Korean firm Posco E&C, is partially-owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. Despite delays on the property, it has earned Trump $256,249 since he took office.
The project is reportedly backed in part by a Chinese state-owned enterprise meant to fund a theme park on the West Java property, a report Tanoesoedibjo denies. The city’s theme park is being built by a Chinese state-owned firm.
Following his failed vice presidential run in 2014, Tanoesoedibjo backed Indonesia President Joko Widodo’s successful re-election campaign. Tanoesoedibjo has since boasted about his ties to Widodo, partnering with state anti-drug efforts and stating he and the president agree that growth in the property and tourism sectors should be the nation’s top priority.
The Indonesian government has offered several olive branches to Tanoesoedibjo and Trump, constructing a toll road that will dramatically reduce the travel time to Trump’s Bali property from the airport in Jakarta. An Indonesian state-owned firm began construction on a second toll road to Trump’s secluded West Java property.
Trump’s June 2019 trip to Ireland appeared to be in doubt. The Trump Administration wanted to meet at Trump’s golf course in Doonbeg. The Irish government wasn’t thrilled with that idea.
Trump was reportedly threatening to cancel the trip when Irish officials expressed concern over spending taxpayer dollars to meet at Trump’s business. After some negotiations, the visit was confirmed. In a compromise, Trump would meet with Irish officials at an Irish airport, then spend a few days at Trump International Golf Links Doonbeg, which generated $14.5 million in revenue last year, up from $12.5 million in 2017.
First opened in 2002, the golf course and resort was purchased by Trump in 2014. Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan rolled out a red carpet during a welcoming party for Trump, who was then a businessman and not a political candidate.
That wasn’t the first time, or last time, that the Irish government boosted Trump’s property in the name of promoting tourism. In 2014, Ireland Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, minister for tourism at the time, received a surprise phone call from Trump asking that he help block a planning permit for a windfarm to be built in the area. Varadkar said he called the local city council to plead Trump’s case and the permit was denied. He later corrected his statement, saying he only contacted Ireland’s tourism authority about the matter.
In 2019, amid a sea of countries competing for Trump’s attention, Varadkar is the only foreign leader to secure substantive annual meetings with the U.S. president. The two discussed Brexit and trade during their May 2019 discussion, with Trump threatening to “tariff a lot of their products coming in because the European Union treats us very, very unfairly.”
Tourism is one of the largest contributors to Ireland’s economy, making it a top priority for the government. Tourism Ireland, funded by the Irish government to promote the country to the rest of the world, has spent nearly $31 million under FARA since 2017, helping make Ireland the top foreign influence spender since Trump took office.
The agency sponsored an October 2017 gala held at Trump’s golf course, prompting raised eyebrows from government watchdogs that the government was providing a gift to the Trump administration.
In a decision welcomed by Irish tourism bodies, Trump approved Ireland-based Norwegian Air International’s low-cost airline route between the U.S. and Ireland after taking office. The airline had long been unable to get the Obama administration to approve U.S. travel, despite personal requests from the prime minister, until it was finally granted preliminary approval in December 2016.
The decision was met by lawsuits from labor unions that said it threatened U.S. jobs. Labor unions, along with more than 100 members of Congress, unsuccessfully lobbied Trump to revoke the permit. Trump swiftly approved U.S.-Ireland routes, though Norwegian Air has since cancelled some of these routes, stating that it expected its low prices would do more to stimulate demand.
Trump Drinks Israel LLC brought in between $50,000 and $100,000 in royalties, according to July 2015 disclosure. The Trump Organization arm that handled Trump Vodka’s sales in Israel hasn’t reported revenue since 2015 but was reportedly seen stocked in Israel.
Elite Tower, formerly known as Trump Plaza Tower and Trump Elite Tower, in Tel Aviv, Israel, was previously planned for development but Trump sold the property for roughly $80 million in 2007.
Trump has been vocal about building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. There was, however, a time when Trump explored expanding his business empire into the country — a venture that ended in foreclosure, lawsuits and allegations of fraud.Trump reportedly collected $32.5 million from customers before giving up on the project.
In 2013, Trump settled a lawsuit with more than 100 condo-buyers who lost millions of dollars paid to Trump Ocean Resort for deposits on condos in a development that was foreclosed upon before construction even began. Trump has since complained multiple times that the Mexican legal system is “corrupt.”
Issues related to the failed development came back up when a Mexican government official filed a criminal complaint against Trump shortly before his election alleging that the then-presidential candidate had defrauded investors and committed tax fraud. The complaint was later expanded to include allegations that Trump violated Mexican law by seeking to buy property too close to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Investigators at Mexico’s federal attorneys office probed the charge into 2018.Mexico, alongside Indonesia, is one of two countries in the World Intellectual Property Organization where Trump currently has trademark applications pending.In February 2016, the same day that Trump railed against Mexico at a campaign rally in South Carolina, a law firm in Mexico City filed trademark applications on behalf of the Trump Organization.
The trademarks could open the door to a broad range of business operations from construction and hotels to real estate financial services. Trump Organization General Counsel Alan Garten told AP that the trademarks are “laying the ground for possible new ventures and keeping other people from using Trump’s name.”
In October 2016, weeks before Trump’s election victory, the Mexican government’s patent and trademark administration body approved one of those trademarks. And weeks after Trump’s inauguration, the Mexican government approved three more.
Trump’s first international hotel venture, the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower, evolved into quite the moneymaker following its 2011 opening. Trump reported raking in $810,795 to manage the Panama City property in 2017 and anywhere from $100,001 to $1,000,000 to license the Trump name.
But last year, disaster struck. After a down year in which investors reported losing substantial sums of money on their rooms, the building’s majority owner terminated the Trump Organization’s management agreement and stripped the hotel of its “Trump” name.The Trump Organization fought the decision in Panamanian court but ultimately lost. In a last ditch effort, the organization sent a letter to Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela requesting his “influence” to reverse the decision. The letter suggested the Panamanian government could be liable for wrongdoing, raising questions from government ethics experts on whether the letter was really a veiled threat by the U.S. government.
Varela rejected the request, saying he didn’t believe President Trump was behind the letter, but declared that the barrier between Trump and his private interests is “a wall that must be built.”
The property was later rebranded as a JW Marriott. Trump reported making just $3,016 from the hotel’s management agreement in 2018 and didn’t report any income from the licensing agreement.
In June 2019, the new owners of the Panama City hotel went even further, suing the Trump Organization in Manhattan federal court over claims that the company defrauded Panamanian tax authorities to dodge taxes. The Trump Organization called the claim “completely false.”
Funded in part by Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, a Brazilian car salesman with apparent links to convicted criminals, the Trump-branded project had dubious beginnings. Three years after getting involved with the Trump-branded project, Nogueira fled Panama amid state charges of fraud and forgery and cheating allegations by Trump Ocean Club investors. Nogueira later told Reuters that eastern Europeans with links to organized crime invested in the property. Trump did not have a stake in the building’s development, only in managing the property and licensing his brand, but Ivanka Trump played a leading role in developing and marketing the 70-foot tower.
In November 2007, just before the financial crisis gobbled up Bear Stearns, the investment bank underwrote a $220 million bond to fund the project.
Following the Panama Papers leak that exposed countless tax shelters in Panama, the government hired New York consulting firm Bellwether Strategies as a foreign agent to rehabilitate its image. Panama spent a whopping $3.9 million in 2017, with most coming from the Tourism Authority of Panama.
Philippine investment group Century Properties says Trump Tower Philippines is the “definitive landmark” of Manila, the capital city.
The licensing deal was lucrative for Trump, earning between $1 million and $5 million in 2018 as the hotel began its marketing push. It might have been ever sweeter for Jose E. B. Antonio, chairman and CEO of Century Properties. The real estate mogul was appointed special envoy to the U.S. by Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte just one day after Trump was elected president. Century Properties’ stocks on the Philippine Stock Exchange rose 20 percent on the news of Trump’s win.
Although the Trump Organization claimed that it directed foreign business partners to stop invoking Trump in marketing and promotional materials following his election, Trump’s image and words continued to be prominently displayed in advertising for the Manila property months after Trump’s election.
Trump and Duterte got off to a strong start. In what came as a surprise to some of his aides, Trump congratulated the Philippine president for taking a hard line on illegal drugs. Duterte has encouraged extrajudicial killings of drug users and dealers, as well as political opponents, leading to the deaths of thousands.
The Philippine Embassy hosted its June 2018 independence day celebration at Trump’s D.C. hotel as Duterte unsuccessfully pushed for a trade deal with the U.S. Although Duterte has blamed the U.S. for the Philippines’ economic woes, he has refused to criticize Trump.
Trump’s relationship with the Qatari government has been subject to some turbulence.
For years prior to Trump’s 2016 presidential run, Qatar’s state-owned carrier Qatar Airways had a “corporate campus” at Trump Tower in New York. But mere months after the country dropped more than $6 million for an apartment in a Trump-owned building, Trump accused Qatar of being “a funder of terrorism at a very high level.” A year later, however, Qatar’s leader was warmly welcomed by the president at the White House.
Trump’s financial disclosure forms list four companies that may be related to prospective business interests in Qatar. All four, including an entity called THC Qatar Hotel Manager, were established in late 2014, but there is no activity or income reported for these companies.
While Trump initially held a role with all of the companies, his financial disclosures indicate then-candidate Trump left his final position with THC HoteI Manager Member Corp weeks before the 2016 election. The entities were dissolved in January 2017, according to Trump’s 2018 disclosure.
Qatar has spent heavily on foreign influence campaigns, shelling out $18 million over the last two years. The firm has hired Trump-connected Ballard Partners and former attorney general John Ashcroft, along with several other U.S. firms.
In June 2019, the Scotsman reported that the U.S. government had spend more than 1 million pounds on rooms at five-star London hotels tied to the ruling family of Qatar during Trump’s visits to the U.K.
“I have nothing to do with Russia. I never did.”
Trump’s campaign trail claims that he never did business in Russia were swiftly undermined by a mountain of evidence, much of which was well known and widely reported, that he pursued several business deals in Russia over the last three decades.
As early as his 1987 Art of the Deal book, Trump expressed dreams of “building a large luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin in partnership with the Soviet government.”
Trump closed his first Russia-based deal in 1996, announcing a plan to invest $250 million in Russian real estate projects, including a “super-luxury residential tower.” In the mid-2000s, Trump explored building a luxury tower with his business partner Felix Sater. In 2008, Donald Trump Jr. reportedly spoke openly about the high number of Russian businessmen invested in Trump’s New York properties, but detailed the difficulty of developing a property in Russia, calling it a “scary place.”
Trump’s proposed deals ultimately fell through. But the Trump Organization wasn’t discouraged. In 2013, Trump announced at the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow that he was in talks with Russian companies to build a skyscraper.“TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next,” Trump tweeted following the event.
That effort began to materialize during Trump’s presidential run, according to special counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Sater and Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen communicated with Russian officials about the project, and in November 2015 they sent a letter of intent with a Moscow investor laying out details of the multi-million dollar deal.
The Trump Organization reportedly planned to give a $50 million penthouse at Trump Tower Moscow to Russian President Vladimir Putin as Trump’s businesses negotiated the luxury real estate development around the 2016 election.Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said plans for the Trump Tower in Moscow were “active” into November 2016.Trump repeatedly denied exploring a project in Moscow, as did Cohen, who pleaded guilty in November 2018 to lying to Congress.
Though he was never able to complete a building in Russia, Trump has profited from wealthy Russian businessmen with ties to the authoritarian government. Reuters reported in 2017 that members of the Russian elite had invested nearly $100 million in Trump-branded properties in Florida.
Additionally, Trump sold a Palm Beach property in 2008 to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for $95 million, more than twice the roughly $41 million he for which purchased it just four years earlier, according to a Panama Papers filing. The Rybolovlevs reportedly never lived at the estate. During a July 2017 press conference in which he urged Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails, Trump identified the sale as the only deal with Russian individuals he had made.
In 2017, golf writer James Dodson told Boston radio station WBUR that Eric Trump talked about the Trump Organizations’ source of funding for its golf courses during a 2013 interview at Trump’s Charlotte course. Following an inquiry about which banks were funding golf courses during the recession, Eric Trump reportedly told Dodson “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.” Eric Trump later denied telling Dodson this, calling it “fake news.”
Trump’s lengthy history with influential Russian businessmen and politicians during his time as a private citizen came under intense scrutiny during the 2016 election as Russian actors attempted to help Trump win.
Mueller’s report details attempts from Russian actors to infiltrate the Trump campaign, representing brazen attempts at foreign influence. Highlighting this kind of direct influence is the 2016 Trump Tower meeting in which Russian actors directly appealed, unsuccessfully, to the Trump campaign to oppose Putin’s least favorite bill, the Magnitsky Act.
Russian actors continued to discuss sanctions as the Trump campaign became the Trump transition team. Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak spoke with Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn about the penalties invoked by the Obama administration, a conversation about which Flynn lied to the FBI. The Justice Department in May 2019 asked that Flynn’s wiretapped conversation with Kislyak remain confidential.
Russian actors have also pursued more traditional forms of foreign influence. After the Trump administration imposed sanctions on businesses owned by Putin ally Oleg Deripaska, the chairman of one of Deripaska’s groups hired a former senator to lobby for a deal to have sanctions removed. In January 2019, the Trump administration lifted the sanctions on some of Deripaska’s companies after the company underwent an ownership shakeup. Millions of dollars in Deripaska’s shares would be transferred to his children under the deal.
The Russian government granted Trump six trademarks in 2016. Four of the Russian trademarks were approved for renewal on Nov. 8, 2016, the day after Trump’s election, including a trademark for Trump Tower.
“Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million,” Trump said at a 2016 campaign rally, “Am I supposed to dislike them?”
The same day he spoke favorably about Saudi spending on his properties, Trump incorporated multiple new limited-liability companies that appear to be related to potentially expanding his vast business empire into Jeddah, the second largest city in Saudi Arabia. With names like THC Jeddah Hotel Manager Member Corp and DT Jeddah Technical Services Advisor LLC, records of the companies reflect a naming convention similar to those for other Trump branding of prospective business deals.
While no development has been publicly divulged, financial disclosures to the Office of Government Ethics indicate Trump held a position with at least two of the companies through Nov. 15, 2016, days after his election.
Trump Organization attorney Alan Garten described the move canceling the projects as “normal housekeeping” due to developers falling short on fulfilling their end of the licensing deal.
Saudi foreign agents and lobbyists came under fire for spending more than $270,000 to put up a group of veterans at Trump International Hotel. The vets were lobbying for changes to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) — legislation that enabled 9/11 lawsuits against the government of Saudi Arabia — after those veterans claimed they did not know their trip had been organized and financed by the Government of Saudi Arabia.
A single “last minute” visit by the Saudi Crown Prince drove Trump International Hotel in Manhattan’s room revenue up 13 percent in the first three months of 2018 following a two-year decline. A 2018 report to Trump Hotel Chicago investors on foreign and U.S. customers broken down by country originally obtained by the Washington Post showed a 169 percent increase in Saudi Arabia-based patrons since 2016. Planning documents, agendas and conversations with organizers indicate that the Saudi government paid for more than 500 nights in Trump hotel rooms.Trump campaign officials and other close Trump allies have joined in the Saudi’s lobbying efforts.
Sonoran Policy Group — a lobbying firm founded by Trump campaign advisor Robert Stryk that has also employed the Trump campaign’s national field director, a Trump campaign state chief of staff and the former deputy to ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn — emerged as one of the highest-paid firms since Trump took office.Nearly all of the $6 million in reported receipts from foreign interests paying Sonoran to influence the United States during Trump’s first year in office came from a single $5.4 million lump payment from the Saudi Ministry of the Interior for “broad advisory services.” The lump payment was under a contract that was reportedly terminated shortly after it was signed, resulting in the Trump ally-heavy firm essentially being paid over $5 million to “do nothing.”
One firm that has continued to represent Saudi interests, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, has touted its team’s “significant relationships” with the incoming Trump administration.
One Trump appointee was simultaneously paid to work as an active Saudi foreign agent. Richard Hohlt registered as a foreign agent of the Saudi Arabian government weeks before the 2016 presidential election — and just months before President Trump appointed him to the Commission on White House Fellowships.
Under a contract paying out $430,000 for “advice on legislative and public affairs strategies,” Hohlt continued raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars for representing the interests of Saudi Arabia while serving on Trump’s commission. Appointees like Hohlt are not considered full-time employees and thus are exempt from President Trump’s executive order imposing a lifetime ban on executive branch appointees engaging in foreign lobbying or other work that would require registration under FARA. That opens the door for other foreign agents — including Ballard Partners’ Justin Sayfie, who represents the interests of governments of Turkey and Qatar while serving as a Trump White House appointee — to concurrently hold U.S. government appointments while working to promote the interests of a foreign government under current ethics laws.
Perhaps no other foreign country provides more money to Trump than Scotland, where the president owns two golf courses that brought in up to $27 million in revenue last year.
But as the president takes in millions, his Scotland courses rack up massive losses. Trump’s Aberdeen golf club lost more than 1 million pounds in 2017 and grew its debt to nearly 11 million pounds, according to the most recent financial filings with UK government agency Companies House. Trump’s Turnberry course fared even worse, losing more than 3 million pounds.
The losses continue as Trump uses his position as president to promote his own courses. During a July 2018 visit to Scotland, Trump promoted Trump Turnberry, tweeting, “The weather is beautiful, and this place is incredible!” In an earlier meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump brought up his golf course when recounting his prediction that “Brexit would happen.”
In another promotional effort, Trump plugged his Aberdeen golf course in a March 2019 tweet, calling it “perhaps the greatest golf course anywhere in the world!”
As Trump has golfed in Scotland, U.S., taxpayers have footed the bill. Trump’s businesses made tens of thousands of dollars during the President’s trip to his Scotland golf club and resort properties with U.S. taxpayer paying the tab, according to federal government spending records for payments routed through SLC Turnberry Ltd Golf Recreation Scotland. As the parent company to Trump’s Aberdeen golf club, it continues to be wholly owned by President Trump through a New York-based state grantor trust named the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust. Trump’s two days of golf at Trump Turnberry cost taxpayers an estimated $3 million, according to an analysis by the Huffington Post.
Scotland has done its part to help Trump businesses. A May 2019 report from the Scotsman found that the Scottish Northern Lighthouse Board, run by government-appointed individuals, has been charging the Trump Organization just 100 pounds per month to a lease a lighthouse that serves as the centerpiece of Trump’s Turnberry property. The deal was struck in August 2015, months after Trump declared his run for president.
That’s not to say everything has been pleasant between Trump and Scotland. As a private citizen, Trump spent years battling the Scotland government over offshore wind farms proposed to be built along his Aberdeenshire golf course, describing wind turbines as “bird killing” and “asinine.” Trump continued his anti-wind farm campaign as president-elect, reportedly telling British politician Nigel Farage to oppose offshore wind turbines that would spoil the view at the course.
Trump’s objection went all the way to the U.K. Supreme Court in 2014, where judges rejected Trump’s case against the Scottish government. The wind farm began generating power in July 2018 and Scottish judges ordered Trump to pay legal fees over his unsuccessful court case in March.
Trump has shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars on Scottish investments since his first purchase in 2006. The Trump Organization recently announced plans to spend roughly $200 million in cash — nearly 2 years of the business’ entire revenue — on 500 new houses plus swaths of commercial and leisure buildings on the estate that houses his Scotland golf course.
Through his trust, Trump has retained complete ownership of Trump Korean Projects LLC and a 59 percent stake in Trump Korea LLC in partnership with Daewoo Engineering & Construction Ltd, according to his most recent annual financial disclosure covering 2018.Trump made a deal with Daewoo Engineering & Construction Ltd, which previously worked on Trump World Tower in Manhattan, to develop a Trump World in South Korea dating back to 1999.
Although the properties’ opening was delayed due to bankruptcy and embezzlement charges against the chair of the business partner’s parent company that resulted in a 10-year prison sentence, Trump World opened in 2007. The state-run Korea Development Bank held a 50.75 percent controlling stake in Daewoo Engineering & Construction.
Trump World is made up of six properties in Busan, Daegu and Seoul.
Promises to not make new deals expanding Trump’s business empire have not stopped attempts to sell off parts of it. Trump’s luxurious beachside estate in St. Martin, Château Des Palmiers, is currently listed at a $16.9 million asking price by Sotheby’s International Realty.
The real estate company has attempted to use Trump’s ties to the property as a selling point, posting on Instagram on Nov. 9, 2016, just one day after Trump won the election, “You’ll feel almost presidential when you stay in Château Des Palmiers.”
Typically used by Trump as a rental property, records show the beachfront estate was listed for around $20 million when Trump purchased it. Trump’s financial disclosure through April 2016 valued the property at up to $50 million but the estate dropped in value to less than $25 million in Trump’s most recent financial disclosure. His May 2019 disclosure reveals less than $200 in income from the property last year, a significant drop from the prior year when it raked in between $100,001 and $1 million in rent.
In 2018, during Trump’s second year in office, the beachside mansion on a nearly five-acre compound was made available for rent on AirBNB. The $17 million palm-tree-studded mansion was reportedly listed at prices exceeding $21,000 per night.
It is not clear whether the Trump Organization’s pledge to donate profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury applies to AirBNB rentals of the St. Martin property since Rental Escapes, a Montreal-based luxury rental company, was reportedly handling the property’s AirBNB bookings.
In 2003, Trump launched an effort to manage a resort casino and golf course in Canouan, a small island located in the Caribbean nation St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Trump partnered with luxury developer Antonio Saladino, who previously signed a lease with the St. Vincent government to develop the island, on the project.
Ultimately, the resort faltered and Saladino sold half of the project to Irish billionaire Dermot Desmond in 2010. Under new ownership, the Trump Organization appeared to be left out of future plans.Trump in 2017 reported earning $3 million from his Canouan property through land sales. His St. Vincent properties were not listed on his most recent financialdisclosure.
In December 2015, amidst a heated presidential primary, Trump said in a radio interview he had “a little conflict of interest” in Turkey. He was referring to Trump Towers Istanbul, a pair of Trump-licensed conjoined towers that received a warm welcome from Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan in 2012. The tower’s licensing deal has provided Trump with a steady source of income, raking in between $100,001 and $1,000,000 last year.
When relations between Trump and Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan went sour, however, Turkish officials targeted Trump’s businesses.Following Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S., Erdoğan called for Trump’s name to be removed from the Trump Towers Istanbul hotel.
As the U.S. imposed sanctions on Turkey over its imprisonment of American pastor Andrew Brunson last year, a Turkish opposition political party member suggested the Turkish government retaliate by seizing Trump’s hotel. The official quickly retracted the comment after learning that the hotel wasn’t actually managed by Trump and that the hotel simply licensed the Trump name.
The Turkish government-linked Turkey-US Business Council held a 2017 conference at Trump International Hotel, just blocks from the White House in Washington, D.C. Amid negotiations over Brunson, the Turkey-U.S. Business Council abruptly delayed its 2018 conference set to take place, once again, at Trump’s Washington hotel.
Each of the group’s last two major conferences were held at Trump’s hotel. On both occasions, among the distinguished speakers was Erdoğan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak, the Turkish finance minister. Albayrak met with Trump in the Oval Office on the second day of the 2019 conference and told Turkish media outlets he got positive feedback from Trump about Turkey’s need for Russian S-400 missiles. The U.S. has threatened major sanctions if Turkey follows through on purchasing the weapon system.
The council’s board includes Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman accused of conspiracy with the partner of former Trump National Security Council advisor Michael Flynn, who was indicted for secretly acting as a foreign agent in a Turkish influence campaign. SGR LLC, a firm registered under FARA as a foreign agent of the Dutch company owned by Alptekin for work related to Flynn, went on to be subpoenaed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.
Among the sponsors of the Turkish-American conference at Trump International Hotel was Turkish Airlines, which is partially-owned by the Turkish government and has hosted multiple World Golf Cup events at Trump clubs, including Trump National Doral in Miami and Trump National Golf Club outside of D.C.
Turkey has done its best to directly lobby the Trump administration, paying $500,000 to Flynn to advance its interests. The Turkey-US Business Council and the Turkish government each inked contracts with Mercury Public Affairs in 2018. Turkey inked a deal with Ballard Partners in 2017 to appeal to the Trump administration. Turkish registrants have spent nearly $13 million on foreign lobbying and influence operations since 2017.
United Arab Emirates
Promises that the Trump Organization would not make new foreign deals while President Trump is in office have not impeded considerable expansion of Trump’s business empire through previously announced prospects.
Trump International Golf Club in Dubai opened in February 2017, within weeks of Trump’s inauguration. Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. traveled to Dubai to celebrate the course’s opening, a trip that cost the Secret Service $250,000.
Announced in 2013, the 18-hole golf course was developed by major Dubai real estate developer Damac Properties, which licenses the Trump name and pays the Trump Organization to run the course. Trump reported making just $12,984 from the property in 2017. That number jumped up to $314,580 last year.
The Trump Organization is exploring a second Dubai golf course with Damac designed by legendary golfer Tiger Woods, who Trump recently gave the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom and has golfed with multiple times since winning the presidency.
Trump World Golf Club Dubai was slated to open in late 2017 under a similar licensing and management agreement between Damac and the Trump Organization. Damac awarded a contract to a Chinese firm to build sections of the new course, which has been delayed into 2019.United Arab Emirates has spent $30.6 million on foreign lobbying and influence operations since Trump took office, second only to Ireland.
FARA records for the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority listed their New York address as a floor in Trump Tower from 2012 until shortly after Trump’s election, a decision the U.S. manager of Abu Dhabi’s tourism operations said was made months before Trump was elected.
Trump’s business interests in Uruguay center around Punta del Este, a Uruguayan beach town on a spit of land jutting into the South Atlantic Ocean that town has been said to have “started off as a money laundromat for Argentines” where wealthy investors could stow away invest money and evade taxes in their home country. First announced in 2012, Trump’s waterfront Punta del Este tower was slated to be completed by 2016, fully equipped with an indoor tennis court and a rooftop helipad.
Since Trump’s 2016 election, however, those plans have been subject to some volatility. As of January 2017, construction had reached the 25th floor of the 26-story tower. But each floor remained a concrete skeleton of framework.
The building now has a completion date scheduled for 2020 but recent reports suggest that even that may be too optimistic. Already four years behind schedule, the Trump Organization’s Uruguay project has reportedly come to a complete halt.
When asked if it will be finished by the end-of-2020 target, a director of the union that represents the construction crew working on the property told the New York Times, “Of course not.” At the current pace, he estimates it may take another four years, according to an interview published June 2, 2019. “There is no one working there. Everything is stalling,” said one Argentinian with a contract on an apartment in the Trump building.
Trump’s business partner on the Uruguay development is Argentina-based YY Development Group, whose managing partner is Moisés Yellati, Argentine finance minister Nicolás Dujovne’s brother-in-law. Dujovne himself reportedly tried to sell condos in Trump’s Punta del Este building during earlier stages of development, and the Argentine finance minister’s father, Bernardo Dujovne, heads Dujovne-Hirsche & Associates, which is the firm working with YY Development to build Trump’s tower in Punta del Este.
YY Development was also in charge of a now-reportedly stalled Trump project in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Jorge Pieri, a Uruguayan architect, was brought on to get the Punta del Este development’s permits approved by the government of Maldonado. At that time, his father was an official at the department’s Ministry of Planning, though Pieri claims no special exemptions were needed and his father did not help obtain the permits.
Weeks before his father’s presidential inauguration, Eric Trump traveled to Uruguay to check on the building’s progress, tweeting pictures of the partially constructed tower. He has continued visiting the property during Trump’s presidency, including visits this year. Just one of Eric Trump’s previous trips to Uruguay reportedly cost the U.S. taxpayers “nearly $100,000 in hotel rooms for Secret Service and embassy staff.”
Because the Trump Organization only takes a cut of revenue from condo sales at the Punta del Este tower in exchange for licensing the “Trump” name rather than investing its own cash up front, the tower’s construction was to be paid for with money raised by selling condos, which necessitated quickly finding buyers.
YY Development relied heavily on Trump’s name and brand to sell the condos, featuring references to Trump and his businesses prominently on the firm’s website.
A developer said Trump’s name helped sell 130 of 154 units. After Trump’s victory in the election, apartment prices in the tower reportedly increased 30 to 35 percent, with prices ranging from $550,000 to $8 million.
Condos were sold to at least 21 anonymous companies in offshore jurisdictions, including Panama and Belize, according to real estate records reviewed by the New York Times.
At least three apartments in Trump’s Punta del Este tower were sold to companies and individuals tied to a pair of Uruguayan accountants who collaborated to set up shell companies with the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca — the subject of the Panama Papers leak that revealed numerous examples of offshore money laundering and tax evasion.
On top of those questionable contracts, YY Development used the development’s land as collateral to take out at least two loans totaling millions of dollars. The second of the two loans was reportedly kept secret from some condo buyers, according to court records, causing some buyers to pull out.A broker, Fortune Realty of Miami, filed a lawsuit in Uruguay against YY Development for $3.3 million in allegedly unpaid commissions plus damages and plans to seek an “embargo” of the property, which could prevent the sale of some units until resolution of the lawsuit.
The tower is currently uninhabited.
Trump also holds trademarks and other interests in Australia, Egypt, the European Union, Chile, New Zealand, Malaysia, Morocco and South Africa.He’s also reportedly benefitted from a host of other foreign countries. For example, Kuwait’s government has started to hold their annual Kuwait National Day celebration at Trump International Hotel, just blocks from the White House. Their 2019 celebration was attended by Kuwaiti royalty along with members of Trump’s team including Wilbur Ross, Ben Carson and Kellyanne Conway.
Researchers Alex Baumgart and Grace Haley contributed to this report.
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