Documentary Explores Dodgy Financial Ties of Trump Associate
A documentary made in collaboration with OCCRP on the Central Asian money links of a former associate of US President Donald Trump aired on Wednesday after surviving a last-minute legal challenge.
The documentary, on the Dutch public television program Zembla, uncovers fresh details on the relationship between the Russian-born Felix Sater, once a Trump business associate, and the exiled family of Viktor Khrapunov. The Kazakhstani businessman, a former mayor of Almaty, now lives in Switzerland, having been accused by the city of embezzling more than US$ 300 million.
The documentary is the third part of a series called “The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump.” The latest episode explores deals worth millions of dollars involving twice-convicted mob associate Sater and the Switzerland-based Khrapunovs.
Viktor Khrapunov’s son, Ilyas, sought an injunction from a Netherlands court on Monday to block the airing of the documentary. On Wednesday morning, a judge in the city of Lelystad ruled against the request.
OCCRP contributed research to the film as part of a three-month collaboration with Zembla and McClatchy newspapers in the United States.
Earlier reporting, appearing in McClatchy, revealed that Sater helped the Khrapunovs invest more than $40 million in US real estate since 2012. Lawyers for the city of Almaty are currently claiming in two US civil suits that the money had been embezzled by the Khrapunovs from Kazakhstan.
The Khrapunovs deny the allegations, and say they are victims of persecution by Kazakhstan’s government.
The US investments include the purchase for over $3.1 million of three apartments in the Trump SoHo tower in New York, which had been co-developed by Bayrock Group, a real estate development company where Sater was managing director.
They also included the 2013 purchase for $29 million of a mall in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio, and the $1.2 million purchase of a former insane asylum in Syracuse, New York.
For the new documentary, reporters for OCCRP, Zembla, and McClatchy conducted interviews and examined company and court records in countries including Cyprus, Belize, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and the US.
The documentary reveals that Bayrock – along with KazBay, its Dutch joint venture with the Khrapunovs – is accused of involvement in the family’s alleged money laundering. The firm is included in a list of 83 companies that Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Justice have alleged were used to launder the money.
The documentary also explores the role of Dutch companies in the network of Ilyas Khrapunov’s father-in-law, Mukhtar Ablyazov, a tycoon who has been convicted in absentia for embezzling more than $5 billion while running a Kazakh bank.
A Belgian former employee of the Khrapunovs, Nicolas Bourg, has alleged in a sworn affidavit to a New York court that millions of dollars used to fund the Khrapunovs’ US property investments came from Ablyazov. If true, the allegation could connect the investments to the $5 billion fraud for which Ablyazov has already been convicted.
Lawyers for the Khrapunovs have denied Bourg’s allegation.
See the full documentary below.