On May 9, 2017, President Donald John Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, citing his handling of an election-year email scandal involving then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. As a result, suspicions were raised that Trump was attempting to sabotage the Bureau’s investigation of allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 Presidential Election and parallels were drawn between Comey’s ouster and Nixon’s 1973 dismissal of an independent special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal.
Around the same time, Zembla, an investigative Dutch television program specializing in dealing with controversial subject matter, released a series of episodes titled “The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump,” giving advanced insight into Trump’s shadier business dealings. In the first of the two episodes, Trump’s relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russian organized crime is scrutinized. (See video below …)
One interview subject is Malcolm Nance, a former U.S. intelligence official who worked at the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, who remarks:
“When I heard [Vladimir Putin praise Donald Trump], I thought, ‘Well, that’s very unusual. That’s almost an endorsement. Why would Vladimir Putin be endorsing Donald Trump?’ And as soon as I saw that, I said, ‘O.K. We need to go backwards on this story.’ And I started looking into it, and his first contacts back in 2013 were amazing, [according to] his statements for the Miss Universe Pageant.”
Nance then cites a Trump tweet dating from June 18, 2013.
Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow – if so, will he become my new best friend?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 19, 2013
According to James Henry, a lawyer, economic investigator and tax evasion expert:
“[Donald Trump] has a history of six bankruptcies in the 1990s, so none of the major New York banks would lend to him. Trump was pretty much unfinanceable… the only way he was able to finance his his resurrection after 2000 was the torrent of money flowing out of Russia and the former Soviet Union countries like Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, the investors that he got at that point were looking for safe havens or opportunities to launder money that was basically proceeds from criminal enterprises.”
Zembla also examines Trump’s relationship with Russian-born real-estate developer and known stock fraudster Felix Sater, who served as the managing director of Bayrock LLC, the real estate development and investment firm that helped finance the completion of Trump SoHo, a $450 million, 46-story, 39-unit hotel condominium located at 246 Spring Street in New York City. The first installment of the series reveals that Bayrock is involved in laundering money through various shell companies in the Netherlands. It is soon disclosed that Felix Sater’s father Mikhail is a criminal with ties to Russian mobster Semion Mogilevich, who has spent years on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List, given his long track record of fraud, racketeering, conspiracy, et cetera. It is also shown that Mikhail Sater was arrested for violently extorting entrepreneurs in Brooklyn and that at least three of Mogilevich’s associates have rented and/or occupied apartments at Trump SoHo.
However, in BBC interview footage, Trump becomes defensive when presented with questions about his relationship with Felix Sater and insinuates that the journalist conversing with him is “thick.”
However, highlights of documents shown in the documentary not only reveal show plans between Icelandic investment firm FL Group and Bayrock to launder $250 million to avoid taxation, but Donald Trump’s signature on these plans.
It is also shown that another of Trump’s business partners, Bayrock founder Tefvik Arif dealt in trafficking prostitutes.
Near the end of the first part, Sater is asked about Bayrock and money laundering being done through companies in the Netherlands. He instructs the journalist to email the questions to him and his attorney, Robert Wolf. Text at the end of part one reveals that Sater did not answer any questions posed by Zembla.
The second part of the series centers on Trump’s relationship with Lev Levyev an Uzbek-born Israeli diamond tycoon. In addition to having ties with Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Levyev is notorious for trading in blood diamonds and for precipitating human rights abuses in Angola, particularly in the form of hiring thugs to inflict violence on diamond mine workers there.
Not surprisingly, Trump and Leviev each denied knowing each other, and shortly after Zembla inquired about a photo on Leviev’s Pinterest page of the two men together, the picture was removed.