As we noted earlier here and here, among the many dictators, despots, and shady foreigners who called Trump Tower home were members of the Russian Mafia with connections to Semion Mogilevich, said to be the most dangerous Mobster in the world.
Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to investigate Trump’s links to Russia, may also be taking an interest in Trump’s ties to Mogilevich, a man the FBI says is involved in weapons trafficking, contract murders, extortion, drug trafficking, and prostitution on an international scale.
As described in Wired, among the prosecutors and investigators hired by Mueller, is one Lisa Page:
Also, while the Special Counsel’s office has yet to make any formal announcements about Mueller’s team, it appears he has recruited an experienced Justice Department trial attorney, Lisa Page, a little-known figure outside the halls of Main Justice but one whose résumé boasts intriguing hints about where Mueller’s Russia investigation might lead. Page has deep experience with money laundering and organized crime cases, including investigations where she’s partnered with an FBI task force in Budapest, Hungary, that focuses on eastern European organized crime. That Budapest task force helped put together the still-unfolding money laundering case against Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash…
The hiring of Page, which was confirmed by a Mueller spokesman in The New York Times, gives the special counsel a team member with knowledge of not only Dmitry Firtash, but of the man who is believed to stand behind him: Semion Mogilevich.
Full disclosure: Firtash hired the Washington law firm Akin Gump to clear him of links to Mogilevich. I profiled Akin Gump partner Mark MacDougall in this 2008 piece.
Firtash, pictured above, made his fortune in the 2000s in the natural gas sector. In 2004, Firtash and a minority partner emerged with 50 percent ownership of a murky Swiss company called RosUkrEnergo (RUE). RUE extracts gas from Central Asia and acts an intermediary between Russia and Ukraine for the delivery of gas. The other half of RUE is held by Gazprom, the gas giant controlled by the Russian government, which shows that Firtash has close ties with the Kremlin.
Billions of dollars flowed through RUE and some of that money was allegedly siphoned off by Semion Mogilevich, who U.S. government officials say (see here) is the man behind the curtain at the gas company. One of the few willing to say this publicly was Ukraine’s former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, a political enemy of Firtash, who got thrown in jail for her troubles. Notably, Firtash’s stake in RUE remained a secret for two years.
Intelligence Online, a Paris-based news organization with deep sources in the spy world, published this handy chart of the Firtash/Mogilevich connections, under the headline “The Tip of the Mogilevich Iceberg:”
Firtash admitted to William Taylor, the US ambassador to the Ukraine, that he has had dealings with Mogilevich, according to a 2008 State Department cable leaked by Wikileaks:
(S) The Ambassador asked Firtash to address his alleged ties to Russian organized crime bosses like Semyon Mogilievich. Firtash answered that many Westerners do not understand what Ukraine was like after the break up of the Soviet Union, adding that when a government cannot rule effectively, the country is ruled by “the laws of the streets.” He noted that it was impossible to approach a government official for any reason without also meeting with an organized crime member at the same time. Firtash acknowledged that he needed, and received, permission from Mogilievich when he established various businesses, but he denied any close relationship to him.
And in this October 2009 press release, the FBI took note of Mogilevich’s control of natural gas supplies. “Through his extensive international criminal network, Mogilevich controls extensive natural gas pipelines in Eastern Europe,” the bureau wrote in a veiled reference to RUE.
The question is what is the nature of the relationship between Firtash and Mogilevich. Is it a thing of the past, as Firtash insists? Or is Firtash a front man for Mogilevich?
Presumably, the FBI — and, by extension, Lisa Page — knows the answer. The bureau has been investigating Firtash since 2006, according to The New York Times. A year before that, the FBI passed their counterparts in the Austrian police a confidential report naming Firtash as a “senior member” of the Semion Mogilevich Organization, according to a 2008 report by Roman Kupchinsky, an analyst with Radio Free Europe.
Page’s work in Budapest involved her deeply in the Firtash/Mogilevich world. The Wired article suggests she worked on the case that led to Firtash’s arrest in Vienna in 2014. Firtash was indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago on charges of plotting a bribery scheme to set up a $500 million titanium business in India. He remains free after a Russian billionaire friend posted bail of $174 million but cannot leave Austria.
And Budapest is also a home of sorts for Mogilevich. He resided in Budapest when he ran a pump-and-dump scheme through a publicly traded front company called YBM Magnex Inc. Mogilevich was indicted in 2003 on charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering in YBM Magnex.
So, what does this have to do with President Trump?
Firtash was a business partner of Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who was deeply involved in Ukrainian politics. Manafort advised Viktor Yanukovych on his successful 2010 campaign for the presidency of Ukraine. He resigned from the Trump campaign after The New York Times found a handwritten ledger showing that Yanukovych paid Manfort $12.7 million in cash.
While he was assisting Yanukovych, Manafort became business partners with Firtash. The two men explored developing a 65-floor tower on the site of the Drake Hotel in Midtown Manhattan.
A 2011 lawsuit filed in New York by Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister, called this partnership between Firtash and Manafort a means of laundering the proceeds of gas deals between the Ukraine and Russia. Firtash says that the lawsuit was full of lies, but he confirmed to Bloomberg Businessweek that he did put $25 million in an escrow account for the developers of the Drake project that Manafort helped him set up. The deal collapsed and the tower was never built.
It’s a good bet to say that we only know a little of this story, which is buried in the files of the FBI and the US intelligence community. But Trump Tower’s role as a home away from home for Russian mobsters with Mogilevich and his unhinged, self-destructive reactions to anyone probing into Russia suggests that there is more, much more to come. Stay tuned.
Since it opened in 1983, Trump Tower has been home to celebrities and billionaires, and the occasional Russian Mobster or those connected to them. And those Russian Mobsters were connected in some way to Semion Mogilevich, who is considered the most dangerous Mobster in the world.
Coincidence? Here’s a look:
Felix Henry Sater: Born in the Soviet Union in 1966, Felix H. Sater immigrated with his family to the US at age of 7. Felix became a Wall Street stock broker. Convicted of assault in 1991 for stabbing another broker in the face with a broken piece of a margarita glass. Spent a year in prison. Pleaded guilty in 1998 for his role in a $40 million “pump and dump” penny stock fraud at a Mafia-linked brokerage firm. Avoided prison by becoming a government informer. Provided U.S. federal authorities with “information crucial to national security and the conviction of over 20 individuals, including those responsible for committing massive financial fraud and members of La Cosa Nostra,” former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch wrote during her Senate confirmation hearing. Permanently barred from trading stocks, Sater went into real estate. Began working in Trump Tower around 2002 for Bayrock (exact date is unclear). Tried to develop deals for Trump in Russia, where he watched Trump’s children during a 2006 visit. Under oath, Trump said he didn’t believe Sater was in the Mob. Recently involved in a Ukrainian “peace plan” with the help Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen that was delivered to the White House.
… the Mogilevich connection: Sater’s father, Mikhail, is a convicted criminal and, according to US Supreme Court petition, a “Mogilevich crime syndicate boss.” (Update: After further reporting for my book, I no longer believe there is any credible evidence to support the claim that Sater is connected to Mogilevich.)
Anatoly Golubchik and Vadim Trincher: Russians serving five years in prison for running an illegal sports betting ring in Trump Tower that catered primarily to Russian oligarchs. Trincher, a professional poker player, had a $5 million condo on the 63rd floor of Trump Tower. (A co-defendant of Golubchik and Trincher’s, Hillel (Helly) Nahmad, paid more than $21 million for the 51st floor of Trump Tower, where he ran a high stakes poker game that catered to millionaire and billionaire clients. Nahmad was sentenced to a year in prison.) According to an 84-page indictment, Trincher and Golubchik’s sports betting operated under the protection of “Vor” Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, a Ukrainian-born Mafia Don who was a VIP guest at the 2013 Miss Universe pageant Trump hosted in Moscow. Tokhtakhounov,who lives in Russia, is also wanted for bribing Olympic officials in 2002 in Salt Lake City.
…the Mogilevich connection: Tokhatkhounov is described as close to Mogilevich by Interpol and other authorities.
Vyacheslav Kirillovich Ivankov: Born in the Soviet Republic of Georgia, Ivankov was a top Russian mob boss who arrived in New York in 1992. According to the FBI, he became one of the most powerful Russian Mafia bosses in America. The FBI tracked him down in a luxury apartment in Trump Tower, according to journalist Robert I. Friedman’s expose Red Mafiya. Invakov disappeared and then turned up again in Trump’s New Jersey casino, the Taj Mahal. Ivankov’s phone book included a working number for the Trump Organization’s Trump Tower residence, and a Trump Organization fax machine, according to Friedman. Ivankov was arrested in 1995 and sent to prison for conspiring to extort $3.5 million from two Russian emigres who ran an investment advice company in lower Manhattan. After his release he returned to Russia where he was assassinated.
… the Mogilevich connection: Ivankov had a close relationship with Mogilevich, who paid a Russian judge for Ivankov’s early release from a Siberian prison where he was being held for robbery and torture, according to Alan A. Block’s study, All is Clouded by Desire.
David Bogatin: Russian native who was identified by law-enforcement officials as a member of Russian organized crime. In the early 1980s he ran a gasoline bootlegging scheme that was so lucrative that he spent nearly $6 million to buy five separate condos in Trump Tower. Trump personally sold him the condos, according to an investigation by journalist James S. Henry. Bogatin worked with members of the Colombo family, according to Senate testimony. Pleaded guilty to evading taxes on gasoline but jumped bail before he could be sentenced to prison. (Before he fled, he turned over the mortgages on his Trump Tower condos to a Genovese crime family associate, Friedman writes in Red Mafiya. The mortgages were liquidated and moved through a Mafia controlled bank in New York.) Bogatin surfaced in Poland as the owner of a bank and was extradited back to the United States. Sentenced to prison in 1992.
… the Mogilevich connection: the FBI considered Bogatin a key member of Mogilevich’s crime family.