Friday, August 11, 2017

Trump's Beautiful Russian Laundrette

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Money laundering is a process whereby money gained illegally is mixed into reputable businesses to the point that it begins taking on the appearance of legitimate cash.  I am currently streaming a show on Netflix called "Ozark" which tells the tale of a financial planner in Chicago who gets caught up in money laundering for the Mexican drug cartels.  After the financial planner's partner is killed for skimming profits from the cartel's funds, the planner is forced to flee to the Missouri Ozarks (in the vicinity around the Lake of the Ozarks) and set up a vast business enterprise to continue laundering the cartel's cash.

"Ozark" is phony in that it is almost entirely filmed in Georgia, but the story is interesting - and a careful viewer can come away with quite a bit of knowledge on the problems and profits associated with the process of money laundering.   A business that is shown favor by people laundering money can expect big cash infusions and significant growth.  When a money launderer comes to town, good times follow.

The New Republic magazine had an excellent investigative article last month entitled "Trump's Russian Laundromat.'  The piece's author, Craig Unger, presents a fairly comprehensive look at Donald Trump's business dealings with Russia, a connection that goes back thirty years to 1987 - just before the fall of the Soviet Union.  Unger's narrative suggests that Trump developed ties early on with the emerging Russian oligarchs as they were swooping in and taking over the state-run businesses, and then as those new millionaires and billionaires needed ways to conceal their sudden piles of profit, the Trump organization stood ready to help them invest their cash in glamorous properties.

After detailing some of the early Trump-Russia business dealings, Unger admits that as of yet there is no smoking gun showing that Trump or his organization was knowingly involved in Russian criminal activity, but that he (Trump) might have been a "convenient patsy" in the process with his condos and casinos.  But, "patsy" or not, according to Unger Trump benefited from his strong ties to Russia.

"But even without an investigation by Congress or a special prosecutor, there is much we already know about the president’s debt to Russia. A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics."

And now Donald Trump is being faced with an aggressive Special Prosecutor who is investigating not only Russian involvement in the 2016 election, the one that elevated the once-struggling businessman to the White House, but that same prosecutor is issuing subpoenas and conducting "no knock" raids apparently looking into business connections that Trump and his family and underlings had with Russia.

One school of thought is that the ultimate focus of the Mueller investigation is money laundering, and that many of the almost bizarre pronouncements and tweets by Donald Trump are launched specifically to keep the public's focus off of Mueller's digging.   Trump's tweets are meant to be distractions.

Russia appears to have been the key to Donald Trump's political success, and, quite fittingly, it also seems to be his Achilles Heel.    Mueller needs to keep following the money - and it's fairly obvious where that is leading.

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