$100 million paid to ‘Kremlin-linked’ fixer by Toronto Trump Tower Developer – Report
Strong evidence of financial links has been discovered between Trump Tower developer and top ranking Russian government officials. This was revealed after an investigation was carried out on the controversial development, formerly known as the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Toronto.
According to documents revealed by the Financial Times in a 10-month probe, Alex Shnaider, the Russian-Canadian billionaire who developed the building, paid the sum of $100 million to “a Moscow-based fixer representing Kremlin-backed investors” was the Toronto tower was under construction.
Trump Organization licenced the Trump name over to Shnaider, as the building was never developed nor owned by Donald Trump. Rather, there was a contract for the organization to manage the property. The $100-million payment was meant to aid the sale of a stake in a Ukrainian steel mill that Shnaider owned, to buyers acting "on behalf of the Russian government”, according to the Financial Times. The deal was successful, and Shnaider was reportedly paid $850 million for his share in the steel mill.
In a 2017 report in the Wall Street Journal, the sale of the steel mill was financially backed by Vnesheconombank (VEB), a Russian government-owned bank that had Vladimir Putin as the chairman. "Given that the ultimate backer of the deal was the Kremlin, that raises the possibility that money passed from Trump's business partner to Russian officials," stated the Financial Times.
However, SymonZucker, Shnaider’s lawyer, denied the link to VEB, saying in a 2017 report that the Wall Street Journal had “got their facts all wrong.” He stated that Midland Resources, the company which Shnaider owned a stake in the Ukrainian steel mill, never had any business with VEB.
Shnaider reportedly made an extra $40-million investment into the construction of the Toronto Trump Tower after the deal was successful, reported Financial Times. While Zucker has vehemently denied that the money from the sale was put into the Toronto Trump Tower, the Journal cited that he said some “$15 million from the asset sale went into the project.”
According to the Times, Donald Trump made an estimated $4 million from licensing out his name and offering managing services to the Toronto Trump Tower—thought the figure could be possible higher considering Trump only made his finances public from 2014 onwards.
From construction delays to reports of falling glass, the Toronto Trump Tower was riddled by problems from the time it was initiated in 2007. The building battled with poor occupancy rates right after launch, prompting some individual investors to file legal action against Talon, Shnaider’s company. The law suit was filed in 20616, where the group of investors called the project an “investment scheme and conspiracy.” In 2017, afterShnaider Talon defaulted on an approximately $300-million loan to Austrian bank Raiffeisen, the tower was traded in a court-ordered sale. JCF Capital received loan for the bank, and last year they took ownership of Toronto tower. After the management contract with the Trump Organization expired, the new owners promptly removed the Trump name from the building.
The sort of payment Shnaider made to a ‘fixer’ is a common practice in Russia, but can be quickly interpreted as a bribe, says experts.
In an interview with Times, one anonymous expert aid that if it were seen a bribe, it could be argued that the Trump Organization received "proceeds of crime." There is no difference whatsoever that Trump was aware ofthe transaction Shnaider made.
According to the Canadian Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Acts, it is illegal for Canadian business to bribe government officials in other countries.