The Trump Tower Panama sits virtually unused as the President’s customers, mostly international money launderers, drug dealers, and gangsters, don’t have any actual use for the apartments other than hiding the proceeds of crime.
Earlier this year, German public television revealed that Trump Tower New York is a hotbed of transnational organized crime, so it should come as no surprise that his project in one of Central America’s most notorious money laundering centers is little more than a front for criminals.
Non-profit investigative group Global Witness began investigating the nexus between transnational organized crime and Trump’s most lucrative overseas branding deal in early 2016, and reporters from NBC and Reuters joined the probe two months ago, interviewing the brokers who sold the project.
Their combined efforts detail the Trump family’s intimate involvement in a project which continues to pay the President and his family multi-million dollar fees for managing the property to this day. NBC reports:
According to the Trump Ocean Club’s bondholder prospectus, Donald Trump was projected to make $74.2 million from the project by the end of 2010. The disclosure forms Trump filed with the Office of Government Ethics show that he continues to earn management fees and royalties from the Trump Ocean Club. In the last three years, the documents show, he was paid as much as $13.9 million.
Global Witness, a nonprofit anti-corruption watchdog that is often critical of businesses and their connections to government officials, said Panama offered Donald Trump a new way to make money at a time when his businesses were struggling. (The Trump casino empire filed for bankruptcy in 2004.) The group is publishing the findings of its investigation into the Trump Ocean Club on Friday.
The infamous Wall Street bank Bear Stearns issued $220,000,000 in bonds for Trump’s Panamanian money laundering resort, before going belly up two short years later.
After the project received financing, Trump met his shady salespeople and some of his criminal buyers, even going so far as to hold an event for the Panamanian project at his Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago Club.
Journalist Ken Silverstein wrote Global Witness’ comprehensive report about Trump’s dirty deals in Panama which first uncovered the tangled web of transnational money laundering and criminality associated with the project entitled, “Narco-a-lago Money Laundering at the Trump Ocean Club Panama.”
He also released companion story on his own website explaining behind the scenes how he broke the story early last year, which actually required him to move to Miami to finish the investigation. When reached by phone, Silverstein gave Verified Politics an exclusive interview:
“The entire project would not have happened without dirty money.”
“The two most important things about this story are; Firstly, despite Trump’s denial of involvement, he and his kids had a major role in this project. Ivanka and Eric were very actively involved. They even had a company in the United States that managed the condo units and numerous very bad people attended a promotional event at the Mar-a-Lago in Florida. Trump was very deeply involved in this project”
“Second, the huge majority of the early sales, pre-construction sales, were from controversial people at best, such as Russian criminals and mafiosos and one of the money laundering bankers for Latin American drug cartels. They sold 2/3rds pre-construction and took their project to Bear Stearns.”
“This was Trump’s most lucrative branding deal overseas.”
Silverstein highlighted the Panamanian project’s extensive Russian ties, especially amongst the project’s salespeople, and the link to money launderers which points to one South American drug trafficking co-conspirator in particular that purchased ten units in Trump’s Panama City tower:
David Helmut Murcia Guzmán is a Colombian fraudster and money launderer with reported ties to armed groups. He ran a profitable pyramid scheme in Colombia named after his initials, DMG Group (DMG), and was a magnet for illicit funds.
Murcia Guzmán’s lawyer in Panama, Roniel Ortiz, says that Murcia Guzmán purchased TOC units in cash brought into the country by “mules” from Colombia. According to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, “Murcia Guzmán… laundered narcotics proceeds through DMG and DMG’s affiliated companies” and “wove an intricate web of deception across continents to disguise his dirty drug money and support his lavish lifestyle.”
Guzmán is finishing a nine-year US federal prison sentence and facing extradition to his home country to answer for his Ponzi scheme.
The Trump Tower Panama deal was inked in 2006 during the height of popularity for their reality TV show “The Apprentice.”
The Trump Organization has earned at least $50 million on the project, which struggled to open in 2011 after first being restructured in a Panamanian bankruptcy court.
While the President – as usual – denies having a substantial role in the highly suspect role of selling luxury condos to gangsters and criminals, all of the evidence points to he and his family being deeply involved.
Watch Ivanka Trump say “Buenos Dias” in one of the Trump Ocean Club’s promotional videos: