For the first time, President Donald Trump’s Canadian real estate dealings have been identified as another area of interest for U.S. federal investigators probing ties between Russia and Trump and his associates.
The connections between the Toronto deal and Russia are indirect and opaque but investigators appear to be zeroing in on the hundreds of millions of dollars Trump’s former business partner received from a Russian-state bank shortly before he put money into the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto, according to a Wednesday Wall Street Journal report.
The Journal reported that Russian-Canadian developer Alexander Shnaider received $850 million from Vnesheconombank in 2010 for selling his company’s share in a Ukrainian steelmaker. Russian President Vladimir Putin was chairman of the bank’s supervisory board at the time, and would have approved these sorts of high-level deals, according to the report.
According to the Journal:
After Mr. Shnaider and his partner sold their stake in the steelmaker, Mr. Shnaider injected more money into the Trump Toronto project, which was financially troubled. Mr. Shnaider’s lawyer, Symon Zucker, said in an April interview that about $15 million from the asset sale went into the Trump Toronto project. A day later, he wrote in an email: “I am not able to confirm that any funds” from the deal “went into the Toronto project.”
A Trump Organization spokesman told the Journal that Trump had no financial arrangement with the bank, and that the company “merely licensed its brand and manages the hotel and residences.”
The U.S. office of Vnesheconombank did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment.
A personal familiar with the U.S. probe told the Journal that federal investigators are looking at all interactions between Trump, his associates and Vnesheconombank.
Vnesheconombank is the same financial institution whose CEO met with Trump White House adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner in December. The bank and Kremlin said that Kushner spoke with CEO Sergey Gorkov in his capacity as head of Kushner Companies, his family’s real estate business, but the Trump administration said Kushner was acting as “the official primary point of contact” with foreign entities for the campaign and transition at the time.
Vnesheconombank was placed on the U.S. sanctions list in 2014 after Russian forces entered Ukraine and annexed Crimea, and the Journal reported that American entities are forbidden from any financial involvement with the bank.