A Russian mobster who’s wanted for allegedly fixing an ice skating competition at the 2002 Olympics was a celebrity guest of Donald Trump’s Miss Universe 2013 contest held in Moscow.
This came seven months after federal agents busted into Trump Tower in Manhattan rounded up 29 suspected members of two global gambling rings allegedly overseen by Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, reported Mother Jones.
Tokhtakhounov wasn’t at Trump Tower and wasn’t arrested, because he had been living in Russia since U.S. authorities accused him of rigging Olympic events to ensure Russian skaters would win a gold medal and a French duo would win another gold — in exchange for him receiving a visa for France.
He was arrested in Italy but fled to Russia after he denied the charges and was let go.
Tokhtakhounov told Mother Jones that he hadn’t attended the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, but then admitted he’d been there after a reporter reminded him photos and news accounts showed he had been a guest.
However, he denied that he’d been a VIP guest and said he bought his own ticket, and Tokhtakhounov denied having any interaction with Trump.
Trump denied having anything to do with Russia, although that’s where he staged the 2013 beauty pageant he co-owned with NBC.
“Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow?” Trump tweeted breathlessly months before the event. “If so, will he become my new best friend?”
The Russian leader he admires did not attend that event — but Vladimir Kozhin, a member of Putin’s inner circle, and Aras Agalarov, a billionaire close to Putin, were there.
“Almost all of the oligarchs were in the room,” Trump bragged afterward to the New York Post.
U.S. authorities believe Tokhtakhounov is a high-level Russian crime boss, and a 2013 indictment accused him of using his influence to protect a high-stakes gambling rink operating out of the building Trump owns and lives in.
The gambling operation was run by Vadim Trincher, who owned a $5 million apartment one floor below another one owned by Trump, and Anatoly Golubchik.
The operation included Molly Bloom, who was known for organizing private poker games for celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, and witnesses told the New York Post that poker games in the Trump Tower sometimes included appearances by movie stars and athletes such as Alex Rodriguez.
Golubchik and Trincher pleaded guilty in 2014 and were each sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to forfeit more than $20 million in cash.
Trincher had reportedly planned to hold a fundraiser in their Trump Tower apartment for Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign, but the event was scuttled by mold caused by a water leak.
Tokhtakhounov denies the gambling-related charges against him, but he admits that he knew Trincher and Golubchik and placed bets with them.