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House intel member heads to Russia’s money laundering island Cyprus to investigate Trump collusion

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Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) visited Cyprus this week as part of the House Intelligence Committee’s ongoing investigation into potential collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives, The Daily Beast reports.

“Cyprus has a reputation as a laundromat for the Russians who are trying to avoid sanctions,” Quigley told The Daily Beast.

“The fact that Turkey, the U.S and Russia and other countries are really interested in Cyprus, because of its strategic location … the fact that Russians launder their money there to avoid sanctions, and the fact that key U.S. and Russia players were there—all make it really important for the Russia investigation,” Quigley explained in a separate interview with Crain’s Chicago.

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Though Quigley declined to go into specifics about what he investigated in Cyprus, several current or former Trump associates have links to the Mediterranean island.

In 2015, Trump’s commerce secretary Wilbur Ross served as vice-chairman of the Bank of Cyprus, and presided over a business deal with Russian banker Artem Avetisyan. As the Guardian reports, Avetisyan has ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and a bank that, at the time, was under U.S. sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

“The Russians laundered money to avoid (U.S.) sanctions” Quigley told Crains. “That makes it front-and-center in this investigation. . . .Sanctions are the possible motives for collusion.”

During Ross’s confirmation hearing, Democratic senators accused the White House of withholding information about ties to Bank of Cyprus. Among the questions the administration stonewalled was whether Ross was “aware of any contacts between any individuals currently or formerly associated with the Bank of Cyprus and anyone affiliated with the Trump presidential campaign or the Trump Organization.”

Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort also has links to the island. Manafort faces a U.S. Treasury Department probe stemming from his paid word with the pro-Russian Party of Regions. The federal anti-corruption probe is looking into disappearing Ukrainian assets after Russia intervened in 2014.

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In Manafort-linked company received $1 million through the Bank of Cyprus—then-headed by Ross—from a mysterious firm; that transaction went through the Bank of Cyprus, and was split in half “to accounts with no obvious owner.” Documents released by a Ukranian lawmaker show Manafort laundered those payments to offshore accounts.

“It was extraordinarily helpful in understanding how the Russians launder money and why,” Quigley said of his trip to Cyprus.

“I learned a lot. I’m still digesting,” he said.

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