A major investigation conducted by the Financial Times reveals how shady Russian cash flowed through the financial of President Donald Trump's Toronto hotel -- and, ultimately, back to the president himself.
In particular, the report zeroes in on actions taken by Alex Shnaider, the Russian-Canadian billionaire who served as Trump's business partner in the construction of Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto.
According to the Financial Times' reporting, Shnaider in 2010 made a secret $100 million payment to a group of so-called "introducers" who were representing the Kremlin. The goal of the payment to these "introducers" was to pave the way for Shnaider's group to sell off its stake in the Zaporizhstal steel mill in eastern Ukraine.
Shnaider eventually succeeded in selling off the steel mill with the help of Russian state bank Vnesheconombank (VEB) -- and the Financial Times' reporting raises questions about whether the deal would have gotten financing from VEB without the massive payment to the "introducers."
More importantly, writes the Financial Times, "legal filings in a recent commercial dispute between Shnaider and his business partner raised the possibility that some of the money could have ended up with Russian government officials."
If the payments made by Shnaider did wind up in the hands of Russian officials, then the deal would likely be considered an illegal bribe under Canadian law.
After the sale of the steel mill, Shnaider used $40 million of the proceeds to further finance Trump's Toronto hotel. Of that, a further $4 million went to the Trump Organization in the form of licensing fees.
Tom Keatinge, a former JPMorgan banker who now specializes in financial crime at London’s Royal United Services Institute, tells the Financial Times that, if the initial $100 million payment is found to be a bribe, then "you could argue that the Trump Organization is receiving the proceeds of crime and therefore is being used as a money-laundering opportunity."