On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that nonprofit group Global Witness has unearthed suspicious details about a $7 million condo purchase made at the Trump International Hotel and Tower, a luxury residential building near Central Park in Manhattan.
Unit 32G was purchased in 2014 by an entity called Ecree — which turned out to be funded by Claudia Sassou-Nguesso, the daughter of the longtime President of the Republic of the Congo and a longtime focus of international anti-corruption groups.
Sassou-Nguesso’s purchase, which was in all cash, is suspected to have come out of the treasury of the Congolese government — and would mean she is paying tens of thousands in annual fees to the Trump Organization.
“There is a risk that these companies may be currently enabling money laundering of public funds embezzled by the Congolese president’s daughter and benefitting from those illicit funds,” said Global Witness, urging the Trump Organization to clarify whether it is still receiving fees for the property.
The Trump Organization denies any illegal activity on their part and notes the fees are only for building maintenance.
Nevertheless, these sorts of all-cash purchases of urban real-estate holdings by foreign oligarchs raise red flags. Historically, this has been a method for laundering money, because until recently, real-estate developers did not make the same sorts of audits that banks require for other kinds of large-volume monetary transfers. The Treasury Department only recently started requiring real-estate developers to report these purchases.
Other suspicious foreign actors have made these kinds of investments in Trump properties before, including Russian organized crime boss David Bogatin, and Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.