A pair of sketchy loans to Trump Media now under investigation for possible Russian money laundering were personally approved by Donald Trump Jr.
Federal prosecutors in New York are scrutinizing two loans totaling $8 million from two Kremlin-linked entities, and company officials set aside their own concerns about the origins of the money because Donald Trump's eldest son had confirmed to Trump Media's lawyers that the transaction should proceed, reported The Guardian.
“Just want to keep you in the loop — no guaranty that these will get signed and funded, but we remain hopeful,” wrote John Haley, outside counsel for Trump Media, in a Dec. 24, 2021, email reviewed by the newspaper.
“Thanks john much appreciated. d,” Trump Jr. replied.
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Trump Jr. had joined the board of the company along with the former president's ally Kash Patel and former Rep. Devin Nunes, who served as the tech company's chief executive.
Trump Media co-founder Will Wilkerson first alerted federal prosecutors on Oct. 23, 2022, to the loans, which came from Paxum Bank and ES Family Trust, both of which were controlled by an individual named Anton Postolnikov, who appears to be a relation of Vladimir Putin ally Aleksandr Smirnov.
Wilkerson and Trump Media’s then-chief financial officer Phillip Juhan considered returning the money in spring 2022 due to their obscure origins but the company had only $12 million cash at hand at the time as it awaited approval by the Securities and Exchange Commission for a merger with the blank-check company Digital World.
Digital World's chief executive Patrick Orlando sourced the loan from Paxum Bank, which is known for providing services to the adult entertainment industry, in December 2021, and two months later an unexpected second $6 million payment showed up in Trump Media’s account from ES Family Trust.
Orlando, as an SEC-licensed broker-dealer, is obligated to comply with the SEC's “Know Your Customer” requirements to guard money laundering.
The former president was chairman of Trump Media at the time, but it's not clear whether he was aware of the origins of the loans, Wilkerson said, adding that he was not typically interested in managing day-to-day operations of the company bearing his name.
However, Trump was interested in the deal because he would receive 90 percent of the shares without putting any of his own money into the venture, although one source familiar with the matter said the ex-president did invest some money into Digital World, which would have allowed him to cash out twice if the merger went through.