Donald Trump, the Russian developer and the Mafia convict

Donald Trump, the Russian developer and the Mafia convict

20:10 11.05.2016

During the first decade of this century, Donald Trump began doing business with an unlikely partner – Bayrock, a New York property developer founded only a few years before by a Soviet-born newcomer to the US named Tevfik Arif.

The Republican presidential nominee and Bayrock were both based in Trump Tower and they joined forces to pursue deals around the world – from New York, Florida, Arizona and Colorado in the US to Turkey, Poland, Russia and Ukraine. Their best-known collaboration – Trump SoHo, a 46-storey hotel-condominium completed in 2010 – was featured in Mr Trump’s NBC television show The Apprentice.

Yet when Trump testified under oath in 2011 about his relationship with Arif’s company, he confessed that he found his partners puzzling. Trump said he knew what they did. But he said he was unsure of exactly who they were.

“I don’t know who owns Bayrock,” Trump said. “I never really understood who owned Bayrock. I know they’re a developer that’s done quite a bit of work. But I don’t know how they have their ownership broken down.”

Trump’s Bayrock blind spot gains significance in the context of this year’s US presidential race. Trump has taken a stance on Russia that is at odds with US political orthodoxy – praising President Vladimir Putin’s leadership skills and saying he would consider lifting sanctions imposed on Russia after its 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine.

Critics have asked whether Trump’s business interests might be colouring his policies.

Trump has responded by saying he has “zero investments in Russia”. But that is not the whole story. In recent years, Trump has worked diligently to forge alliances with Russia-connected businessmen that would position him to profit from capital pouring out of the former states of the Soviet Union, and to seek opportunities in those locales. If no deals followed, as was often the case, it was not for a lack of trying.