President Donald Trump said he has “no idea” whether money from Kazakhstan was invested in Trump SoHo, a condominium hotel in lower Manhattan, while meeting with the country’s authoritarian president.
Trump worked in the 2000s with Bayrock Group LLC, the real estate company that developed the Trump SoHo condominium hotel in Lower Manhattan. Bayrock was founded and run by Tevfik Arif, a Kazakh of Turkish extraction whose path to riches began during the scramble for profit amid the ruins of the former Soviet metals industry, in the 1990s.
A 46-story hotel condominium complex announced by Trump on his television show “The Apprentice” more than a decade ago, Trump Soho was a collaboration among the Trump Organization, the Bayrock Group and Tamir Sapir. Sales began in 2007. Last November, the Trump Organization’s management and licensing agreement for the building was bought out by the property owner, CIM Group, a Los Angeles-based investment firm. The Trump branding was removed in mid-December and it now operates as the Dominick Hotel.
Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has been in office since 1989 and has been accused of human rights abuses and spiriting billions of dollars from his country, visited the White House on Tuesday to discuss economic and security issues. Trump called him “highly respected” and said “he’s doing a great job” when reporters were invited to the Oval Office for part of their meeting.
A 2010 complaint by Bayrock finance director Jody Kriss against Arif and others said a confidential informant alleged that $10 million in equity contributions to Bayrock came from Arif’s brother. It said he had “access to cash accounts at a chromium refinery in Kazakhstan, but wherever it is from, Bayrock Holdings LLC is a mere conduit hiding that source.” After a court ruled that parts of the complaint had been improperly obtained, Kriss amended it. The latest version dropped the reference to Arif’s brother, Refik, and the refinery. In 2016, a judge approved the case to proceed under racketeering and other statutes.
A 2007 Bayrock presentation also listed the Kazakh metals billionaire Alexander Mashkevich as one of two strategic investors in the company’s projects. In a country dominated by Nazarbayev since the Soviet Union’s collapse, Mashkevich is widely thought to be close to the president. A Bayrock spokeswoman said Mashkevich was never an investor or partner in the firm.
— With assistance by Caleb Melby
Bloomberg, 18 January 2018