The road to collusion

On Trump, bank loans, money laundering and Russia

The author is a Chico State alum and former small-business owner.

When President Trump announced his proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, the spokesman for this ill-begotten action was his secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross.

Just who is Wilbur Ross?

He’s someone who made billions buying up and consolidating bankrupt American steel mills, and then selling the properties to a foreign investor. He holds a stake in a shipping company, Navigator Holdings, which operates a lucrative partnership with Sibur, a Russian gas company part-owned by Kirill Shamalov, son-in-law of Russia President Vladimir Putin.

Ross is the guy who bailed out Trump when he started missing bond payments on his Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City in the 1990s. In 2014, Ross invested €400 million in the Bank of Cyprus, an institution known to be a tax haven for Russian oligarchs. Subsequently, the Bank of Cyprus’ largest shareholders, including Ross, proposed Josef Ackermann become the chairman of the board of directors. Ackermann has close ties to Putin and is the former chairman of Deutsche Bank (the same institution that, in 2017, was fined $630 million by the U.S. for money laundering, illegally moving $10 billion of Russian oligarch money out of Russia).

At the Bank of Cyprus, Ackermann went on to designate Ross as his vice-chairman. Ross shared that role with Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, a Putin ally who, like the Russian president, is a former KGB agent.

Now back to Trump: In 2004, he paid $41 million for a Florida mansion. Shortly thereafter, Trump needed to flip it to pay Deutsche Bank $40 million he’d personally backed for one of his Chicago properties. In 2008, Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev--who, two years later became a major shareholder in the Bank of Cyprus--bought Trump’s $41 million mansion for $95 million. Trump pays off his debt to Deutsche Bank. Very convenient.

Trump should be thankful that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has little or no interest in his rumored high jinks with prostitutes in Russia. However, he should be very worried that he is focused on business transactions with Russian oligarchs. It smacks of international money laundering, and that is the much talked about road to collusion.