Building Corruption?

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Troubling details of Donald Trump’s business dealings continue to emerge. A recent piece in the New Yorker by Adam Davidson provides the latest details of allegations involving the Transportation Minister of Azerbaijan, Ziya Mammadov.

Mammadov is a deeply corrupt politician who the US suspects was involved with money laundering. Trump’s business partner was Ziya Mammadov’s son. Bloomberg News reports:

A central issue in Azerbaijan was Trump’s partners. Trump’s initial deal there, signed in 2012 and announced in 2014, was with Anar Mammadov, the 35-year-old founder of Garant Holding, with more than 30 companies in construction, transportation and telecommunications. Mammadov is the son of Azerbaijan’s transportation minister, Ziya Mammadov, a close ally of President Ilham Aliyev, who has ruled since he took over from his father in 2003. Trump’s recent fees came from a company set up by Ziya’s brother, Elton Mammadov, a member of parliament until last year.

The two men partnered to build the Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku. The Trumps joined the $35 million project in 2012. We know Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, visited Baku in October 2014. Ivanka posted a video of her visit on Facebook.

To be clear, Trump and his business partners in Azerbaijan had a licensing agreement to use his name on the building. The agreement was with the Mammadovs. Trump canceled the deal when he was elected in November. Trump received at least $3 million from this deal.

Legal Concerns

According to Newsweek,

…Mammadov in 2008 approved contracts to Iranian construction company Azarpassillo, headed by Keyumars Darvishi. The link is significant as Darvishi was once the chairman of Raman, the Iranian construction firm that acted as a direct arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The report alleges that the Azarpassillo company essentially acts as a front for the Iranian force.

The US believes the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) sponsors terrorism around the world. The IRGC is also accused of drug trafficking.

If these allegations are true, Trump would be in violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Legal expert and assistant dean of George Washington University Law School, Jessica Tillipman said, “The entire Baku deal is a giant red flag — the direct involvement of foreign government officials and their relatives in Azerbaijan with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Corruption warning signs are rarely more obvious.” Here is how the New Yorker describes the legal violation:

No evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump, or any of his employees involved in the Baku deal, actively participated in bribery, money laundering, or other illegal behavior. But the Trump Organization may have broken the law in its work with the Mammadov family. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, passed in 1977, forbade American companies from participating in a scheme to reward a foreign government official in exchange for material benefit or preferential treatment. The law even made it a crime for an American company to unknowingly benefit from a partner’s corruption if it could have discovered illicit activity but avoided doing so. This closed what was known as the “head in the sand” loophole.

This is yet another story in the face-paced drama of the Trump presidency.

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