A Trump-branded property in Panama City has been linked to drug trafficking, money laundering and Russian organized crime. NBC and Reuters found that a real estate salesman who helped unload units at 70 story, sail-shaped Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower claimed close ties to Ivanka Trump and was later arrested for fraud and forgery. After being released on $1,4 million bail, he later fled the country. Alexandre Ventura Nogueira said that President Trump and others connected to project were unaware that he was attracting shady investors to the project, but that they never asked any questions. Nogueira told he struck a deal in 2006 with Ivanka Trump in which he promised to sell 100 units at building, Trump Organization’s first internationally branded property, in a week “without telling the price.”
Trump Organization said “the company was not responsible for the financing of the project and had no involvement in the sale of units or the retention of any real estate brokers.” In an interview, Ventura admitted that some of his brokers and clients who bought and sold units in Trump Ocean Club were connected to Russian mafia and other organized-crime groups, including a convicted money launderer who moved cash for drug cartels. “I had some customers with questionable backgrounds. Nobody ever asked me. Banks never asked. Developer didn’t ask and Trump Organization didn’t ask. Nobody ask, ‘Who are the customers, where did the money come from?’ No, nobody ask” he said. That could pose a problem for Trumps.
Due to Panama’s reputation of being a hotbed of corruption, Americans doing business there should be aware of risks. If they fail to do so, Arthur Middlemiss, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan and a former head of JPMorgan’s global anti-corruption program, they risk being liable under United Stated law of turning a blind eye to wrongdoing. Ivanka Trump was not the only one Nogueira claims he was working with at the time. He also had connections to a Colombian man who was later convicted of money laundering and is now in detention in United States and a Russian investor who was jailed in Israel in 90′ for kidnapping and threats to kill a rival.
He also enlisted help of a Ukrainian investor who was arrested for alleged people-smuggling and was later convicted by a Kiev court. Trump Ocean Club was announced in 2006 and launched in 2011, a time when many luxury buildings were erected in Panama City with express purpose of hiding money laundering. During a recent visit by NBC News, hotel seemed nearly empty. “There are more than 500 buildings like this, but this, the difference of this, is that this has the name of the actual president of the United States and he keeps the name here” Miguel Antonio Bernal, a professor of constitutional law at University of Panama said.