Donald Trump, as we all know, has business ties all over the world. This includes the Former Soviet Union, like Azerbaijan for example. It is well-known that Vladimir Putin is aggressively trying to recreate the sphere of influence the former Soviet Union used to have an iron grip on during the Cold War. The Soviet leaders decided, a common strategy in the days of old because the effect is a buffer between the USSR and their adversary in the United States and Eastern Europe. This is less important now given the satellites and other means to discover whether nefarious things are happening near your “frontier” as it used to be called now just a border.
The former Soviet states have slowly been reclaimed by Russia by placing their desired leaders in power by hacking, spreading misinformation disguised as news, and the new “weaponized trolls” that were very active in the 2016 Presidential election. Putin has been honing his techniques before attacking the US in what I feel is nothing short of a Cyber-Pearl Harbor, thankfully without the loss of life and damage to the US Navy. (New developments in this story breaking today.)
By now we all know that Donald Trump has been effective in marketing his brand and continues to build Hotels and golf resorts. Being familiar with building in foreign countries, Donald Trump is aware of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA).
According to that law, it is incumbent upon American businesses that is precisely what brings me to the former Soviet bloc five-star hotel in residence called the Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku. In 2012 the Trump Organization entered into multiple contracts with Azerbaijani developers, the Trump Organization made plans to transform the tower into an all ultra-luxury hotel with large guest rooms that would occupy the first 13 floors and the higher stories featuring residences widths spectacular views of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, and the beautiful Caspian Sea.
There are many oddities surrounding the development which are clearly explained in this excellent article in The New Yorker by Adam Davidson in the March 13, 2017 issue.
What I intend to focus on herein is the Trump Organization’s business partner in this venture. The Azerbaijanis behind the projects were relatives of Ziya Mammadov, the Transportation Minister and one of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful oligarchs. As stated in the New Yorker article, the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index rates Azerbaijan as among the most corrupt nations in the world.
Ziya Mammadov became the Transportation Minister in 2002, around the time the regime began receiving enormous profits from government-owned oil reserves in the Caspian Sea. Presumably this is how mamma dogs, who spent his career as a government official with the salary equivalent to about $12,000 became a billionaire.
Once Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president mother Jones, the AP, the Washington Post and other publications ran articles raising questions about Trump’s involvement in the Baku project. Interestingly, these articles referred to a series of tables sent from the US Embassy in Azerbaijan in 2009-10, which were publicized by none other than wiki leaks. In one of those cables, an American diplomat referred to as I have mamma dogs as “notoriously corrupt even for Azerbaijan.” Alan Garten, the chief legal officer for the Trump Organization, told reporters the Baku hotel project raised no ethical issues for Donald Trump as his company never engaged directly with Mammadov.
According to Garten, Donald Trump was involved merely as a licensor, allowing his famous name to be used by a company headed by Ziya Mammadov’s son, Anar, a young and well-connected entrepreneur. It is unknown the revenue the Trump Organization received from the licensing agreement, although his Public Disclosure pursuant to the election revealed he received $2.8 million apparently there was an additional payment of $2.5 million in 2012 though no other payments or income has been disclosed. Donald Trump also signed a contract to manage the hotel upon its opening for an undisclosed fee tied to the hotel’s performance. Once Donald Trump was elected president, Garten announced the Trump Organization severed its ties with the Baku hotel project and brushed off the transaction as mere housecleaning. Unfortunately for Donald Trump, Adam Davidson’s reporting tells a very different story about the Trump Organization’s involvement in the Baku project. “I was in Baku at the time, and it had become clear that the Trump Organization’s story of the hotel was incomplete and inaccurate.” Trump’s company had made the deal not just with Anar Mammadov, but also with Ziya’s brother, Elton – an influential member of the Azerbaijani parliament.” Elton even confirmed it in an interview he founded Baku XXI Century, the parent company that owned the Trump Tower Baku. When he was asked who owns Baku XXI Century, he called it a “commercial secret” but added that he “controlled all its operations” until 2015, when he “cut ties to the company.”
Further reporting reveals the Trump Organization was involved far more than initially revealed. In addition to the licensing agreement, it also signed a technical-services agreement promising to help its partner meet Trump design standards. This appears to be a contract allowing Donald Trump extensive oversight in the back to project the attorney revealed “we were always following their instructions. We were in constant contact with the Trump Organization. They approved the smallest details.” He continued stating Trump staff visited the site monthly in order to inspect & approve further progress. The article details the very extensive, almost micromanaging of the project, even Ivanka Trump’s involvement in nearly every aspect of the project from the landscaping, the paneling, the ballroom doors – all of which were of the highest quality and commensurate expense. Ivanka Trump even posted a photograph of herself wearing a hard hat on the side of the project, which was about half completed, and the caption reads: “Ivanka has overseen the development of Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku since its inception, and she recently returned from a trip to the fascinating city in Azerbaijan to check on the project’s progress.” Interestingly, Ivanka Trump declined to discuss the project with reporter Adam Davidson.