63 Russian businessmen invested nearly $100m in seven Trump-owned Florida properties
‘I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia,’ President Trump said at a news conference last month. ‘I have no loans in Russia. I don´t have any deals in Russia.’
But in the United States, members of the Russian elite have invested in Trump buildings.
A Reuters review has found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses have bought at least $98.4million worth of property in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in southern Florida, according to public documents, interviews and corporate records.
The buyers include politically connected businessmen, such as a former executive in a Moscow-based state-run construction firm that works on military and intelligence facilities, the founder of a St Petersburg investment bank and the co-founder of a conglomerate with interests in banking, property and electronics.
People from the second and third tiers of Russian power have invested in the Trump buildings as well.
One recently posted a photo of himself with the leader of a Russian motorcycle gang that was sanctioned by the United States for its alleged role in Moscow’s seizure of Crimea.
The Reuters review of investors from Russia in Trump’s Florida condominium buildings found no suggestion of wrongdoing by President Trump or his real estate organization. And none of the buyers appear to be from Putin’s inner circle.
The White House referred questions from Reuters to the Trump Organization, whose chief legal officer said the scrutiny of President Trump’s business ties with Russia was misplaced.
‘I can say definitively that this is an overblown story that is media-created,’ said Alan Garten in an interview. ‘I’ve been around this company and know the company´s dealings.’
The tally of investors from Russia may be conservative.
The analysis found that at least 703 – or about one-third – of the owners of the 2044 units in the seven Trump buildings are limited liability companies, or LLCs, which have the ability to hide the identity of a property’s true owner.
And the nationality of many buyers could not be determined.
Russian-Americans who did not use a Russian address or passport in their purchases were not included in the tally.
The glimpse inside the condominium dealings offers a look at how the wealthy in Putin’s Russia use foreign property to stow cash.
One wealthy Russian buyer was Alexander Yuzvik.
In 2010, he and his wife bought unit 3901 of Trump Palace in Sunny Isles for $1.3million, according to Florida property records.
The three-bedroom apartment has 2,100 square feet and panoramic views, according to an online real estate listing.
From 2013 to 2016, Yuzvik was a senior executive at Spetstroi, a state-owned company that has carried out construction projects at military facilities.
The Spetstroi website says the firm was involved in construction projects at the Moscow training academy of the FSB, Russia’s primary civilian intelligence service and successor of the KGB.
Spetstroi also did construction work in the administrative building of the general staff of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service.
In a statement sent to Reuters, Spetstroi said Yuzvik worked there until he stepped down in March 2016.
Employees of some state-owned Russian companies are typically required to disclose their assets and income.
Yuzvik and his wife filed a declaration for 2013.
In that declaration, which is publicly available, they list only assets inside Russia. The Florida condo isn’t included.
Yuzvik could not be reached for comment.
Andrey Truskov, another Trump condo owner, is a founder and co-owner of Absolute Group LLC, a holding company involved in wholesale electronics, banking and property development, with projects in Moscow, London and New York.
The wholesale electronic business is the biggest in Russia, an Absolute representative told Reuters.
The company does not disclose its financial results.
Truskov bought apartment 1102 in the Trump Hollywood building for $1.4million in 2011.
The three-bedroom, 3.5-bath unit is 3,100 square feet, according to online real estate listings.
In a telephone interview, Truskov confirmed that he purchased the Trump Hollywood unit.
He said the Florida apartment was the same price as a three-room apartment outside Moscow at the time, and Florida was a nice place to have a property.
He said the purchase was a personal decision that had no connection with his business.
Several wealthy buyers were from Moscow and St Petersburg, the country’s two largest cities, according to interviews in Russia, Florida public records and the Bureau Van Dijk company database Orbis.
Among them: Alexey Ustaev, the founder and president of St Petersburg-based Viking Bank, one of the first private investment banks established in Russia after the fall of Communism.
A donor to orphanages and chess clubs in St Petersburg, Ustaev has received awards from the Russian Sports Ministry and the St Petersburg chamber of commerce for his banking and charitable work, according to his biography on the bank’s website.