Melville House | 01May2018 | Seth Hettena
A Definitive History
pdf file ...]
by Seth Hettena [pdf-2]
PART I: EARLY AFFILIATIONS
PART II: THE COMEBACK KID
PART III: THE RED HOUSE
Analysis by Will Zuzak
Ctrl-F search for "Ukrain" yielded a total of 114 hits with most of
these being in Ch.4 (21), Ch.5 (15), Ch.6 (5), Ch.9 (43) and Notes (20).
Obviously, many of the individuals associated with Donald Trump are also associated with Ukraine.
-- The first stirrings of a Russian organized-crime element in 1970s
New York were, by comparison, almost childlike in their simplicity. A
group of Ukrainians from the Odessa region became known as the “Potato Bag Gang” after they set up a scamming operation in New York’s harbors.
pdf-39 -- LeBow brought Vadim Rabinovich -- the Ukrainian
representative of Nordex GmbH, a Vienna-based company that attracted
interest from the CIA -- to a Clinton-Gore fundraiser in September 1995
at the Sheraton Bal Harbour Hotel in Miami.
pdf-46 -- With
Russia leading the way for oligarchs to build their private businesses
into conglomerate empires, many of them began eyeing other developing
post-Soviet nations to divvy up. Among the most tantalizing was
Ukraine. Out of all the newly independent nations that had formed after
the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine was barely staying on its
feet and remained the most dependent on Russia for stability. Ukraine’s
GDP in 1994 was half of what it had been at the outset of its
independence in 1991, while inflation during the same period had
increased by 10,000 percent. With such a pitiful economy, Ukraine
became a feeding ground for organized criminals and greedy tycoons who
were quickly developing an international network to exploit once
national industries and maintain
dominance over them. Which is how
one oligarch, proposing the novel idea of “sharing interests in
Ukraine,” came to host one of the most historic gatherings of organized
criminals no one was ever to know about.
--IN OCTOBER 1995, A BUSINESSMAN
named Boris Birshtein held a meeting in an office in the Diamond
Center, a large commercial jewelry space in downtown Tel Aviv. In
attendance were several Russian and Ukrainian vory,
a who’s who of the Russian and Ukrainian crime world. If the former
Soviet Union had had its own version of the 10 Most Wanted, eight of
them were now sharing a room.
pdf-47 -- That Birshtein had been
able to bring together such powerful and feared figures gives a clue to
the importance of their meeting, and of Birshtein’s influence. While
any of these crime lords could have made their own deals in Ukraine,
Birshtein had connections to make these deals even more lucrative. He
had given as much as $5 million to the 1994 campaign of Leonid Kuchma,
a pro-Russian politician running for his first term as the country’s
president. Another of Birshtein’s underworld Ukrainian connections was
a man named Olexander Volkov, an aide to President Kuchma.
the FBI report notes dryly, “The subject of the meeting was the sharing
of interests in Ukraine,” the country wasn’t just an innocent pie, but
a gangster’s paradise. In the years after independence, Ukraine was a
country with virtually no law enforcement. As bad as things were in
Russia, at least it had the state police agency, the MVD, to battle the
gangs. Ukraine had nothing, and in the time it took the new nation to
create its own rules and institutions, its criminals and
corrupt officials built up enormous
domestic and international influence. Kuchma warned
that the country faced a “secret syndicate of Ukrainian
gangsters...much more dangerous than the Sicilian mafia.” Even Kuchma’s
prime minister, Pavel Lazarenko, would later be discovered to have
looted $114 million from the country’s banks.
Birshtein existed at the center of
a vast Venn diagram of corruption,
bribery, and deception. He was the primary manager of the KGB’s
offshore funds after the collapse of the Soviet Union. President Boris
Yeltsin even recalled being introduced to Birshtein as a “KGB agent.”
The Russian newspaper Izvestia described Birshtein as a gangster who
moonlighted as a double agent, working for the KGB and the Mossad, the
Israeli spy service, all at the same time. Born in Lithuania, Birshtein
left the Soviet Union in the late 1970s for Israel, and later ended up
in Toronto where he established the Seabeco Group, which partnered with
the Russian government in a large state-owned fertilizer company
and a steelmaking concern. Birshtein flew around the world in a
private jet and was treated like a head of state. When he landed in
Moscow, a police motorcade with flashing lights and sirens escorted his
limousine to his villa in the Lenin Hills, which was patrolled by armed
guards in Russian military uniforms, The Toronto Star
reported. In 1991, he was picked to serve as an economic advisor to
newly independent Kyrgyzstan, one of the former Soviet republics. He
met with Canada’s then prime minister Brian Mulroney and other top
officials, but two years later, Birshtein was caught up in a scandal --
involving billions in laundered money, 7 million tons of missing oil,
and key Russian politicians -- that rocked the Yeltsin government and
led to the resignation or dismissal of several senior cabinet
ministers, and Birshtein was forced to flee Toronto, now persona non grata.
left Canada and turned his attention to his underworld connections and
Ukraine at the Tel Aviv meeting. Wherever Birshtein went, scandal
seemed to follow and the opportunities would only multiply.
-- But as Clinton supplied Yeltsin with American aid, the American
president also launched NATO campaigns to democratize several former
Soviet states, including Ukraine, Russia’s longest-held territory. ...
Yeltsin reelected, the oligarchy assured of its place, and
Birshtein-funded candidate Kuchma installed in the Ukrainian
presidency, the Ukraine plan only required getting the right people in
the right positions. One of the most notorious of these would be one of
Birshtein’s former Seabeco employees, a man named Alexander Shnaider,
who had left the firm to form Midland, a steel trade company with
operations in Ukraine, where the steel industry accounted for 25
percent of the country’s GDP. After the country’s steel industry was
privatized, Shnaider acquired 93 percent of shares of Zaporizhstal,
Ukraine’s fourth-largest steel mill. By the time othe Tel Aviv meeting,
Shnaider had married Birshtein’s daughter. ...
pdf-49 -- In
1990, Mogilevich incorporated a company called Arigon Ltd. on the
Channel Islands and used it to launder proceeds from extortion and
trafficking, a service he extended to Mikhailov’s Solntsevskaya
organization, while selling illicit oil to the Ukrainian railways on
the side. In 1994, Mogilevich’s Magnex company “acquired” Arigon, and
renamed his growing company YBM Magnex (the initials apparently didn’t
mean anything). The reverse-takeover ballooned YBM Magnex’s worth and
it was publicly listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange only five months
after Birshstein’s Tel Aviv meeting.
pdf-52 -- Litvinenko also worked
to transcribe and translate tapes of Ukrainian president Leonid
Kuchma’s conversations, which were secretly recorded by one of his
bodyguards. In one conversation, Kuchma spoke with Leonid Derkach, the
former head of the Ukrainian security services:
KUCHMA: Have you found Mogilevich?
DERKACH: I found him.
KUCHMA: So, are you two working now?
DERKACH: We’re working. We have another meeting tomorrow. He arrives incognito.
Later in the discussion, Derkach revealed a few details about Mogilevich:
DERKACH: He’s on good terms with Putin. He and Putin have been in contact since Putin was still in Leningrad.
KUCHMA: I hope we won’t have any problems because of this.
DERKACH: They have their own affairs.
-- “We had big buyers from Russia and Ukraine and Kazakhstan,” Debra
Stotts, one of the World Tower’s sales agents, told the magazine.
first wave of tenants was helped by a Ukrainian-born electronics store
owner turned commodities trader named Sam Kislin, who later became a
major donor to Rudolph Giuliani’s 1994 and 1997 mayoral campaigns.
Kislin began issuing condo mortgages to people like his longtime friend
Vasily Salygin, a future official in the Ukrainian Party of Regions,
the same party Paul Manafort would help return to power. Kislin and
Trump’s relationship stretched back as far as 1976, when the future
president purchased 200 televisions on credit from Kislin’s electronics
store for his newly acquired Commodore Hotel. Exactly how Trump found
the store isn’t clear, for Joy-Lud Electronics was the only store in
New York that catered exclusively to a Soviet clientele. Foreign
Minister Andrei Gromyko paid a visit. So did Yevgeny Primakov, a future
foreign intelligence chief. Ditto for Georgy Arbatov, who served as the
Kremlin’s American-based media spokesman. At the time, Kislin’s
business partner in Joy-Lud was Tamir Sapir, who would partner with
Trump on a real estate development 40 years later and live in a massive
Trump Tower condo of his own.
pdf-59 -- Cohen married into a
Ukrainian family. I spoke to two former federal investigators who told
me Cohen was introduced to Trump by Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima
Shusterman, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ukraine with a 1993
conviction for a money-laundering-related crime. “Fima may have been a
(possibly silent) business partner with Trump, perhaps even used as a
conduit for Russian investors in Trump properties and other ventures,”
a former federal investigator told me. “Cohen, who married into the
family, was given the job with the Trump Org as a favor to Shusterman.”
(“Untrue,” Cohen told me. “Your source is creating fake news.”) In
addition, Shusterman, who owned at least four New York taxi companies,
set his son-in-law up in the yellow cab business. Cohen once ran 260
yellow cabs with his Ukrainian-born partner, the “taxi king” Simon V.
Garber, until their partnership ended acrimoniously.
wasn’t the only member of his family who married a Ukrainian woman. His
brother, Bryan, also had a Ukrainian father-in-law. Alex Oronov was a
naturalized American citizen who raised his family in New York where he
worked for many years as an art dealer specializing in Russian artists.
Then, in 1994, Oronov left the art world behind and returned to Ukraine
to help launch Grain Alliance, an agricultural venture to make Ukraine
“the world’s bread basket.” It wouldn’t be long before Oronov brought
the Cohen brothers over to Ukraine to explore business deals in
pdf-60 -- Regardless of what he did or didn’t know,
Cohen was able to purchase a $1 million condo at Trump World Tower in
2001, persuading his parents, his Ukrainian in-laws, and his partner in the New York City taxi business to do the same in other Trump buildings.
-- Peter Kiritchenko, a Ukrainian
businessman arrested on fraud charges
in San Francisco in 1999, and his daughter owned two units at
Trump Towers in Sunny Isles Beach worth $2.56 million. (Kiritchenko
testified against a corrupt former Ukrainian prime minister [Pavlo Lazarenko] who was convicted in 2004 of money laundering.)
2003, Cohen traveled down there to invest $1.5 million in a short-lived
Miami-based casino-boat venture run by his two Ukrainian business
partners, Arkady Vaygensberg and Leonid Tatarchuk.
pdf-70 -- Sensing
the beginning of an expanding partnership with the Trump Organization,
Arif sketched out a grand vision for a series of Trump towers across
Eastern Europe, including in Ukraine, Poland, and Turkey.
pdf-71 -- Shnaider sold his stake in a Ukrainian steel mill, Zaporizhstal, for about $850 million.
pdf-73 -- Shortly after Trump took office, Sater teamed up with Cohen to submit a Ukrainian peace plan to then national security advisor Michael Flynn that would have opened the door to lifting sanctions on Russia.
pdf-74 -- The girls were brought in from Russia and Ukraine, and were hired from modeling agencies.
-- While judges from the United States, Canada, Germany, and Japan gave
higher scores to the Canadian team, judges from Russia, the People’s
Republic of China, Poland, and Ukraine voted for the Russian duo.
pdf-78 -- As he had in Ukraine,
Trincher made a living in America by playing backgammon before
deciding, at the age of 45, to make a career change from board games to
card games. ...
The “Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization,” as the
Feds later referred to it, conducted both online and telephonic sports
betting with several (and often shadowy) international figures, many of
them Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs who could afford to bet nearly $2
million on a soccer match and not flinch if they lost it all.
pdf-83 -- Trump
flew to Moscow on a private jet owned by his friend Phil Ruffin, who
was married to a former Miss Ukraine who had competed in the 2004
pageant and judged the one the following year.
pdf-96 -- Manafort’s most recent work was in Ukraine, where he had helped elect pro-Russia strongman Viktor Yanukovych president in 2010.
pdf-98 -- Deripaska recommended Manafort to Rinat Akhmetov, a Ukrainian coal-and-steel tycoon and a political kingmaker in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking Donbas region. ...
pdf-99 -- UKRAINE WAS IN THE MIDST
of a revolution, and oligarchs like Rinat Akhmetov were unsure which
way the political winds were blowing. For over a decade, Ukraine had
been governed by its inept and corrupt president Leonid Kuchma.
One was the Ukrainian prime minister and Party of Regions leader Viktor
Yanukovych, a candidate widely seen as friendly to oligarchs and to
- Yushchenko had formed a popular opposition party, Our
Ukraine, and openly spoke of his desire to strengthen ties with the
- The Russian president had staked considerable
resources on his victory by dispatching Russian spin doctors to Kiev,
and bombarding Ukrainian viewers with pro-Yanukovych coverage via Russian state TV.
- It brought Ukraine to a standstill and stalled Yanukovych’s claim to the presidency, much to the consternation of his supporters.
- Politicians began to speak openly about splitting Ukraine into two countries.
- There, they met Paul Manafort. Akhmetov wanted Manafort’s help with the upcoming Ukrainian parliamentary elections.
- According to the Wall StreetJournal, Davis Manafort Partners was paid $20 million for its initial work in Ukraine. Manafort set up a base of operations in Ukraine in a nondescript office at 4 Sofia Street near Kiev’s Independence Square.
Rick Davis took leave from the partnership to run Senator John McCain’s
unsuccessful presidential campaign against Barack Obama, and Manafort
took the reins in Ukraine. He promoted Rick Gates to be his right-hand man and set out to transform the Ukraine
Party of Regions from a “haven for mobsters and oligarchs,” as a
cable from the U.S. ambassador John Herbst had described it, into a
legitimate political party. Manafort set up a meeting with Ambassador
Herbst, and sought the counsel of a Swedish economic counselor to the Ukrainian government named Anders Åslund, who recalled Manafort as coming off as “highly intelligent and absolutely ruthless.”
pdf-100 -- Manafort began by helping Yanukovych appeal outside of his base, suggesting he give speeches in Ukrainian while in the western half of the country, and in Russian in the pro-Russian eastern half.
- “His vision is to have a relationship with Ukraine’s
historic neighbors, while integrating with the West over the longer
term. Like Nixon to China, he’s the only national leader who can do
- The Party of Regions won a landslide victory in Ukraine’s parliamentary election in 2006 [26Mar2006], with the repackaged Yanukovych 2.0 reelected as the country’s prime minister.
--- ALTHOUGH HE WAS EARNING MILLIONS
for his political consulting work in Ukraine, Paul Manafort began using
his connections to make even more money. He met Dmitry Firtash, a
wealthy Ukrainian businessman involved in the natural gas trade who had
friends in top posts in Yanukovych’s administration, and pitched him on
his grand vision for Bulgari Tower, a $1.5 billion skyscraper project
in midtown Manhattan on the corner of Park Avenue and Fifty-Sixth
Street. ... The Ukrainian natural gas tycoon had millions to invest
because Gazprom, the natural gas giant controlled by the Kremlin, had
given his unpronounceable company, RosUkrEnergo, a monopoly on all gas
trades between Russia and Ukraine.
- pdf-101 -- Manafort
described it to Deripaska as a vehicle to pursue investments that
“leverage [our] business and political relationships” in Ukraine.
Pericles sought to achieve an impressive compound annual return rate of
30 percent by investing in Ukraine, as well as other areas of interest
to Deripaska -- Russia, the former Soviet republics, Montenegro, and
eastern and southern Europe.
- Of the many ideas Gates pitched,
Deripaska’s team felt only one had merit: the acquisition of Chorne
More (“Black Sea”), a Ukrainian telecommunications firm.
Deripaska worked to keep his empire intact, Manafort worked his sorcery
on Yanukovych’s presidential campaign in Ukraine’s 2010 election.
-- In the first round of voting in the 2010 Ukrainian presidential
election, Prime Minister Tymoshenko and Manafort’s man Viktor
Yanukovych emerged as the front-runners. To prep for the second round,
Tymoshenko hired AKPD, a consulting firm run by David Axelrod, Obama’s
former chief strategist, to help bolster her campaign. But AKPD
couldn’t navigate the complex world of Ukrainian politics like
Manafort, and after the dust settled from the second round, his years
of steering Yanukovych toward his goal paid off. On February 7, 2010,
Yanukovych emerged as the winner and was declared Ukraine’s fourth
president. Manafort was exalted in the Ukrainian press as a “mythical
- Almost as soon as he was sworn in, Yanukovych embarked on
a platform to rebuild Ukraine’s political alliance with Russia and
counter his predecessor’s pro-Western initiatives. He bluntly quashed
the long-running NATO membership debate among Ukrainian politicians.
And while he publicly called for a free and democratic Ukraine, reports
of press censorship proliferated, and his political opponents,
including the defeated Tymoshenko, landed in jail on trumped-up
charges. Tymoshenko’s imprisonment triggered a fierce international
outcry, among them a call to boycott Ukraine’s bid to host the 2012
European soccer championship.
- He hired two firms in Washington --
Mercury Public Affairs and the Podesta Group -- to lobby members of
Congress on behalf of Ukraine and President Yanukovych’s interests,
paying both firms $1.1 million each.
- It was hard to miss how deep
Yanukovych’s corruption and cronyism went. Much of the funding
allocated for Ukraine’s economic development went to Donbas,
Yanukovych’s home region, and a majority of key governmental and
economic posts were given to friends of his from that region, many of
whom were clearly unqualified for their positions. That was icing on
the cake compared to the staggering $70 billion taken from the
Ukrainian treasury and secreted away in foreign accounts, including
those of Yanukovych’s son Oleksandr, who during his father’s presidency
became one of the wealthiest people in the country.
Manafort had been stashing away his paychecks from Ukraine in banks
registered to shell companies in Cyprus, the tiny European nation that
has long served as an offshore financial center for Russian oligarchs.
The beginning of the end of Manafort’s sojourn in Ukraine came in the
winter of 2013, when Yanukovych broke with his American advisor and
rejected a major trade deal with the European Union, opting instead for
closer ties with Russia. For the second time in his career, a major
protest broke out, this time in Kiev’s Euromaidan Square. Protestors
amassed to demand his impeachment for plundering the country’s wealth
and turning Ukraine into a police state. Tension mounted as the
demonstrations, which began peacefully [on 21Nov2013], went on for months. Violence broke out on February 18 [and 20],
2014, in clashes between protesters and police that lasted several
days. At least 82 people were killed over the next few days, including
13 policemen; more than 1,100 people were injured. In the pandemonium,
President Yanukovych boarded a helicopter [22Feb2014] and, with help from Vladimir Putin, fled to Russia where he remained.
- Now effectively unemployed, Manafort and Gates shuttered their Ukraine operation.
pdf-110 -- A
later Steele report detailed the existence of a “well-developed
conspiracy” between Russian leadership and the Trump campaign. In
return for hacking the DNC, the Trump campaign had agreed to sideline
Russian intervention in Ukraine in the campaign. At a Republican
National Committee meeting in Cleveland a week before the GOP
convention, Trump campaign staffers had lobbied to exclude language
from a party platform that called for the United States to provide
“lethal defensive weapons” for Ukraine to defend itself against Russian
pdf-120 -- Not long after the conclusion of the 2014
Winter Olympics in Sochi, President Vladimir Putin had annexed Crimea,
a Russian-speaking region in Ukraine. Putin warned that Russia would no
longer tolerate NATO’s efforts to strong-arm his country into
submission, as he believed had happened in Ukraine.
pdf-125 -- By
then it was too late. Fancy Bear had already claimed a big fish and
duped Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, with this email:
Someone just used your password to try to sign in to your
Details: Saturday, 19 March, 8:34:30 UTC
IP Address: 126.96.36.199
Google stopped this sign-in attempt. You should change your password immediately.
CHANGE PASSWORD <https://bit.ly/1PibSU0>
The Gmail Team