Trump’s Moscow Developer Owned by Bank of Cyprus Lawyer With Documented Money Laundering Ties
A prominent Cypriot lawyer known for serving Russian interests owns at least 60% of IC Expert, the Russian company Trump did business with during his presidential campaign.
By: Scott Stedman
Newly-obtained financial documents reveal that the Russian development company that signed a Letter-of-Intent (LOI) with Donald Trump during his presidential run is at least 60% owned by a Bank of Cyprus lawyer involved in alleged money-laundering operations for the Russian mob boss Semion Mogilevich and Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov.
In the 2015 LOI signed between IC Expert and Trump Acquisition LLC, IC Expert Chairman Andrey Rozov falsely certified that he owned 100% of the company. As was recently reported, IC Expert is actually owned by three “mystery” offshore companies — two in Cyprus and one in the Marshall Islands.
These new financial documents and open-source intelligence prove that at least one of IC Expert’s Cyprus-based owners, Colinsen Trading Limited, is owned by Christodoulos Vassiliades — a high-profile Cypriot lawyer with links to the governments of Cyprus and Russia, and to the Bank of Cyprus.
Vassiliades’s proximity to the Cyprus and Russian governments is well-documented. He and the daughter of the Cyprus President, Nicos Anastasiades, worked as Directors for the President’s law firm. Vassiliades and his law firm have also hosted numerous events for Anastasiades and high-ranking officials in the government.
During the Bank of Cyprus bailout in 2013 that cost Russian Oligarchs billions in investments, Vassiliades was personally nominated by the head of the Bank of Moscow (now VTB) to become a shareholder in the Bank of Cyprus. The Russian bank was given this power as part of an effort to “bail-in” Russian investors by awarding them shares in the bank. Vassiliades’ 8.37% share was valued at approximately $350 million. Records show that this share was reduced to 5.77% in 2014, and it is unclear what Vassiliades’ current share in the bank may be.
Earlier that same year, an investigation by Russian financial daily Vedomotsi revealed that Vasilliades’ law firm was appointed by the Bank of Cyprus to determine the validity and legality of foreign client operations, such as bank transfers. The report described Vasilliades’ role as a guarantor of capital safety who helped foreigners pass compliance procedures and formalize the ownership structure of assets. The firm was recognized in 2015 for having, “helped [consolidate] excellent relations between the Republic of Cyprus and the Russian Federation.”
Vassiliades obtained 60% ownership of IC Expert through his Cyprus-based company Ionics Nominees Limited. Ownership of the company was transferred to Ionics Nominees in May 2015, days after Rozov was given amnesty by the Kremlin for a negligent homicide charge.
The designated Secretary of Ionics is Pampina Votsi, a Vassiliades Director connected to multiple cases of tax evasion, embezzlement, and money laundering for at least two high-profile Russians — Semion Mogilevich and Suleiman Kerimov.
Mogilevich has been dubbed, “The Most Dangerous Mobster In The World of Organized Crime.” In 2009, the FBI placed him on the Top Ten Most Wanted list for more than 40 counts of contract murder, racketeering, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, and other economic crimes.
In 2013, it was reported that Mogilevich used the Cyprus company Barlow Investing Limited to hide some of his potentially illegally obtained money. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found that Pampina Votsi was one of three Directors for the company.
Another high-profile Russian that hid his money in Cyprus with the help of Vassiliades was businessman and politician Suleiman Kerimov. Pampina Votsi was again listed as a Director of Kerimov’s construction and real estate group before he sold his share in the company for $600 million in 2013.
Kerimov was arrested in France in November, 2017 for alleged large-scale tax fraud and money laundering. Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in November that Russia “will do everything in our power to protect his lawful interests.” The Kremlin has increasingly pressured the French government to release Kerimov, and Russian lawyers have flown to France to attempt to settle the charges.
In a direct connection to the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, Kerimov is a close associate of Rinat Akhmetshin, the Russian lobbyist and ex-Soviet military intelligence officer who attended the meeting. Akhmetshin worked for Kerimov in 2011 when it was alleged he was involved in the hacking of one of Kerimov’s political opponents. Akhmetshin has said in court papers that he coordinated with Kerimov’s team to attempt to infiltrate the politician’s computer.
Earlier this year, Congress attempted to obtain information about Trump’s business interests from Bank of Cyprus Vice Chairman Wilbur Ross, Trump’s then-nominee for Secretary of Commerce. Members of Congress sent letters to Ross, but did not receive answers to their questions before his nomination was confirm. Ross told Senator Bill Nelson at the time that The White House had blocked him from submitting his written responses, but that “he knows of no loans or interaction between the bank or anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign or organization.”
Vassiliades and Ross were both prominently involved with Bank of Cyprus during the time the Trump Tower Moscow LOI was in play. Three weeks after the LOI was signed, Sberbank issued a loan to IC Expert in exchange for a pledge of 100% equity from each of the three offshore owners.
These findings raise new questions about what Michael Cohen, Felix Sater, Donald Trump, and Wilbur Ross knew about IC Expert’s true ownership, and whether any financial transactions occurred between the parties.