DIAMOND KINGS, LUXURY CONDOS, CORRUPT COPS AND CHINESE SPIES

(And What Trump Has To Do with It?)

Left: diamond magnate Lev Leviev and Trump. Right: Leviev and Putin.

THE REAL DEAL: WHO NEEDS TARANTINO?

In 2008, a self-pronounced Putin’s friend, USSR-born Israeli Lev Leviev sold $710 million in Manhattan real estate to a subsidiary of the infamous 88 Queensway Group.

The 88 Queensway Group had operations throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, the US, and was active in North Korea and Russia; the exact details of these projects were unknown. Despite of the companies “private” ownership and Hong Kong address, the evidence pointed that its key personnel had ties to Chinese state-owned enterprises and government agencies, including China’s intelligence. The Group gained high-level access to the governments and national oil companies of the countries in which it invested. Full report at the public site of the government website: U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission.(2009)

In 2011, Blackstone bought 51% of one of three properties, the old New York Times Building. In 2015, Jared Kushner’s company bought the remaining 49%.

WHO IS LEV LEVIEV, “DIAMOND KING”?

Left, right: protesters in front of Leviev’s store in Manhattan. His diamond company, LLD USA, is headquartered at 580 5th Ave. Center: Leviev, Forbes. Leviev, a billionaire and the director of two companies with investments through Africa, Israel, Russia, and the United States, traded diamonds in Africa — in Angola, in particular, where he used high-level Angolan political contacts to undercut rivals in the diamond market. He first interacted with the 88 Queensway Group in Angola.

Leviev’s holding company, Africa Israel Investments, one of New York City’s biggest landlords, owns, owned or held stake in 23 Wall Street, 88 Leonard, and Downtown by Philippe Starck, the Apthorp on the Upper West Side, and a diamond boutique on Madison Avenue. His primary residence, a $70 million home with a $100,000 bulletproof front door, is in London.

In June 2016, Jona Reichberg, the former head of acquisitions for Leviev’s Africa Israel Investments, allegedly arranged to have NYPD officers provide Leviev a personal escort through the Lincoln Tunnel, shutting down a lane for the “King of Diamonds.”

The details of the lane-closing incident reportedly came from Jona Rechnitz, who is currently being investigated by U.S. Attorney for allegedly trading gifts for favors to 20 NYPD officers and funneling money to the mayor de Blasio’s fundraising campaign.

NEW YORK TIMES BUILDING: o tempora o mores

In September 2008, China Sonangol paid Leviev’s companies $50 million (in addition to taking on half the building’s $720 million debt) for a 49% stake in the former New York Times Building.

Left: The former New York Times Building located at 229 W 43rd Street. Right: China Sonangol logo. In August 2008, Leviev bought 9.5% share in China Sonangol, a subsidiary and one of 30 companies of the 88 Queensway Group, the company listed as “engaged in the marketing and trading of clocks, office-related products, lighting products, and the trading of metals.”

In August 2011, Leviev’s company sold the top 12 floors of this building for $160 million to Blackstone Group, the largest private landlord in America. Blackstone’s founding CEO is Stephen Schwarzman, Trump’s personal friend and the chair of the the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum.

In May 2015, Kushner Companies, owned by Jared Kushner, announced the purchase of the remaining 51% share of the 250,000-square-foot retail condo of the building for $295 million from Leviev’s Africa AFI Group ‘s (TASE:AFIL) subsidiary Africa-Israel USA and private equity firm Five Mile Capital, according to company reports.

Left: Trump and Jared Kushner. Right: Trump and Stephen Schwarzman.

“CORNER”: JP MORGAN BUILDING

In September 2008, China Sonangol purchased the JP Morgan building located at 23 Wall Street for $150 million.

Left: Sam Pa, the head of this group, has a record of allegedly propping up regime in Zimbabwe, securing business contacts on the back of a coup d’état in Madagascar and civil unrest in Guinea. He was arrested in Beijing in October 2015, reportedly in connection with a major corruption inquiry involving China’s state-owned oil company Sinopec. Center: 23 Wall st. Right: The building was used in Dark Knight Rising (2012) as the Gotham City Stock Exchange.

Rotem Rosen, Leviev’s right hand and CEO of AFI-USA, signed the deed. He is a business partner and brother-in-law of Alex Sapir, son of now-deceased Tamir Sapir, owner of Sapir Organization that partnered with Trump and Bayrock.

Rotem Rosen and Alex Sapir accompanied Trump on his visit to Moscow in 2013. Together, they met with Aras Agalarov, an Azeri-born, Moscow-based oligarch and another of Putin’s allies.

FUN IN PICTURES: JOLLY FOLKS FROM GOTHAM

After the Miss Universe contest in Moscow, 2013: Rotem Rosen, Aras Agalarov, Donald Trump and Alex Sapir. ( Aras Agalarov invested $20 million in Trump’s Miss Universe competition in Moscow in November 2013, right after Putin decorated Agalarov with the Order of Orders in Kremlin in October.)
Left: Trump with Aras and Emin Agazarov (see the tweet above) who spent $20 million on Miss Universe contest in 2013. Right: Putin awarding Agazarov with the Order of Orders, 2013.
Left: Trump, Tevfik Arif, Felix Satter of Bayrock. Right: Felix Satter, Alex Sapir, Tevfik Arif, and Tamir Sapir, from http://www.newyorksocialdiary.com/nysd/archives

China Sonangol Wall Street LLC and Rotem Rosen’s law office had the same address in Manhattan, 125 Broad. At the time Rosen told Real Estate Weekly that “[China Sonangol] will act as our strategic partner for purchasing more real estate in the United States in the near future.” By now, the building has been unoccupied for years.

MORE FUN READING

In 2015, Aljazeera published the following article that is recommended to read in full as one of the most exciting mob-inspired investigative work I have read so far — and I have read a lot.

Diamonds, dollars, oil, luxury condos, spies, aliases, China, Israel, Africa, North Korea, US, clocks (yes, clocks!) — you name it.

*All facts and photos are in public domain and available through using Google. Links to the original sources are included.

* Click the green heart in the top right corner so more Medium users can read it. Share on the social media: we need independent research.

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