Trump Ocean Club: Buyer Beware. Credit: WikiCommons.

The AP has an interesting story about how Donald Trump once hired a man named George Gjieli to run Trump Tower after he’d spent time in prison for trying to “get a fellow Albanian immigrant serving life terms for triple murder out of a Michigan state prison.” Gjieli was later “accused in court papers of coordinating a cash-for-jobs racket” inside Trump Tower, the story said.

Gjieli denied the cash-for-jobs charges but he doesn’t seem like he would have been a great choice to manage Trump Tower. Wiretaps that led to his conviction — which was a matter of public record when he was hired in 1991 — showed him telling a federal agent that the imprisoned Albanian he was trying to spring had “shot the f — k out” out of his victims.

A lot of the anti-Trump stories now surfacing — like the New York Times “bombshell” last Sunday that showed Trump legally reduced his taxes— seem like thinly disguised opposition research from Hillary Clinton’s campaign that the media blows wildly out of proportion.

But the AP’s tale — however dated and whatever its origins, and it almost surely came from Hillary’s camp or someone working for her — raises pretty serious questions about Trump’s pattern of performing remarkably little due diligence on business partners. As the AP noted, his prior associates “include a Mafia-linked government informant whom Trump named as a senior adviser and a convicted cocaine dealer whom Trump supported in a letter to a federal judge.”

There’s another pretty remarkable case that involves the Trump Ocean Club property in Panama, one of the world’s leading offshore havens. Trump’s partner in this case — Newland International Properties, a company owned by Roger Khafif, a Panamanian businessman of Colombian descent — declared bankruptcy and the whole scheme resulted in fraud lawsuits in at least three countries.

Trump received management and licensing fees on the project and was directly involved in marketing, court records show. He brought prospective investors — many of them Russians looking for tax breaks — to his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach to pitch them and Khalif travelled to Moscow to sell the property in 2006.

Trump attended the 2011 ribbon-cutting ceremony for Trump Ocean Club along with the notoriously corrupt former president Ricardo Martinelli, who is currently holed up in Miami, trying to evade an extradition request issued by Panamanian authorities.

Khafif, who has been a director of more than 70 Panamanian shell companies, reportedly first met Trump in 2005. Much of the controversy surrounding the Ocean Club project relates to buyers and sellers of the condo units, many whom were reportedly involved in fraud and organized crime.

Lawyer Alexander Altshoul, who is originally from Belarus, helped set up Khafif’s trip to Moscow. Altshoul had formerly worked for David Murcia Guzmán, a Colombian real estate salesman with a checkered past who ended up in U.S. prison for laundering drug money from Colombia and Mexican cartels.

There’s a long list of other dubious characters who profited off the Trump Ocean Club, and the whole thing worked out extremely well for Trump. He made as much as $55 million, according to bankruptcy proceedings.

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