The Center for Public Integrity and the Associated Press obtain and report on classified documents that identify Semyon “Sam” Kislin as a member of the Russian mafia and a transnational organized crime syndicate.
The documents are from a confidential 1994 FBI intelligence report on Vyacheslav Ivankov, the “godfather” of Russian organized crime in the US. He was found living in Trump Tower in 1995.
The FBI determined that Kislin works for Ivankov but kept the discovery secret, possibly as a favor to Donald Trump and Giuliani. However, Kislin’s company Trans Commodities was included in a report on Ivankov associate Semion Mogilevich. Trans Commodities co-sponsored US visas for other mafia members and helped the mafia launder millions of dollars from Russia to New York. Some of that money likely helped elect Rudy Giuliani.
Between 1993 and 1997, Kislin, his family, and his businesses donated at least $46,000 to Giuliani’s mayoral campaigns; $30,000 to the Liberal Party which backs Giuliani’s campaigns; and almost $8,000 to Giuliani’s 1997 running mate Jules Polonetsky. Kislin has donated smaller amounts to other politicians, too, including Chuck Schumer.
In ’96, Giuliani appointed Kislin to the board of New York City’s Economic Development Corporation. He renewed Kislin’s seat on the board earlier this year. Kislin is referred to as an adviser / ex-adviser to the mayor for decades to come.
Two decades earlier and before the fall of the Soviet Union, Kislin was a KGB “spotter” and tagged Donald Trump as a future asset. More recently, he’s been aiding Trump financially by buying and selling mortgages for condos in Trump World Tower.
Kislin dismisses these and future reports of his involvement in the Russian mafia. He can’t possibly work for the Russian mafia, he says, because “There is no such thing as a Russian mafia.”
His assertion is laughable, but he has the support of at least one member of law enforcement. At a press conference days after the report, Kislin and his attorney Gerald Walpin are joined by former FBI agent Joel Bartow. Bartow claims that Kislin has never been investigated by the FBI and has never appeared in the agency’s work on the Russian mafia.
FBI documents prove Bartow’s claims are untrue, and he has plenty of incentive to lie. After leaving the bureau, Bartow was hired by both Kislin and his law firm. It’s his job to protect Kislin. A few months later, he protects another transnational organized crime figure, Michael Chernoy–an associate of future Vladimir Putin-proxy Oleg Deripaska.
Bartow becomes so entangled with organized crime that his former employer gives a statement: ”He doesn’t speak for the FBI.”
Associated Press / Document Cloud
Craig Unger, American Kompromat: How the KGB Cultivated Donald Trump (2021), p.46, 57
Photo: Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast