Sometime in December, the newly renovated Trump Hotel & Tower International (NYC) opens to the public, and 29% of the units (92 of 322) are purchased with cash by shell companies — an untraceable and effective way to launder money.
The percentage is even higher though when you consider that only 156 units in the building are residential condos. The rest are hotel rooms. Almost 60% of the condos raise money laundering flags.
According to an investigation by Buzzfeed News, the untraceable sales amount to $134 million — more than the $50 million he was expected to earn from the development deal and the sales of all 156 condos combined. It’s also more than Trump has received in secretive sales from his three other buildings combined.
In one case, a shell company purchases a nine-room condominium for $2.26 million and sells it eight weeks later to another shell company for $3 million.
Trump condo sales that match [the U.S.] Treasury’s characteristics of possible money laundering totaled $1.5 billion, BuzzFeed News calculated. They accounted for 21% of the 6,400 Trump condos sold in the US. Those figures include condos that Trump developed as well as condos that others developed in his name under licensing deals that pay Trump a fee or a percentage of sales.Buzzfeed News
By the early 2010s, these types of purchases are more common and less likely done for money laundering. In the 1990s, that isn’t the case.
Trump International (NYC) was originally the Gulf and Western Building, which was built for office space around 1970. Trump became involved in 1994 and announced plans to renovate the building and convert it into a hotel with condos. He began renovations in June 1995.
Trump stripped the building to its skeleton and constructed the new exterior, designed by architects Philip Johnson and Costas Kondylis.
Trump International is 44 stories. Trump claims the real number is 52.
Philip Johnson is a former propagandist and volunteer spy for Germany’s Nazi Party who tried to bring Hitler’s version of fascism to the United States. He published pro-Nazi, anti-semitic editorials in and on behalf of various right-wing publications and organizations in the 1930s, often telling complete and total lies about the damage Hitler had done in Europe.
The F.B.I. followed Johnson and reported to headquarters that Johnson had friendships with several German diplomatic officials and Americans whose activities on behalf of German interests were well known. According to F.B.I. agents shadowing him, plus informant reports, Johnson had developed extensive contacts with the German Propaganda and Foreign Ministries while in Germany and then returned to propagandize on the Nazis’ behalf in the United States.Vanity Fair
In 1940, the FBI arrested 18 possible associates of Johnson for a plot to assassinate U.S. officials, overthrow the government, and install a dictator. Johnson and those arrested swore allegiance to the same man: Father Charles Edward Coughlin, a talk-radio minister and conspiracy theorist. His program had a larger audience than any other radio show in the world. He brought that audience with him into politics.
Note: Reports on the opening date of the Trump International Hotel & Tower vary. Some say December ’96. Some say January ’97. We’ve even found one that claims the grand opening was in late May 1997. Whenever the building opened, most or all of the condos were already sold.
New York Times – $50 million estimate (Archived)
Journal of Architectural Education, Archived
Trump International NYC, Archived
Photo: Trump Hotels via LP-Life