Reprinted with permission from Alternet
Moscow native Felix Sater, a real estate developer and former business associate of President Donald Trump known for his ties to the Russian mafia, has been accused of laundering millions of dollars in a lawsuit. And on Monday, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan allowed that lawsuit to move forward.
The money, according to the lawsuit, was stolen from BTA Bank in Kazakhstan, and Sater is accused of laundering it through Trump Organization properties.
In a 25-page opinion, Law & Crime reporter Adam Klasfeld reports, Nathan dismissed two counts of a six-count complaint and wrote, "In this case, Kazakhstan's largest city and a Kazakhstani bank seek to recover millions of dollars in stolen funds from those who allegedly helped the culprits launder them. Felix Sater — the alleged ringleader of the money-laundering operation — along with his associate Daniel Ridloff and several business entities they control, move to dismiss."
According to Nathan, "The court emphasizes that the Kazakh entities will need to adduce evidence showing the Sater defendants' deceptive conduct and their justifiable reliance on that conduct in significantly greater detail to meet their burdens of production and of proof as the case progresses. However, at this stage, the court concludes that it is not clear on the face of the complaint that their claims are untimely, and so, declines to dismiss any claims on that basis."
Klasfeld notes that the lawsuit "stems from allegations of the systematic looting of Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, and its bank in 2009," adding that Nathan's ruling "does not mention Trump or his properties." However, Klasfeld points out that the lawsuit "accuses Sater of helping the Almaty mayor's son, Ilyas Khrapunov, launder stolen funds in at least five schemes throughout the United States, including through Trump Soho."
During the 2000s, Sater worked closely with the Trump Organization on some major real estate projects — including the construction of the Trump Soho (which is now the Dominick) in downtown Manhattan. In the Mueller Report, Sater is mentioned in connection with his efforts to broker a Trump Tower Moscow deal in 2015 and 2016.
The lawsuit alleges, "Sater conspired with Ilyas to invest the stolen funds to develop a Trump Tower project in Russia, which Sater has claimed would have been a 'high-rise, high-end development that could make a significant amount of money."
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