Saturday, January 13, 2018
More than one-fifth of Donald Trump's US condominiums have been purchased since the 1980s in secretive, all-cash transactions that enable buyers to avoid legal scrutiny by shielding their finances and identities, a BuzzFeed News investigation has found. Records show that more than 1,300 Trump condominiums were bought not by people but by shell companies, and that the purchases were made without a mortgage, avoiding inquiries from lenders. Those two characteristics signal that a buyer may be laundering money, the Treasury Department has said in a series of statements since 2016. All-cash purchases by shell companies do not by themselves indicate illegal or improper activity, and they have become more common in recent years in both Trump buildings and other luxury home sales across the United States.
Trump condo sales that match 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. Some of the secretive sales date back more than three decades, long before recent worries that Russians tried to influence Trump by pouring millions of dollars into his businesses. But a months-long BuzzFeed News examination of every Trump condominium sale in the US shows that such sales surged in the late 2000s and early 2010s, when some Trump businesses were in financial trouble and when Donald Trump Jr. made his now-famous remark about the Trump Organization seeing "a lot of money pouring in from Russia."
The surge was driven by the opening of 11 Trump condo buildings between 2008 and 2010 as Trump shifted his real-estate business from developing high-rises to licensing them. Nine were Trump-licensed, and they drew hundreds of shell companies that paid an average of $1.2 million in cash for a condo. In six of the licensed buildings, cash-paying shell companies bought at least a third of the condos, records show.
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