“It’s like Zorin owned a place in Hell,” said Ilya Shumanov, deputy director of the Russian chapter of Transparency International, of a minor Russian bureaucrat’s bizarre $5.4 million dollar investment in condos at the Trump Palace high-rise in Miami. It gets weirder. Like, biker gang named for Russia’s Spetsnaz M.C. Spetsnaz special forces weirder. And, like, where did Igor Zorin get the money for this, and why hasn’t Russia dressed him down for investing in Trump’s real estate empire? Oh, and why do so many of Trump-affiliated Miami properties have organized crime connections? There’s also that new investigation that could be looking into Trump’s business dealings and how they’re connected to a Miami hive of shadowy Russian characters. File this under It Could Only Happen In Florida.
Let’s back up. Shumanov’s “hell” qualifier doesn’t refer to the quality of the condos he owns, but to how Russia would view the investment. It’s not that Sunny Isles Beach is anathema to Russians looking to soak up the sun—the area, full of luxury condos, is referred to as “Little Moscow.” Back in 2004, before Trump found himself followed by Russian specters he just can’t shake, he was instrumental in attracting foreign buyers to the neighborhood. His name had cache, as it does now in China, where people are currently going crazy for Trump branded products. But now, given the current political tension between Russia and the United States, just made worse by Congress ratcheting up sanctions, Shumanov says pretty beachfront condos are a “black mark against officials like Zorin.”
But then again, “Little Moscow” is full of Russians such as Zorin’s associate Svyatoslav Mangushev, who worked as a Russian intelligence officer until he became a Miami real-estate investor. Mangushey and Zorin have business ties that involve million dollar deals, despite Zorin’s relatively small salary working for a Russian broadcasting company for the equivalent if $75,000 a year. Mangushev is also one of the founders of the Spetsnaz M.C. Spetsnaz motorcycle club that sought recognition from Russia’s biggest biker gang, the Night Wolves, which has its own ties to Russian special forces, and the U.S. Treasury Department. In 2014, the Night Wolves got into trouble with the Treasury, earning a place in the sanctions levied against Russia for their interference with Ukrainian sovereignty. Mangushey has also been in trouble— his record includes a history of domestic violence and civil litigation with his real estate partners.
Mangushev isn’t the only Little Moscow resident with a film noir history. Thirteen Trump Towers buyers have shady dealings that have warranted government investigation. According to the Miami-Herald, investors include the Russian-American mafia (and that’s not Trump’s only link), Venezuelan oilmen convicted of bribery, and a defrauding Mexican banker. The Herald also notes that Zorin bought into Trump Palace before it was Trump-affiliated, so his money didn’t go to the Trump Organization. While Trump’s brand recognition contributed to Sunny Isles’ gravitational pull for Russians, the Little Moscow momentum started in the early 2000s before Trump got involved.
Zorin doesn’t include much of his American dealings on public disclosure forms in Russia, an illegal move according to Shumanov, who’s job is to keep an eye on global graft dealings. But the in the United States, someone is keeping track of everything. There is a prosecutor who is taking a “gloves are off” approach to investigating whether Trump’s real estate development career parlays into his presidential administrations troubling ties to Russia. After all, when FBI Director Robert Mueller was given authorization to look into the Trump campaign’s ties to the Russian government, and “any matter that arose or may arise directly from the investigation,” that set the legal precedent for other legal inquires.
Those inquires include secret meetings at Mar-a-Lago that the Trump administration has managed to keep sort of under wraps. In this climate, otherwise innocuous dealings like Trump selling a Palm Beach mansion to Dmitry Rybolovlev for an inflated sum seems suspect. Trump might not have succeeded in brokering the big deals in Russia he wanted to, but he has plenty of small ones, dotted across Sunny Isles. But as the Washington investigation into the Trump administration’s Russian dealings heats up, the rest of the country is warming to looking into what Trump’s local ties might have to say about his position in Washington.
(Via Miami Herald)