Category Archives: news

Narco-a-Lago: Donald Trump Made Millions from Panama Development Used to Launder Drug Money

Narco-a-Lago: Donald Trump Made Millions from Panama Development Used to Launder Drug Money

President Donald Trump has made millions from selling his name to a Panama development used to launder money from Latin American drug cartels, a Global Witness investigation reveals today.

After licensing his name to the Trump Ocean Club in 2006, Trump appears to have turned a blind eye to the source of the buyers’ funds and the background of some of the individual brokers (1). The investigation, Narco-a-Lago: Money Laundering at the Trump Ocean Club, Panama provides powerful evidence that profits from Colombian cartels’ narcotics trafficking were laundered through the Trump Ocean Club. Trump was one of the beneficiaries, since he received a cut of all sales. Trump’s Presidential disclosures show he was still making money from a management contract for the Trump Ocean Club when he took office in 2017.

“This must be investigated. Donald Trump has made millions from a project used by Latin American drug cartels to launder money. The warning signs were there for a responsible businessperson, but it seems Trump didn’t want to know,” said Eryn Schornick, Senior Policy Advisor at Global Witness.

The Trump Ocean Club in Panama was one of Trump’s most lucrative licensing deals: initial projections indicate that he was set to make $75.4 million by 2010. Sources close to the development described it as “Ivanka’s baby”, and confirmed that Trump’s daughter was in overall charge of the licensing venture for the Trump Organization.

The Trump Ocean Club, Panama

The report highlights several warning signs for money laundering in the project, which should have raised the alarm for a responsible businessperson looking to avoid being associated with dirty money. Panama was a major hub for money laundering when Trump signed the licensing and management deal with the Trump Ocean Club in 2006. Global Witness’ sources indicate that many units were bought in bulk, some sales were made with bearer shares, and secretly owned companies were often used, hiding the identities of the buyers.

The investigation also shines a light on several dubious characters that bought units or brokered transactions at the Trump Ocean Club. Those involved include:

David Murcia Guzmán, released from U.S. federal prison after serving a sentence of nine years for laundering millions of dollars’ worth of illicit funds, including narcotics proceeds, through secret companies and real estate.

Murcia Guzmán’s business associate Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, who claims to have brokered nearly a third of all 666 pre-construction unit sales at the Trump Ocean Club. Ventura Nogueira, who has faced accusations of criminal activity including fraud, was critical to ensuring the project’s lift-off and hence Trump’s ability to earn tens of millions of dollars. 

Ventura Nogueira assembled a team of agents and brokers to market Trump Ocean Club units, often targeting buyers of Russian and Eastern European origin. Some of these agents have faced serious accusations of criminal activity. 

Although the extent of Trump’s knowledge of these brokers and buyers is unknown, it is highly likely that the Trump Organization had the right to receive sales reports and demand information on the buyers. Buying high-end real estate through secretly-owned companies is a well-known way for criminals to stash the cash they make through crime and launder it to spend without scrutiny. It’s a tried and trusted method used by organized crime, drug cartels and human traffickers.

 

“Now that Donald Trump is president, his business is the nation’s business. He claims to be tough on crime and drugs, yet he’s earned millions from selling his name to a Panama development used to launder drug money,” said Schornick. “These fresh revelations of unscrupulous business dealings show his public rhetoric is both misleading and hypocritical.”

Global Witness calls upon appropriate law enforcement authorities, including Special Counsel Robert Mueller (see here), and congressional committees (see here andhere) to investigate the allegations raised in this report and, if appropriate, hold President Trump accountable for his actions.

Global Witness’ other recommendations are:

Every country should require all companies and trusts to disclose who ultimately owns and controls them and make this information public.

Every country should require the real estate sector to know who their clients are and the source of their funds to ensure that dirty money is not being laundered into the property market.

Every country should require lawyers who carry out transactions for their clients, including the buying and selling of real estate and the creation of companies, to know who their clients are and the source of their funds.

Global Witness has repeatedly shown how secret companies have been used as vehicles to cover up illicit activities such as corruption, terrorism and money laundering. For more, see here. For the full facts and relevant responses from our investigation, read or download the entire report via Global Witness’ website here.

Paradise Papers: Global Witness Statement on Wilbur Ross’ Offshore Secrecy

Paradise Papers: Global Witness Statement on Wilbur Ross’ Offshore Secrecy

Washington, DC — Leaked documents published today by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists expose how offshore tax havens, white-collar professionals, and anonymous company owners hide their finances behind a veil of secrecy.  The documents from Bermuda-based law firm Appleby include evidence of dubious deals and holdings involving the Queen of England, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief fundraiser, and Trump appointed U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

According to the documents, Wilbur Ross used a constellation of companies, some with their ownership undisclosed. The companies were set up by Appleby to retain shares in Navigator Holdings, a shipping firm with business ties to a Russian oligarch subject to American sanctions.

Ross’ stake has received more than $68 million in revenue since 2014 from Sibur, a Russian energy company co-owned by the son-in-law of Russian President Vladimir Putin.  The documents also report that Appleby has administered some 50 companies and partnerships set up in the Caymans and other tax havens that are connected to Ross, whose net worth is estimated to be more than $2 billion dollars.

“This is yet another instance of conflicts of interest within the Trump administration. Wilbur Ross influences US trade and sanctions, yet he is still making millions from a Russian company that could be targeted by these decisions. This is highly problematic for an administration at the center of investigations into collusion with the Russian state,” said Mark Hays, Anti Money Laundering Campaign Leader at Global Witness.

The deals outlined in the Paradise Papers underscore the importance of transparency measures, such as Beneficial Ownership Transparency legislation [S. 1454, S. 1717, and H.R. 3089] , which would help prevent public officials and companies involved in potentially criminal or corrupt activities from using the offshore system to hide their dealings behind a veil of secrecy.

“This new leak demonstrates once again how it’s all too easy to use anonymous companies to game the system,” said Hays.



Note to Editors

Experts from Global Witness, an internationally recognized organization for bold, tenacious campaigns to expose and break links between natural resources, conflict and corruption, are available for comment or interview by emailing Andy Stepanian at andy@sparrowmedia.net and can provide insight in the following areas:

Offshore Corruption
Anonymous Corporate Vehicles
Beneficial Ownership Transparency Legislation
Corruption Involving Property & Real Estate
Corruption in Extractive Industries
Money Laundering
Conflict Resources

Trump’s Afghanistan Strategy will Fail if it Does not Take on Corruption

Trump’s Afghanistan Strategy will Fail if it Does not Take on Corruption

Tonight at 9pm EST President Trump announced his new Afghanistan strategy, Global Witness’ Stephen Carter highlights what is needed for a real change in direction:

“The United States is Afghanistan’s key partner and has real potential to help break the cycle of violence there. But its continued presence will change nothing unless the US and the Afghan government also tackle the root causes of instability. That means fighting the corruption that allows insurgents and strongmen to reap the benefits of the country’s resources, and maintain their grip on power. ‘Nation-building’ in that sense is vital to what President Trump called ‘principled realism’ – not separate from it.

“Corruption is at the heart of insecurity in Afghanistan. It deeply undermines the effectiveness of Afghan forces and the legitimacy of the Afghan government, and is a huge obstacle to any realistic path to stability. Despite successive American military and political leaders acknowledging this challenge, in practice they have rarely treated it as a priority: it is ironic that it is now seen as impossible. If President Trump wants to turn Afghanistan around, there needs to be a real change in the way the US and the Afghan government’s approach governance issues, putting them on a par with military concerns and using levers of support and influence much more effectively.

“The Afghan mining sector is one obvious place to start. It is the second largest source of funding for the Taliban and a major driver of corruption and conflict. Global Witness’ own research, for example, shows how competition over illegal mining in Badakhshan has undermined the stability of an entire province and made it a hotbed of the insurgency. Despite this, basic transparency measures have yet to be put into effect, the Mining Law is missing key safeguards against corruption and conflict, and the Afghan government has struggled to produce basic information on contracts and production. The US has done relatively little to press for stronger action, even though the sector is central to hopes of building up Afghanistan’s economy – and for its ability to fund their own security forces and secure their territory without endless expenditure of American lives and money.

“Under President Ghani and CEO Abdullah the Afghan government has shown itself willing to contemplate serious reforms and to agree anti-corruption benchmarks, even if implementation has so far been slow. America has a partner in Afghanistan, but they need to seize the chance to work with them, and push hard for serious action. The call for ‘real reforms’ is welcome, but it has been made before, and is lacking specifics. President Trump’s Afghan strategy will stand or fall on how well he turns those words into action.” said Carter.

‘Stand With Reality’ Awareness Campaign to Fund Legal Defense for Alleged Whistleblower Reality Winner

‘Stand With Reality’ Awareness Campaign to Fund Legal Defense for Alleged Whistleblower Reality Winner

Stand With Reality, a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of concerned individuals, is launching a campaign today to defend N.S.A. contractor Ms. Reality Leigh Winner against an overzealous prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice.

 

Winner has been charged under the Espionage Act, a 100-year-old statute originally designed for spies and saboteurs, for allegedly giving a document vital to the public’s understanding of potential Russian interference in U.S. election systems to a news organization.

 

Stand With Reality believes the charge against Winner is grossly disproportionate to her alleged offense, and is designed to create a chilling effect on investigative journalism by dissuading sources from sharing information that is critical to the public interest. The group is dedicated to raising public awareness of Winner’s case, as well as the U.S. government’s persistent abuse of the Espionage Act to silence its critics and stifle journalism.

 

“The document Winner is alleged to have given The Intercept is vital for understanding how U.S. election systems are seriously vulnerable to hacking. It is absurd that the government is charging her under the draconian Espionage Act rather than helping states fix our country’s election security,” said Jeff Paterson, Courage to Resist project director and co-founder of Stand With Reality.

 

The organization aims to fully fund Winner’s legal defense team headed by attorney Titus Nichols, of the Augusta, Georgia law firm of Bell & Brigham. Stand with Reality launched a crowdfunding campaign today to cover both legal fees and public awareness efforts. “It is refreshing to know that so many people that Ms. Winner has never known have come together to offer their support and prayers for her,” notes Nichols. “Your pledge of additional support, for fees related to her case, is commendable,” he adds.

 

“The new Stand with Reality group means the world to me. Not only are they going to be raising money for my daughter’s legal defense, they’ll also be raising awareness. Reality won’t be forgotten, and she’ll have a whole organization behind her,” said Winner’s mother, Billie Winner-Davis, of Kingsville, Texas. The Winner Family will be closing their GoFundMe effort and directing supporters to the new Reality Winner Defense Fund hosted by Courage to Resist in collaboration with Stand with Reality. Meanwhile, the UK-based Courage Foundation is undertaking fundraising and support efforts on behalf of Winner throughout Europe.

 

First Look Media’s Press Freedom Defense Fund provided a grant of $50,000 which will act as a matching fund for the first $50,000 raised for this campaign between now and August 30th. First Look is the publisher of The Intercept, which published its story based on a document allegedly provided by Winner after receiving it anonymously. The Fund is committed to supporting legal fights where key principles of press freedom are at stake, including the defense of journalistic sources like Winner facing this Espionage Act charge.

 

Winner, 25, is an Air Force veteran and recipient of the Air Force Commendation Medal for those who have “distinguished themselves by meritorious achievement and service.” She is universally described by friends and family as a “patriot”.

 

She is currently being denied bail on the basis that she is a flight risk, despite assurances from her family, and their offer of their 20-acre Southern Texas ranch as collateral.

 

“We believe the prosecution is trying to demoralize Reality and her family by denying her bail,” said Rainey Reitman, open Internet advocate and co-founder of Stand with Reality. “They’re punishing her with months in jail, and denying her the opportunity to fully participate in her defense preparations, all before a jury hears the merits of the government’s case.”

 

Stand with Reality was founded by three individuals dedicated to open government, free expression, civil liberties, and the rule of law:


  • Jeff Paterson, a Marine veteran and web developer, has spent the last 11 years as the project director of Courage to Resist, which provides legal and advocacy assistance to military war resisters.

  • Trevor Timm, a lawyer and free speech advocate, is the co-founder and executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which helps defend the rights of journalists and whistleblowers worldwide.

  • Rainey Reitman, a writer and privacy advocate, leads the advocacy team for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties organization, and works as a nonprofit consultant.

     

For complete campaign information visit: https://StandWithReality.org
New Yorkers Show Solidarity for Reality Winner, NSA Contractor Charged Under Espionage Act

New Yorkers Show Solidarity for Reality Winner, NSA Contractor Charged Under Espionage Act

New York, NY — The indictment of NSA contractor Reality Leigh Winner may be the opening salvo in the Trump Administration’s self-described war on leaks. Reality is facing a serious charge under the Espionage Act for allegedly sharing an NSA report on Russian attempts to compromise the 2016 US Presidential election.  Concerned New Yorkers and political activists will show their support for Reality on Wednesday afternoon by gathering on the south steps of New York’s Union Square to declare they #StandWithReality 

When: 2:30pm EST, TODAY, Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Where: Union Square Park (South Steps), 101 East 14th Street, New York, NY 10003 

What: Vigil in support of Reality Leigh Winner, typographic placards will spell out #STANDWITHREALITY 

Who: Concerned New Yorkers in support of Reality Winner hosted by People for Bernie Sanders, Courage Foundation, Democrats.com, and The Sparrow Project

Why: On June 5th, 2017, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the arrest of 25-year-old Reality Leigh Winner, a federal contractor in Augusta, Georgia (USA), on charges of allegedly sharing an NSA report on Russian military intelligence’s hacking efforts during the final days of the  2016 election with a news outlet.  Reality Winner deserves widespread support as she faces an administration that has openly declared war on journalists and their sources.