According to BuzzFeed News, federal law enforcement officials are investigating two waves of curious financial transfers involving Aras and Emin Agalarov that took place at two key points in time that could be relevant to the Russia investigation.
The first set came just 11 days after the June 9 meeting, when an offshore company controlled by [Aras] Agalarov wired more than $19.5 million to his account at a bank in New York.
The second flurry began shortly after Trump was elected. The Agalarov family started sending what would amount to $1.2 million from their bank in Russia to an account in New Jersey controlled by the billionaire’s son, pop singer Emin Agalarov, and two of his friends. The account had been virtually dormant since the summer of 2015, according to records reviewed by BuzzFeed News, and bankers found it strange that activity in Emin Agalarov’s checking account surged after Trump’s victory.
After the election, that New Jersey account sent money to a company controlled by Irakly “Ike” Kaveladze, a longtime business associate of the Agalarovs and their representative at the Trump Tower meeting. Kaveladze’s company, meanwhile, had long funded a music business set up by the person who first proposed the meeting to the Trump camp, Emin Agalarov’s brash British publicist, Rob Goldstone.
The transactions came to light after law enforcement officials instructed financial institutions in mid-2017 to go back through their records to look for suspicious behavior by people connected to the broader Trump-Russia investigation. The bankers filed “suspicious activity reports” to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which in turn shared them with the FBI, the IRS, congressional committees investigating Russian interference, and members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.
Suspicious activity reports are not evidence of wrongdoing, but they can provide clues to investigators looking into possible money laundering, tax evasion, or other misconduct. In the case of the Agalarovs and their associates, bankers raised red flags about the transactions but were unable to definitively say how the funds were used.
Over the past nine months, BuzzFeed News has reported on the financial behavior of Manafort, former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, accused foreign agent Maria Butina, GOP operative Peter W. Smith, and others.
In the case of the Agalarovs and their associates, the documents show funds moving quickly between accounts across the globe, often, bankers said, with no clear reason and with no clear purpose for how the money was supposed to be used.
BuzzFeed details exactly why the money transfers raised red flags. The timeline starts with the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Natalia Veselnitskaya, Kaveladze, and others, set up for the Agalarovs through Goldstone, which took place on June 9, 2016.
Eleven days later — on June 20, the day Trump fired campaign chief Corey Lewandowski and put Manafort in charge — Aras Agalarov used a company called Silver Valley Consulting to move millions that bankers flagged as suspicious.
Silver Valley’s only address is a post office box in the capital of the British Virgin Islands, a country seen as a haven for money laundering and tax evasion. On June 20, Silver Valley sent through its Zurich-based account at Societe Generale Suisse a wire transfer for a little more than $19.5 million to Agalarov’s account at Morgan Stanley in the US.
That same day, another entity controlled by Agalarov — ZAO Crocus International, an arm of his business empire — sent a wire transfer through Societe Generale Suisse for about $43,000 to the same Morgan Stanley account.
Swiss employees of the bank told their American colleagues that the account was closed in May 2017, but that “due to Swiss confidentiality laws the requested information cannot be provided.”
Between 2006 and 2016, Silver Valley made nearly 200 transactions for $190 million. Bankers believed that most were legitimate and were part of Agalarov’s global construction business. But some of the transactions raised red flags.
Bank officials said they found high, round-dollar amounts sent to or received from shell companies. Round-dollar wire transfers often trigger alarm bells because most transactions are not that clean. Bankers also noted that some of the transactions passed through multiple companies, a process that can indicate “layering,” a way to hide the original source of funds.
US bank examiners also found that Silver Valley received nearly $900,000 in 2012 from a Russian investigated in the past for tax evasion and embezzlement.
The following year, Silver Valley received two payments from an aviation firm that were flagged by bankers because they learned that a shareholder was involved with a suspected Russian money laundering scheme.
The next flurry of activity took place in November 2016.
Beginning 13 days after the election, the Agalarovs’ bank account in Russia made 19 separate wire transfers to a New Jersey personal checking account belonging to Emin Agalarov and two friends from high school. That checking account, held at TD Bank, had been opened in 2012. Bank examiners thought it was unusual that the account had never before received a Russian wire transfer and that its only deposit since the summer of 2015 was for $200, in January 2016.
The postelection transfers to the checking account were in large, round-dollar amounts ranging from $15,000 to $175,000. Between November 2016 and July 2017, the sum topped $1.2 million.
But what triggered alarms wasn’t just that activity in the account had jumped since Trump’s election. It was also how the checking account handled the money. While some of it went toward credit card bills, mortgage installments, and other run-of-the-mill payments, TD Bank officials also saw the checking account quickly pass funds to an account controlled by another participant in the Trump Tower meeting.
On Nov. 21, 2016, Emin Agalarov’s checking account received $165,000 from an account based in Russia belonging to his family. The following day, the account sent $107,000 to Corsy International, a company run by Kaveladze, the longtime Agalarov associate who attended the Trump Tower meeting.
Bankers were suspicious for a number of reasons. For one, Kaveladze was an employee of the Agalarovs’ Crocus Group, their sprawling construction and real estate empire based in Russia. Why, bankers wondered, would the funds start in Russia, briefly make a pit stop in Emin Agalarov’s New Jersey account, and finally be sent to Corsy International? ...
Second, bankers noted that Kaveladze — who after the election pushed for an additional get-together with the Trumps and some of the original Tower meeting participants — had previously been investigated for money laundering. According to a Government Accountability Office report published in 2000, Kaveladze established more than 2,000 corporations in Delaware for Russian real estate brokers, then set up bank accounts for them in the US. The brokers used these accounts to launder about $1.4 billion, the report found. Kaveladze was never charged with a crime and he referred to the GAO’s probe as a “witch hunt.”
BuzzFeed describes Corsy International's New Jersey office as "a nondescript location."
When examiners began investigating this address, they discovered at least eight other companies located there, all of them controlled by Kaveladze, Emin Agalarov, or their associates.
The headquarters for these companies is Suite 309. There is no sign on the door. When a reporter visited last month, a man refused to open the door and said he was unable to talk or even accept a business card.
Corsy International also is connected to Rob Goldstone, who made a series of curious withdrawals after news of the Trump Tower meeting broke in July 2017.
During his congressional testimony, Goldstone said that Emin Agalarov was his only client. But he said he didn’t know the “chain of command” of who paid him.
The documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News show that most of the funds flowing into Goldstone’s music business, Oui 2 Entertainment, and his personal checking account came from Corsy International, Kaveladze’s company. Between July 2015 and January 2017, Oui 2 received more than half a million dollars from Corsy International. Bank examiners found this suspicious because Corsy was an import-export business, while Oui 2 was involved with music. It didn’t make sense, bankers reported, for these two companies to conduct transactions with one another.
Bankers were also concerned that Goldstone set up the meeting and received money through Kaveladze, who had previously been investigated for money laundering involving Russians.
While they couldn’t explain these transfers, bankers flagged additional suspicious behavior in Goldstone’s account shortly after the Trump Tower meeting came to light.
Full story: A Series Of Suspicious Money Transfers Followed The Trump Tower Meeting (BuzzFeed News)