Bayrock Group Founder/Real Estate Developer and Investor
Tevfik Arif was born to a Turkish family in the former Soviet Union in 1953. After studying international relations in Moscow, he spent 17 years as the deputy director of the Department of Hotel Management for the USSR’s Ministry of Commerce and Trade.
With the break up of the Soviet Union, Tevrik and his brother branched out into other industries, among them owning a jewelry business and a chromium plant. Then due to high-level connections, they were able to move into real estate development in Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan. In 2001, Tevrik moved part of the business to the United States and opened an office in Trump Tower, two floors down from the Trump Organization. He called his firm the Bayrock Group.
Tevrik Arif hired Felix Sater, a convicted felon with mob connections, as his managing director, and in 2003, Sater introduced the firm to Trump. While the Bayrock Group suggested Trump license his names to projects in Florida, Arizona, and New York, Trump reportedly found Arif’s international connections intriguing and wanted to expand his portfolio through them.
Their most high profile project was Trump SoHo in downtown Manhattan. Bayrock partnered with the Sapir Organization, founded by Tamir Sapir, a self-made billionaire born in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Bayrock and Sapir would develop the property, and Trump would license his name, manage the condo-hotel, and own an 18% share.
In 2007, Bayrock secured $50 million in funding for the project from the FL Group, an Icelandic company “preferred by wealthy Russians ‘in favor with’ President Vladimir V. Putin” in exchange for a share of future profits. Donald, Ivanka, and Donald Trump Jr. all signed paperwork indicating they were aware of the deal. That deal led Bayrock finance director Jody Kriss to sue the company, alleging it was dodging taxes, cheating him out of millions of dollars, and operating as a front for money laundering. Kriss’ lawsuit said Bayrock “had occasionally received unexplained infusions of cash from accounts in Kazakhstan and Russia.” In December 2016, a New York federal judge granted permission for Kriss’ nine-year-old suit to move forward as a racketeering case.
In 2010, Tevfik Arif was one of 10 people arrested in Turkey and charged with running a prostitution ring aboard a $60 million dollar yacht called the Savarona. A Turkish court acquitted him in 2012.
In November 2011, Trump SoHo buyers sued Trump for fraud, claiming he and his co-defendants, including his children, had misrepresented the building’s sales success. Trump settled, agreeing to refund 90% of $3.16 million in deposits while admitting no wrongdoing. Trump SoHo failed in 2014, and Los Angeles-based real estate investor CIM Group bought the property at a foreclosure auction. Bayrock closed, and Arif reportedly moved to Turkey.
When Trump testified under oath in 2011 about his relationship with Bayrock, he said, “I don’t know who owns Bayrock,” and “I never really understood who owned Bayrock. I know they’re a developer that’s done quite a bit of work. But I don’t know how they have their ownership broken down.”