Never Mind Russia. What's the Deal with Kazakhstan?
I never planned to actually blog on this site regarding my Felix Sater research. But I've now put together enough BTA Bank, Felix Sater, Donald Trump, Arcanum Global, LitCo LLC research in a separate document it's going to be much easier to copy/paste here into a blog than attempt to put together a very long Twitter thread.
If you're planning to read this in one span, give yourself plenty of time. This will be a lengthy read but I do source all of the below information and think many of you may find it as interesting as I do.
2017 - Was This A Real Threat?
Journeying back to the drama of 2017 isn't super fun, but it’s necessary.
Both the Wall Street Journal and the DC Report collectively in April and May of 2017 made it appear as though Sater was personally threatening Tevfik Arif over his connections to Donald Trump and wanting Arif to pay his legal fees related to the Bayrock lawsuits.
This is one of those odd details that have been lost as time has gone by.
Wall Street Journal, April 2017
Two former business partners of President Donald Trump are in a nasty dispute that has one suggesting he could publicize the other’s controversial past—and warning that the bad headlines could tarnish the president.
Felix Sater is battling his former boss, Tevfik Arif, over $3.5 million in legal fees related to Mr. Sater’s employment at Bayrock Group LLC, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
In early February, the documents show, Mr. Sater, a onetime Bayrock employee, embarked on a plan to persuade Mr. Arif, Bayrock’s owner, to pay Mr. Sater’s legal fees. The documents say that a possible new lawsuit over the fees could bring attention to Mr. Arif’s alleged connections to organized crime figures and his business activities in Kazakhstan, where Mr. Arif was born, as well as attention to Mr. Trump because of their real estate deals together.
“Clearly, if this matter between Mr. Sater and Mr. Arif escalates to public litigation, the media spotlight will be negatively cast on Mr. Arif and his past relationship with President Trump and the Republic of Kazakhstan,” wrote Mr. Sater’s attorney, Robert Wolf, in a Feb. 1 letter to a businessman, Robert Armao.
Mr. Sater hoped Mr. Armao could serve as an intermediary to resolve the dispute, according to Mr. Armao and the documents viewed by the Journal. The documents, including the letter and two memos, said Mr. Sater’s possible new lawsuit would include what Mr. Sater alleged was wrongdoing by Mr. Arif, including actions related to Mr. Arif’s dealings in the post-Soviet metals business in Kazakhstan.
Mr. Sater, in a personal memo sent to Mr. Armao, was blunter: “The headlines will be, ‘The Kazakh Gangster and President Trump.’” Mr. Wolf declined to comment on the documents on Mr. Sater’s behalf, saying they were intended to be kept private.
There’s something happening here.
What it is ain’t exactly clear.
By the time I was digging on these Sater articles and scratching my head sometime in 2018, Richard Behar was quoting the 1967 Buffalo Springfield song, “For What It’s Worth," in his Sater article.
I completely agreed with him, at least that something was definitely happening and it was almost confusing to the point it made one question if it was purposefully meant to be a giant mess.
So were these referenced memos authentic? Was Tevfik Arif a Kazakhstan gangster?
Richard Behar didn’t mince words in his DC Report article, writing:
It’s a good bet that the Trump-Bayrock relationship will receive scrutiny in Washington. It certainly should be front and center in any serious investigation. Two months ago, Sater burst onto the front-pages when it was revealed that he and one of Trump’s top lawyers delivered a Ukraine peace proposal to the White House. In late March, then-FBI director James Comey was asked about Sater’s relationship with the FBI when he appeared before the House Intelligence Committee. (He declined to comment on it, likely because the twice-convicted Sater spent a decade as a secret government cooperator for both the FBI and at times, the CIA.
Trump and Sater have been doing an odd dance around each other during the past few years, regarding how much they’ve interacted. In 2010, Sater was made a “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump” and given an office on Trump’s floor in the Trump Tower, where he worked for roughly one year. Nevertheless, Trump consistently has testified in civil cases that he barely knew Sater, barely dealt with him and “wouldn’t recognize him if he was sitting in this [deposition] room.” However, Sater, in another civil case said he would often pop his head into Trump’s office to give him updates on a Moscow hotel deal he had in the works. (It doesn’t appear that the project came to fruition.) Last September, I half-joked to Sater that he must have a photo album filled with pictures of himself with Trump. “A photo album?” he responded. “How about six!”
The DC Report article details how they discovered “that he [Sater] and a former Trump Organization colleague, Daniel Ridloff, received roughly $20 million—in a settlement of a case that is linked to an alleged multi-billion-dollar global money laundering scheme originating in Kazakhstan, and stretching to Russia and the U.S.”
A complaint had been filed in 2013 by a Swiss financier claiming both Ridloff and Sater had taken nearly $43 million from the sale of an Ohio mall to a San-Francisco based company, American Pacific International Capital (APIC), one of the directors being Neil Bush, the son of former President George H. W. Bush and brother of former President George W. Bush.
In the shopping center complaint, the financier included an exhibit—a 2007 New York Times article that revealed numerous details about Sater’s criminal past. The article said Sater had pled guilty and become a cooperating federal witness. Sater’s cooperation agreement was unsealed by a federal judge in 2013, but many other documents in related cases are under court seal.
Five days after the Tri-County mall complaint was filed, the case was settled.
Neither Sater or Ridloff, whose LinkedIn bio says he worked in “Acquisitions & Finance” in 2010 for the Trump Organization, will comment about the subject. In his own LinkedIn bio, Sater describes himself as a former “Senior Advisor to Board of Directors” of one of Neil Bush’s oil companies (TxOil) that once drilled in Turkmenistan, an oil-rich part of the former Soviet Union.
Bush tells me he’s never heard of Sater. Bush also says that the mall was purchased for $43 million by APIC at a public auction, and then transferred to a Singapore publicly-held real estate company that he chairs called SingHaiyi Group. “I helped the group [SingHaiyi] find the property through a friend,” he says. When told about the subsequent litigation against Sater and Ridloff, Bush says: “I don’t remember anything like that. We bought it at a sheriff’s auction. If the funds filtered through some undesignated [entity] or intermediary, I’m unaware of that.”
A second lawsuit filed in U.S. Federal Court (Southern District of New York) may shed additional light on Sater and Ridloff’s Kazakhstan-related business activity. In this case, the BTA Bank (once one of Kazakhstan’s largest banks) and the government of Almaty (the country’s largest city) are accusing three Kazakh men—a former Almaty mayor, his son, and a former chairman of BTA Bank—of absconding with billions of dollars and laundering the money.
The defendants—Viktor and Ilyas Khrapunov, and Mukhtar Ablyazov, respectively—deny the allegations and claim the charges are politically motivated.
That’s not the view of Matthew L. Schwartz, a former federal prosecutor, now in private practice at the prestigious law firm of Boies Schiller Flexner, who represents the city of Almaty and the bank. “The international financial fraud perpetrated by Ablyazov, Viktor and Ilyas Khrapunov, and their associates is as large and far-flung as they come,” Schwartz says. “It involves billions of dollars and has touched at least two dozen different countries—from Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine to the United States, England, and France—and just about everyplace else.”
Needless to say, the saga—a saga within a saga—is very complicated. A declaration in the Khrapunov case is by Nicolas Bourg, who happens to be the same Swiss financier who accused Sater and Ridloff of stealing the $43 million from the Ohio mall deal. In the declaration, he says that he was president of a real estate fund (named Swiss Development Group, or SDG) that was controlled by the Khrapunov family “and used to conceal the movement and investment of his family’s money.”
Time out. Where does Trump fit into all this? In October, the Financial Times revealed that three Trump Soho condos in Manhattan were bought in 2013 with $3.1 million that came from the alleged Khrapunov laundering caper. Trump Soho was 18% owned by Trump at the time. There is no evidence that Trump was involved or knowledgeable about the Khrapunovs. But he seems to have benefitted.
In addition, bank statements submitted by City of Almaty lawyers indicate that the ultimate beneficiary of the companies that bought the condos was Elvira Kudryashova—the California-based daughter of Viktor Khrapunov. The FT reported that correspondence and company documents seen by the newspaper showed that Sater and Ridloff worked closely with Kudryashova in 2012.
“They agreed to serve as directors of a company through which she would pour $3 million into a business venture as part of her efforts to secure a U.S. investor visa,” wrote the newspaper. Sater and Ridloff, my reporting shows, ran the U.S. arm of the Khrapunov’s SDG entity at the time. Another connection is in the Linked-In bio of Ridloff’s, where he refers to himself as the former vice president of SDG-Investment Fund.
Bourg, the Swiss financier alleging fraud in the Ohio mall sale, maintains in his declaration that a shell entity he created in Luxembourg—Triadou—was an investment vehicle wholly-owned and controlled by SDG. Bourg states that Triadou was also the entity used to buy the Ohio shopping mall.
An exhibit with the declaration from Swiss financier Bourg includes emails to Felix Sater and others in 2014 with “swift code” details for an account at a now-defunct rogue bank that was headquartered in Tanzania. Swift codes are used for international money transfers. In 2015, the bank, FBME, formerly Federal Bank of the Middle East, was banned from operating in the U.S. due to money laundering and terror financing allegations. The email to Sater cites an entity called Telford International, which was allegedly used to move the money to FBME.
And—closing the circle—Telford was used to fund Triadou, the entity that bought and sold the Ohio mall, according to Bourg.
Let's back up a few.
It’s noteworthy to explain to you, as the reader, these articles referring to an alleged ‘Kazakhstan Gangster’ threat were read in my research *after* March 2018, which meant Buzzfeed News had already thrown out many crazy and surreal Felix Sater facts to factor into all of this unfolding profile on this guy the FBI referred to by code name as “The Quarterback.”
After all, Buzzfeed News had just dropped the bomb on everyone (a very silent one) that Sater himself cooperated with the FBI even to that day, like … as they were writing the article. Which, one should point out clearly, would have been even during Trump Tower Moscow and the Ukraine Peace Plan drama.
Here are some of the most important Buzzfeed March 2018 Felix Sater facts you need to make sure you understand:
In story after story, Buzzfeed admitted Sater had been described as “Donald Trump’s former business partner, a convicted stock swindler who was born in the Soviet Union, worked in Russia, tried to win Trump a deal in Moscow, and even helped broker a Ukrainian peace plan that Vladimir Putin would have loved.” Basically someone portrayed as something just short of a Russian spy, but he’s actually been a spy for the United States.
He worked as an asset for the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (or DIA) and tracked Osama bin Laden. Then he worked for more than a decade for the FBI, providing intel on everything from the mob to North Korea’s drive for nuclear weapons. He still operates as a source for the bureau, according to two current FBI agents.
Sater himself remained “an obsession of the many investigators — professional and amateur — searching for Trump’s Russia connection.”
“At the direction of the FBI,” the Department of Justice stated in a newly unsealed court filing, Sater traveled to the Middle East after 9/11 to collect “valuable intelligence” on “key leaders in al Qaeda,” and he helped “in a number of other areas, including Russian organized crime.” In other court filings, the Justice Department said Sater’s work on behalf of the United States “involves 18 foreign governments” as well as “various families of La Cosa Nostra,” and that his help was “of an extraordinary depth and breadth.”
He obtained five of the personal satellite telephone numbers for Osama bin Laden before 9/11 and he helped flip the personal secretary to Mullah Omar, then the head of the Taliban and an ally of bin Laden, into a source who provided the location of al-Qaeda training camps and weapons caches.
In 2004, he persuaded a source in Russia’s foreign military intelligence to hand over the name and photographs of a North Korean military operative who was purchasing equipment to build the country’s nuclear arsenal.
Sater provided US intelligence with details about possible assassination threats against former president George W. Bush and secretary of state Colin Powell. Sater reported that jihadists were hiding in a hut outside Bagram Air Base and planned to shoot down Powell’s plane during a January 2002 visit. He later told his handlers that two female al-Qaeda members were trying to recruit an Afghan woman working in the Senate barbershop to poison President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney.
He went undercover in Cyprus and Istanbul to catch Russian and Ukrainian cybercriminals around 2005. After the FBI set him up with a fake name and background, Sater posed as a money launderer to help nab the suspects for washing funds stolen from US financial institutions.
Sater’s attorney, Robert Wolf, said he acted as his conduit to the CIA.
In Aug 1998, President Bill Clinton authorized Operation Infinite Reach — a bombing strike against al-Qaeda in retaliation for the terror attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people. According to 10 current and former intel and law enforcement officials, Sater is who supplied the intelligence of location coordinates for al-Qaeda camps that the US military ultimately bombed in Khost, Afghanistan.
Another 1998 mission, Sater infiltrated the Afghan precious stone market to find dealers who were laundering money for al-Qaeda. Sater found his own dealer, from New York City’s 47th Street diamond district, and brought him to the Middle East to make the ruse seem more authentic.
An FBI source said the Justice Department later confirmed this detail in court filings that remain under seal. BuzzFeed News reviewed an internal government document about the mission in which an intelligence official characterized the information Sater passed on as “highly sensitive intelligence.”
The same FBI agent, Leo Taddeo, who was trying to hunt Sater down because of the stock scam is the same agent/handler of Sater when he traveled to Cyprus with Taddeo in 2005
Obama’s own Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, responded to allegations of the government sealing the files of Sater and abusing victims’ rights by defending Sater in 2015 stating, “The defendant in question, Felix Sater, provided valuable and sensitive information to the government during the course of his cooperation, which began in or about December 1998. For more than 10 years, he worked with prosecutors providing information crucial to national security and the conviction of over 20 individuals, including those responsible for committing massive financial fraud and members of La Cosa Nostra. For that reason, his case was initially sealed.”
Sater’s code name in government records obtained by Buzzfeed was “The Quarterback.”
Felix said he told a former Russian intelligence official that the two of them could run banks together and make $200 million. To the Northern Alliance source who had provided bin Laden’s satellite numbers, Sater said he went one step further, persuading the man that he would become the “Alan Greenspan of Afghanistan” and run the country’s federal reserve after the US invasion. Felix went so far as to set up Delaware LLCs in the US — for the “Bank of Kabul” and the “Bank of Afghanistan” and registered websites to convince the Northern Alliance source that he was serious about his intentions, going so far, he said, as to print out the corporate registrations, adorn them with ribbons, and use a wax stamp to make them seem more official.
Sater took these additional steps without FBI knowledge or authorization, telling them after the fact. Soon after though, Sater was providing the US intel community with “results of coalition bombings, kills on the battlefield, the financial networks behind the 9/11 bombers and other al-Qaeda members worldwide, and even the identity of a New Mexico company believed to be laundering terror funds in the US.”
Sater’s Afghan intelligence source funneled to him copies of al-Qaeda passports, jihadi escape routes, the locations of fighters, and weapons caches.
Sater described the source as a “gold mine” — but it was only much later that he learned that the information originated inside al-Qaeda’s hideouts. It turned out Sater’s source had his own source: Mullah Omar’s personal secretary, who was living inside a cave with bin Laden.
Sater was under orders to keep his government work secret. He changed his last name to “Satter” to avoid scrutiny from internet sleuths, and the details of his participation in the stock fraud were kept sealed from the public.
Two federal prosecutors and four FBI agents showed up to vouch for him at his late 2009 sentencing hearing. “A transcript of that hearing is heavily redacted, but it makes clear that Sater was no ordinary cooperating witness.”
“There was nothing he wouldn’t do,” former assistant US attorney Todd Kaminsky, now a New York state senator, told the judge. “He was really helpful and was the key to open a hundred different doors.”
Sater continues to cooperate with the FBI and Justice Department, he said in his statement to the House Intelligence Committee. He wouldn't disclose additional details, except to say that he works on “international matters.” Two US officials confirmed Sater continues to be a reliable asset.
So yeah, right? Whew.
By this point I am comparing the articles from back in mid-2017 to this more recent 2018 Buzzfeed reporting and pondering some hard-to-answer questions. Like why would this guy Felix Sater who obviously did so much for our country and cooperate with the government for two decades hunting terrorists and people involved in organized crime only decide to turn around and launder money for a group of people being accused by the government of Kazakhstan of stealing billions of dollars?
This wasn’t quite adding up for me, but I kept mulling it over.
Buzzfeed was saying Sater was still an asset regarding “international matters” and prior reporting along with BTA’s own lawyer had stated the large-scale money laundering operation spanned over a dozen countries, and Buzzfeed themselves saying Sater’s cooperation “involves 18 foreign governments.”
This led to my pondering if it was too much of a leap to consider the money laundering was a trap -- a Sater trap.
But even if, from how long ago?
Here’s what we already know -- that even in 2014 when SWIFT codes are being sent for financial transactions and all of this other stuff was going on, we already have on-the-record sources saying Sater was cooperating with 18 different countries and Ablyazov-Khrapunov money laundering was being described by the BTA lawyer as “at least two dozen different countries—from Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine to the United States, England, and France—and just about everyplace else.”
Very closely following these articles by WSJ and DC Report being published, the Financial Times reported on Felix Sater, Kazakhstan, and the huge money laundering case.
They had written, “Mr Sater has now agreed to co-operate with an international investigation into the alleged money-laundering network, five people with knowledge of the matter said. The co-operation has included working with a team of lawyers and private investigators pursuing civil cases across three continents, the people said. Mr Sater declined to comment.”
Interestingly, at this point in time [May 2017] the BTA Bank lawyer, Matthew Schwartz is quoted as saying, “The alleged Kazakh launderers, not the US president or Mr Sater, are the main focus of the investigation.”
"It is unclear how much money has flowed from the alleged Kazakh laundering scheme to Mr Trump. Title deeds and banking records show that in April 2013 shell companies controlled by the Khrapunovs spent $3.1m buying three luxury apartments in Trump Soho from a holding company in which Mr Trump held a stake.”
Let's Go Back Further In Time.
Then Quickly Recap.
So it is 2008. Sater hasn’t even faced sentencing yet and is still fully cooperating with the FBI and this happens:
[Portion of BTA lawsuit describing time period of Sater’s Bayrock-SDG partnership]
So, let’s take a brief minute to recap some of this so far:
Trump SoHo is already announced and construction has started; we know that by this time Ablyazov is trying to park money (if the allegations are true) from BTA Bank all over the world in all of these various countries, including the US
Sater and the Khrapunovs have already started negotiating a potential project in Switzerland
Sater meets Ablyazov for the first time in Sept 2007
NYT article comes out about Sater’s criminal past and prior cooperation with US government two days before Trump deposition where he’s asked about it, and said he’s “looking into it”
Bayrock LLC announced partnership with “Swiss Development Group” (SDG), entity controlled by Khrapunovs, funded by Ablyazov
Khrapunov fled Kazakhstan to Switzerland after an alleged tipoff
Another article comes out in 2008 regarding Sater’s past
Ablyazov fled to London
BTA Bank amidst global financial crisis and collapse had to admit they were missing billions off their books and accused Ablyazov and the Khrapunovs of both being involved of stealing money from Kazakhstan’s public second-largest bank, which resulted in the Bank needing to seek bankruptcy protection in 2010 from U.S. creditors while it restructured over $11 billion of debt.
The debt was blamed on mismanagement and embezzlement by Ablyazov as the former BTA Bank Chairman before he fled
Sater is finally sentenced for his role in the 1993-96 stock scam receiving a $25k fine
It turns out per Buzzfeed, Sater never stopped working with the authorities after 2009 sentencing
2010 - Felix Sater and Daniel Ridloff both pop back up at Trump Tower; Felix with a Trump Org business card
According to BTA, Sater in 2011 was asked by Khrapunov to launder funds which were subject to UK freezing orders
Swiss authorities opened a money laundering investigation into Khrapunov family
In early 2012, Khrapunov's name was added to the Interpol list of wanted persons on request of the government of Kazakhstan
Sater entered personal agreement with Swiss Promotion Group “SPG” (different from the 2008 Swiss Development Group) and assisted funneling funds to US investments
SoHo 3310, SoHo 3311, SoHo 3203, all LLCs, were created to purchase three apartments at Trump SoHo were bought in 2013 with $3.1 million that came from the alleged Khrapunov laundering caper
Trump Soho was 18% owned by Trump at the time. There is no evidence that Trump was involved or knowledgeable about the Khrapunovs
Bank statements submitted by City of Almaty lawyers indicate that the ultimate beneficiary of the companies that bought the condos was Elvira Kudryashova—the California-based daughter of Viktor Khrapunov.
FT reported that correspondence and company documents seen by the newspaper showed that Sater and Ridloff worked closely with Kudryashova in 2012
A 2013 Ohio mall deal resulted in lawsuits alleging Sater and Ridloff kept some of the money, alleged by a Swiss financier Nicolas Bourg, who was also the president of SDG,
Interestingly, the case was almost immediately settled and Sater and Ridloff received a settlement
Bourg maintains Tridaou was a shell entity he created, an investment vehicle wholly-owned and controlled by SDG, the same company Bayrock partnered with in 2008, and that SDG was controlled by the Khrapunov family and “used to conceal the movement and investment of his family’s money.”
Tridaou was also the entity used to buy the Ohio shopping mall
An exhibit with the declaration from Swiss financier Nicolas Bourg, he included emails to Felix Sater and others in 2014 with “swift code” details for an account at FBME, “a now-defunct rogue bank that was headquartered in Tanzania”
(Swift codes are used for international money transfers)
In 2015, FBME, formerly Federal Bank of the Middle East, was banned from operating in the U.S. due to money laundering and terror financing allegations and also happens to be the same bank where the account was held being referenced in these 2014 emails and swift code details
The email to Sater cites an entity called Telford International, which was allegedly used to move the money to FBME
And—not to jump ahead too fast—Telford was used to fund Triadou, the entity that bought and sold the Ohio mall
So, do you have all that?
Moving along, let’s travel back to 2009.
A Meeting With A Spy.
Ablyazov and Ron Wahid met in 2009 and sized each other up. That must have been some meeting, the way the Financial Times described it years later. In September 2017, to be exact. For some reason, it was eight years before a meeting between these two men was reported and oddly, it’s also noted in the article Ablyazov realized Wahid was actually working for Kazakhstan and BTA Bank and Ablyazov did not elect at the time to hire his intelligence firm.
There are other ways this FT article is notable. It describes the Ablyazov money laundering case as being a private spy vs. spy type of battle being waged, and FT is the only publication really describing the BTA Bank saga as the author of this article did.
Here are a few excerpts from the article to explain what I mean.
“The most remarkable battle
the secrets industry has yet fought.”
Here’s where this will start to come full circle, though.
Allow me to skip ahead and make the disclaimers Arcanum is who ends up negotiating with Sater’s longtime lawyer, Robert Wolf, for a CAA (Confidential Assistance Agreement) on behalf of Litco, a company Sater formed years later in 2015.
And by the time 2012 ended and during the year Sater and Ridloff were working closely with Elvira Kudryashova—the California-based daughter of Viktor Khrapunov, Arcanum had made $3.7 million in profits off Kazakhstan-related work for BTA Bank.
That same FT article also references how much oligarchs have poured their money into the West and have made the work lucrative for the private intelligence industry, specifically quoting one private investigator who said he had worked on several Kazakh dossiers, “At one point, literally everyone I know in London was working on Kazakhstan.”
Notably, it also details Wahid may have even played a role in persuading one of the fixers in Ablyazov’s alleged money-laundering network to “switch sides.”
And to explain why the BTA Bank seems potentially related to the Steele dossier madness, it wasn’t made public until only recently Christopher Steele presented a PowerPoint presentation to the FBI in 2017 regarding Felix Sater and BTA Bank.
Christopher Steele 2017 FBI Transcript
I wanted to make those quick points above before moving on from the Wahid-Ablyazov meeting in 2009 so it’s understood this meeting between Wahid and Ablyazov isn’t meaningless, presented in this context by FT in an article 8 years later.
Not when Wahid’s company Arcanum is who ends up negotiating a CAA with Sater’s lawyer, Wolf, on behalf of Sater’s newly-formed company, Litco, by 2015; six years after the Wahid-Abylazov meeting. Not when the author of the Trump dossier in which Felix Sater was smeared as a potential dossier source but wasn’t one, is somehow involved in this BTA Bank-Kazakh mess, too.
But we’ll get to all of that.
Let’s jump all the way from the 2009 meeting to August 2019 when the judge finally unseals the long sought after pre-sentencing letter for Sater from late 2009.
Sater's Unsealed Files Detail FBI Assistance
With International Money Laundering Investigations
Involving Russia, Turkey, Cyprus
Even in Aug 2019, reportedly 10 years after his sentencing, they’ve left almost everything unredacted in his 5k1 letter except this section, which has a lot of black. Sater's 5k1 letter confirmed much of the details of his past with a new detail twist:
Sater was “crucial” and “central” to the investigation of not one, but two international money laundering network investigations originating from Russia, also involving both Cyprus and Turkey. This took place between 2004-2008 and we really have very few details beyond this.
So if you bounce this against Sater’s known timeline, we are staring at this overall picture:
Based on reporting from 2017 to even fairly recently (due largely in part to allegations being made against Sater by BTA Bank and their lawyers), it’s been made to seem like Felix Sater went from government asset hunting Al Qaeda bank accounts, weapons caches, locations of their camps, to helping the FBI infiltrate money laundering networks and cybercriminal rings, to laundering money himself criminally all along?
I’m not sure in what world that is supposed to make sense, but it’s the present narrative. Let’s move on.
FinCen Files Report
In 2020, Buzzfeed profiled Sater again regarding SARs various banks had triggered on him or companies related to him between 2013-2017.
“Between 2013 and 2017, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, American Express, and three others alerted the government at least 10 times to more than $100 million in unusual transactions by Sater, his businesses, his wife’s granola company, and associates that included a powerful political family in Kazakhstan.
The financial records are part of the more than 2,100 suspicious activity reports, or SARs, that BuzzFeed News received and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 news organizations around the world as part of the FinCEN Files investigation. Banks must file SARs to the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, when they spot the hallmarks of money laundering or other misconduct, but SARs are not in and of themselves evidence of a crime.”
Further down in the article ...
“During the years that he was working for the government, however, multiple financial institutions were monitoring his accounts for transactions that looked like they could be related to money laundering. Report after report filed to the Treasury Department — each of which was accessible to his FBI handlers and other law enforcement investigators — shows Sater and his companies behaving suspiciously.
Sater said no one from the FBI ever questioned him about his financial dealings.”
Sater had SARs during these years of 2013-2017 the FBI never asked him about and this being reported by the very same two Buzzfeed reporters who wrote in 2018 Sater was still acting as a source for the US government/FBI.
From the 2020 Buzzfeed FinCen reporting, we gleaning the following 2013 timeline of transactions:
Aug 30 - Tri-County used account at Chase Bank to send $2.6 million to Bayrock Group, Inc.
Sept 7 - Bayrock sent $2.5 million to Canadian company
Late Sept - Tri-County’s Chase account wired additional $866,000 to Bayrock
Sept 30 - Tri-County sent more than $1.3 million from Chase account to Wells Fargo account
In 2013 metals giant ENRC, controlled by the Trio, was probed by the U.K. government for corruption related to activities in Africa and Kazakhstan, and is still being investigated. ENRC went private, delisted from the London stock exchange, and the Trio partnered with the Kazakh government to buy up the 46% of ENRC shares they didn't already own.
Early Oct - Final transaction - Tri-County used Wells Fargo to send $1.75 million to Bayrock, then closed the account the same day
Oct - As Wells Fargo account was being closed, Bank of America was investigating different flow of money from Sater’s accounts
Oct 29 - Sater sent $32 mil to Sands Point Partners
Nov 1 - $25 million sent to granola company of Sater’s wife, Santander Bank, where granola company had account
Bank wrote in SAR Sater’s wife went to Long Island branch and tried to deposit $20 million check into account belonging to Moses and Singer law firm, but the check bounced
On Nov 26, 2013, something notable also happened as Trump SoHo had already been in the crosshairs for lawsuits related to its apartment sales, and Trump is once again being asked about Felix Sater in a deposition.
The mainstream media continuously told you Trump was distancing himself from Sater and wouldn’t recognize him if they were in the same room together.
What they have continuously not reported is Trump also said something more interesting shown here:
A little over a month after Trump basically told a reporter Sater seemed “very close to the federal government” and he didn't believe Sater to be “mafia,” Sater’s wife is trying to deposit less money than the $20 million which had bounced back in November.
Dec 30 - Sater’s wife wired $15 million from granola company account to law firm
** Why was the Moses & Singer law firm, Sater’s law firm since at least 1997 or 1998, being sent part or most of this settlement money Sater supposedly won in the settlement? Is this normal?
2013 - Sater and Khrapunovs had a falling out over an Ohio mall deal and Sater was accused of improperly retaining funds. Suit was quickly settled with Sater ending up with approx. $20 mil in settlement
$30 million Kazakh deal to buy debt in Tri-County Mall and then sold it to Chinese-linked company called APIC which paid $45 million in 2013
Before I move back to how Arcanum and Sater’s company, LitCo LLC, may have ended up partnering in 2015, let’s review who Ron Wahid with Arcanum Global is, according to that 2017 FT article.
Hold Up. Where are We?
2004, Sater's already working with FBI for several years, offically Dec 1998, which includes money laundering investigations. The FBI kept his file sealed and he has gone by "Satter" vs. Sater for several years while knowing he worked at Bayrock solely in a role he'd built for himself going around selling the Trump luxury brand for real estate towers.
So, by mid-2000s, Sater has met the Khrapunovs through Arif.
By 2005, he'd gone undercover in Cyprus posing as a money launderer to infiltrate a Russian-Ukrainian cybercriminal ring which was attacking US banks.
By fall 2007, he has met Ablyazov through the Khrapunovs and Arif.
By 2008, Bayrock has partnered with a newly-created entity called SDG, which is later linked to the Khrapunovs.
And by 2009, Wahid and Ablyazov have met, and Wahid now admits he working for Kazakhstan already at the time he asked Ablyazov for the meeting. Sater hds faced sentencing for his stock crimes and apparently on the face of it, left his work for any US intelligence agencies behind him because he'd escaped jail time or serious restitution with only a $25k fine -- they had nothing to hang over his head anymore.
On paper and in black and white, he was a free man. Free and clear. He didn't owe anybody anything and by much of 2010, he is back at Trump Tower.
Even after Trump was already aware of his past and his prior work with US intelligence agencies, he had an office he didn't pay rent for (as far as Cohen was aware), along with Daniel Ridloff.
Yet by 2011-2013 both Sater and Ridloff are accused by BTA Bank of helping the Khrapunov family, and essentially Ablyazov, move funds which should have been disclosed to the UK into the US.
Let's set aside the fact it might be surprising to find out Sater spent a decade working with the US intel agencies only to be sentenced and then almost immediately start helping alleged money launderers of the largest case in history try to hide their money.
There's also the key fact the US authorities had to have known Bayrock, Sater's company, had partnered with Khrapunov in 2008 shortly before all of this began exploding in 2009 (the "SDG" partnership), and it is hard to imagine a man with obvious intelligence would help people linked to this huge case launder money if it could be so easily and obviously linked back to him, as the media is now doing years later.
So if the allegations are true, one has to wonder if this money laundering case could be linked to the ones from 2004-2008 heavily redacted, and the FBI knew all along he was laundering this money way before we ever hit the 2016 election period.
Let's Go Back To 2015.
Overview/Timeline - Key Dates and Fact:
Apr 29, 2015 - Judge court order to lawyers Oberlander and Lerner to return docs taken from Sater at Bayrock or face imprisonment; their misconduct was referred for criminal investigation by Judge Brian M. Cogan
May 2015 - Sater formed company, LitCo LLC, which entered agreement with Arcanum Global (Ron Wahid) to provide assistance as a consultant recovering stolen BTA Bank money; Lawyer Robert Wolf indicated to Arcanum Sater had useful information for them
Spring 2015 - Dispute arises concerning another real estate investment which Sater advised which led to the filing of the Ablyazov Action
Company Tridaou was seeking to recover an investment in Flatotel but when BTA Bank learned of it, they asserted rights over the money on the grounds the investment money was derived from the initial stolen funds
June - Trump announces his candidacy for President
June 8 - Litco (Sater company) entered CAA (Confidential Assistance Agreement) with Kazakhstan, Almaty, BTA Bank and Arcanum Global, private international investigative firm hired by BTA Bank since approx. 2009
Litco would provide assistance/cooperation to Arcanum by identifying witnesses and locating stolen assets; Litco received $100k a month and 16% of any recovered assets
Arcanum negotiated CAA on behalf of Kazakhstan and BTA Bank, Sater did not personally negotiate directly on Litco’s behalf; Lawyer Robert Wolf negotiated terms with Arcanum keeping Sater’s name and connection to Litco secret
Sater testified later he wanted to keep his affiliation with Litco private due to fears of Ablyazov and Khrapunov spies from Kazakhstan
Kalsom Kam signed CAA on behalf of Litco
CAA expressly provided that Litco would not identify or produce to Arcanum any potential witness who had ownership interest in Litco, which would have prevented Sater from becoming a witness in the Ablyazov Action
Sater’s lawyer Wolf negotiated separate NDA with Arcanum that if they learned identity of Litco’s owner, the identity would not be revealed to BTA Bank or Kazakhstan
Provision in NDA required Arcanum, at Litco’s request, to return or destroy all materials reflecting Sater as Litco owner
July - Interpleader action filed in NY Supreme Court to determine whether $21 million from Flatotel investment should be discharged to Tridaou or Almaty
July 7 - Suit filed to interplead $21 million in funds claimed by Tridaou and Almaty
July 9 - Almaty removed action to different court, ‘Ablyazov Action’
Aug 7 - Amended interpleader complaint filed
Joseph Chetrit’s failure to pay Tridaou under fraudulent conveyance (another NY real estate developer Sater may even know) which led to litigation between them, resulting in judgment that will likely total at least $21 million
Late Aug - Trump, being depicted in the media as a joke more than a serious candidate for the Presidency, was jumping in the polls and the establishment Republicans were watching
Labor Day Weekend - Trump had carved out a solid lead among other Republican candidates and on September 4, 2015 the New York Times reported that “top Republican strategists and donors were combining efforts in a still nascent campaign to stop Trump.”
Sept - Glenn Simpson with Fusion GPS starts fixating early on Sater in their late 2015 research of people who might have organized crime ties linked to Trump.
Fusion GPS Crime in Progress book excerpt:
“Though it wasn’t clear at the time, the focus on Trump’s relationship to Sater would prove to be an early milestone in the Fusion project, as it began to orient the research toward Russia. But these early funds didn’t require much sophisticated sleuthing, just basic, early-stage homework.”
Sept - Sater officially starts Trump Tower Moscow talks with Cohen/Andrey Rozov of IC Expert, though it sounds like the idea came a couple-few weeks earlier
Oct 2015 - Joseph Chetrit, NY developer, sued by BTA Bank alleging he conspired to hide money in real estate deals; BTA lawyer is Matthew Schwartz
Nov 2015 - Joseph Chetrit, NY developer, agreed to give up equity interest stake in Flatotel to BTA Bank as part of the lawsuit which alerted BTA to funds linked to Khrapunov being linked to Flatotel property
2015 (to 2018) - LitCo, LLC identified various witnesses with knowledge of stolen assets to assist in Ablyazov Action; Litco received $2.7 mil under CAA during this period
Sater met personally with BTA counsel in Ablyazov Action to provide personal knowledge to assist them in their prosecution of that action
This ultimately led plaintiffs to personally name Sater as a witness in Ablyazov Action (Mar 2019)
To Be Continued in a Part 2
This may be a bad spot to wrap up but this is getting too long. I will follow this up to conclusion later this week in a follow up blog.