The Trump administration would like America to believe that a large part of its overall mission is to fight a more successful drug war than any of its predecessors. Right now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is out there preaching 1980s rhetoric, suggesting that “people should say ‘no’ to drug abuse,” while a new report has found that his boss, President Donald Trump, has been raking in millions by helping cartels launder drug money.
A joint investigation from Reuters and NBC News, which was released last week, reveals that drug cartels and other international criminal organizations invested huge chunks of change into the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama City. It seems this project, much like other luxury developments in Panama, was built for the sole purpose of washing funds generated from the international drug trade.
The report showed that investors and customers “with questionable backgrounds” bought into the hotel (pre-construction and finished units) as a method of laundering illegal funds. It was a practice, purportedly spearheaded by Brazilian real estate salesman Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, which is said to have earned Trump tens of millions of dollars.
“In the case of the Trump Ocean Club, accepting easy—and possibly dirty—money early on would have been in Trump’s interest; a certain volume of pre-construction sales was necessary to secure financing for the project, which stood to net him $75.4 million by the end of 2010,” the report found.
Although there is no definitive evidence that Trump was aware that his hotel was being used to clean millions in dirty money, a separate report from the non-profit Global Witness indicates that the now Commander-In-Chief did nothing to prevent his property from being used by criminal organizations. In fact, because of how the profits were distributed in this particular case, there is even reason to suspect that the whole Panama scheme was set up intentionally to benefit Donald Trump.
“Trump seems to have done little to nothing to prevent this,” the report reads. “What is clear is that proceeds from Colombian cartels’ narcotics trafficking were laundered through the Trump Ocean Club and that Donald Trump was one of the beneficiaries.”
But, so far, no one has dug up any solid evidence linking President Trump to illegal activity.
There isn’t even any proof that he was aware that his South American investors were connected to illegal drugs.
Yet, according to the folks at Global Witness, there are plenty of details, including the fact that hotel units were “purchased in bulk” and “sales were made in cash,” which shows the project was designed to launder money.
The deals connected to the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower, which Trump himself said “sold like hotcakes,” appears to have been a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation.
After all, it has never really been a part of Trump’s Modus Operandi to ask too many questions about his investors.
“Nobody ever asked me. Banks never asked. Developers didn’t ask and (the) Trump Organization didn’t ask. Nobody asks, ‘Who are the customers, where did the money come from?’ No, nobody asked,” Nogueira told NBC.
When reporters showed up on the White House lawn to ask the Trump camp for comment, its strategy was to simply deny any direct connection to Panama. Trump’s chief legal officer, Alan Garten, has even gone so far as to say that team Trump has absolutely no recollection of doing business with anyone named Alexandre Ventura Nogueira.
“The Trump Organization was not the owner, developer or seller of the Trump Ocean Club Panama project. Because of its limited role, the company was not responsible for the financing of the project and had no involvement in the sale of units or the retention of any real estate brokers,” Trump’s people said in a statement.
Although investors lost money on the project, Donald Trump still pulled in somewhere between $30 million and $50 million.