Trump International Hotel & Tower Toronto and a web of links to Russia

Trump’s campaign and presidency provided an endless flow of shocking stories about his business and personal life, from dozens of claims of sexual misconduct to exposes on shady real estate deals, tax schemes and decades of associations with mafia and criminal figures. The news flowed so quickly it blurred together and significant news was often over-shadowed by the latest shiny story du jour.

Trump International Hotel Toronto
Photo courtesy Can Pac Swire on flickr

Trump’s campaign and presidency provided an endless flow of shocking stories about his business and personal life, from dozens of claims of sexual misconduct to exposes on shady real estate deals, tax schemes and decades of associations with mafia and criminal figures. The news flowed so quickly it blurred together and significant news was often over-shadowed by the latest shiny story du jour.

With Trump gearing up for a possible 2024 campaign and wielding more influence on the future of the Republican party than anyone else, it’s imperative to continue investigating and exposing the network, especially links to foreign adversaries that helped build his brand and influence.

Of all of Trump’s real estate deals, the Trump Toronto International Hotel and Tower deal — which started in 2001 and ended after Trump became president — may be the deal with the most transactions and financing with people and entities linked to Russia and the Kremlin.

“One of the most striking things about the history of the Trump Toronto is the number of independent threads that connect Trump to post-Soviet money.” – Tom Burgis, Financial Times

This overview is a synthesis of many stories on Trump Toronto and layers in new research to provide a comprehensive account of this Trump deal.

For decades Donald Trump has pursued dozens of real estate deals worldwide, that largely fall into two categories: 1) Ownership deals: Trump purchased real estate (golf courses such as the Doral in Florida or Turnberry in Scotland, hotels such as the Trump Old Post Office in Washington D.C., or co-investments with other partners such as in the 1290 Avenue of the Americas building in NYC); and 2) License deals: Trump had an agreement with a developer, who raised the money, while Trump licensed his name and managed the property (these span from Trump Soho in NYC to deals in India, Dubai and other countries). In license deals Trump usually did not invest (risk) his own money — he received payment for development milestones, unit sales and annual management fees. A sample license agreement for the failed Trump Baja resort in Mexico shows how license deals strongly favored Trump with approval of major facets of the project, significant payments and limited financial risk.

The Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto was a license deal. However, when the deal was first promoted, Trump was inaccurately described as an investor — a mistake that may have helped boost sales. In this 2007 The Star story Trump described his ‘investment’ in Canada: “People are saying, `Great play,’ but I actually didn’t mean to invest because of the dollar. I just ended up being a genius for all the wrong reasons,” and later the story described Trump’s international investments in Scotland and Canada, although Trump was not a financial investor in Canada.

Since it was built, dozens of buyers of condos in the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto have pursued lawsuits for misrepresentations related to sales of units in the building, similar to lawsuits in other licensing deals such as Trump Soho.

Donald Trump’s initial plans for a Toronto hotel and tower were announced in 2001 and after the building was developed his license and management agreement extended through the end of 2017. During his presidency much of the news coverage of Trump Toronto highlighted several links to Russia, but also glossed over or missed some key information.

One item, not widely reported, was that Trump’s original development partner, Leib Waldman, started working with Trump after fleeing from the U.S. to Canada to avoid prison and, while still working with Trump, was extradited to the U.S. to serve jail time.

But the main item that warrants more scrutiny is that the primary funding for Trump Toronto came from Austrian Bank — Raiffeisen Zentralbank Österreich AG (RZB) — at the same time the bank had deep ties to Dmitry Firtash and a U.S. State Department file said the U.S. government suspected that indicted Russian crime boss Semion Mogilevich was using a Raiffeisen subsidiary as a front in a gas deal run by Firtash.

In March 2007 Trump Toronto secured $310 million (Canadian) in construction funding from Raiffeisen and then in unusually favorable terms, the non-interest-bearing loan was extended a dozen times. In 2015 when Trump’s development partner Talon defaulted, Raiffeisen appears to have lost tens of millions of dollars.

Trump’s original partner was on the run from U.S. authorities for fraud and embezzlement charges

When the original Trump Toronto project was announced in Spring 2001 Trump’s partners were Leib Waldman, chairman of the Bowmore Group of Cos. Inc. and the Ritz-Carlton hotel brand owned by Marriott International. Waldman brought in several investors to the Trump Toronto project including Alex Shnaider and Val Levitan, who each planned to invest 11% in the deal.

Several years earlier, in 1995, Leib Waldman had fled the U.S. to Canada to avoid embezzlement and fraud charges. In 2002 news broke about Waldman’s past and the Ritz-Carlton dropped out of the project. A Trump organization spokesperson told The Star that “Neither the Ritz-Carlton nor the Trump Organization would have entered into this partnership if they had knowledge of this” and in what seems like a pass-the-buck attitude said “To some extent we were looking for the Ritz-Carlton to do due diligence.”

Even after Waldman was extradited to the U.S. to serve a one year prison term in New York state, for a short while he continued to run the tower project from a jail cell in Etobicoke. After Waldman left the project, two of the original investors, Alex Shnaider and Val Levitan — and their company Talon Development — moved into the lead developer role.

Trump’s next partner was the son-in-law of a Russian émigré with reputed Kremlin and mafia ties

Trump’s main partner in the Toronto deal for approximately fifteen years, Alex Shnaider, was the son-in-law of Boris Birshtein, a Russian émigré who reportedly had significant links to the Kremlin and to Russian organized crime figures, including Sergei Mikhailov who was known as the leader of Moscow’s powerful organized crime syndicate, the Solntsevskaya Bratva. Birshtein reportedly met former FBI most-wanted Russian mafia boss Semion Mogilevich in Tel Aviv in 1996, and Birshtein reportedly helped the KGB move money out of Russia through his company Seabeco Group.

A representative for Seabeco named Oleksandr Volkov later became an advisor and campaign manager of former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. Martin Sheil reported on Swiss and Belgian investigations into Volkov that found that millions of dollars that flowed through his bank accounts came from companies owned by Boris Birshtein and a company owned by an associate of Mikhailov.

Two early employees of Seabeco were Kazakhstani businessmen who later formed a company called Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (aka ENRC and Eurasia Group) with another partner and were known as “The Trio.” Eurasia Group was listed as a financing partner of the Bayrock Group, Trump’s business partner in several U.S. projects, including Trump Soho.

In early news stories about the Trump Toronto project, it was reported that Alex Shnaider no longer associated with his father-in-law Boris Birshtein. A 2016 article in The American Interest by James Henry covered Shanider, Birshtein and ‘The Trio’ in-depth, and identified that Alex Shnaider’s father is Evsei Shnaider, who is listed as treasurer and director of Birshtein’s Seabeco Group incorporated in Panama in 1991.

Alex Shnaider graduated from college and reportedly met Boris Birshtein in 1991 through family connections and started working for him at Seabeco. During that time Birshtein’s company Seabeco hired Leonid Veselovsky as an economic adviser on a one-year contract. According to a former KGB officer, Veselovsky had served as a senior officer in the KGB’s foreign operations arm and had been “the mastermind of KGB money laundering”.

In Putin’s People, Catherine Belton described Seabeco as the epitome of a KGB-backed ‘friendly firm’ and, according to former KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov, Seabeco was created as a channel for the Communist Party’s funds, although he said plans never materialized. Seabeco associate Dmitry Yakubovsky claimed Seabeco received tens of millions to finance KGB operations in Europe. The Swiss intelligence service described Birshtein as recruited by the KGB to transfer state and Party wealth out of Russia on the eve of the Soviet Collapse.

In 1994 Boris Birshtein’s former Seabeco business partner Harry Giesbrecht hosted Vladimir Putin when he visited Canada. That same year Alex Shnaider started Midland Resources with his business partner Eduard Shyfrin (aka Edward Shifrin, Chifrin). Midland bought 93% of the Zaporizhstal steel mill in Ukraine for $70 million.

A Swiss investigation in the 1990s looked into work done by Sergei Mikhailov and reportedly looked at Birshtein’s companies in Belgium: World Wide Aviation Consulting and Metcor and Transressources, companies described as administered by Birshtein’s daughter and son-in-law Alex Shnaider. Belgian police investigating Mikhailov raided Birshtein’s and Shnaider’s houses in Antwerp.

While Boris Birshtein reportedly was an investor in Midland and helped Alex Shnaider start his work to acquire the Zaporizhstal steel mill, Birshtein’s investment reportedly ended in 1996 after the investigation into Mikhailov. However, Birshtein appears to have had several indirect business connections to Shnaider after this timeframe.

According to Open Corporates, until late 2020 The Seabeco Group Inc. and Seabeco Security International Inc. were both listed as ‘Vigente’ (‘valid’ in Spanish) and displayed Birshtein as president and director and list Alex Shnaider’s father Evsei Schnaider as treasurer and director. Since then the status of both companies has changed to Suspendido (suspended), but they continue to list both Boris Birshtein and Evsei Schnaider as officers.

Seabeco Group OpenCorporates Images

As the Trump Toronto project gained publicity, several news stories reported that Alex Shnaider had ended all contact with his father-in-law Birshtein around 2001. However Shnaider’s father Evsei still appears as the treasurer for two Seabeco companies run by Birshtein that were active until late 2020.

Boris Birshtein has denied any involvement in Trump Toronto, but the Financial Times reported that a 2016 bankruptcy filing listed Cyprus-registered D. E. Multi-Finance as a creditor and the company had a prior link to a business associate of Birshtein. D. E. Multi-Finance had previously listed Calgary Consulting Limited as director and Nordeen Nominees Limited as secretary:

Trump International Calgary Norden

One of the two directors of Calgary Consulting Limited is Shmuel Gurfinkel, who was the Chief Financial Officer of Boris Birshtein’s Trimol Group until 2004.

Some additional information builds upon the FT story — the other director of Trump Toronto creditor D.E. Multi-Finance is Nordeen Nominees Limited which lists as secretary Samuel Gurfinkel. It is not known if Birshtein’s former CFO Shmuel Gurfinkel is related to Samuel Gurfinkel, but Samuel is currently listed as an officer with Alex Shnaider in IMS Indonesia and IMS Resources Ltd.

Trump’s U.S. development partner Bayrock Group was linked to former employees of Boris Birshtein

The Bayrock Group, founded by Tevfik Arif and Felix Sater, was a significant development partner of Donald Trump and had its office in Trump Tower. A Bayrock Group sales presentation listed two main sources of financing and strategic advice: FL Group and Alexander Mashkevich who ran the Eurasia Group. Both of these financing sources of Bayrock shared links to Trump Toronto developer Alex Shnaider.

Alexander Mashkevich, Patokh Chodiev and Alijan Ibragimov, known as “The Trio,” were the founders of the Eurasia Group which in 2018 accounted for 4% of Kazakhstan’s economy. Earlier in his career Patokh Chodiev ran Boris Birshtein’s Seabeco Moscow and then Seabeco Belgium operations, and later recruited Alexander Mashkevich to work at Seabeco.

Trump International Bayrock FL Group Presentation
Slide from Bayrock Group sales presentation

Trump partners Bayrock and Alex Shnaider each received $50 million loans from linked entities

In 2007, the Icelandic investment company FL Group financed $50 million to the Bayrock Group for Trump Soho, Trump Lauderdale and several other deals. A lawsuit by former employee Jodi Kriss claimed that FL Group was a partner with a majority equity stake in Bayrock, but structured the financing as a loan to avoid taxes and to launder money. In an interview Kriss said Sater and Arif told him that the money behind Icelandic banks “was mostly Russian” and that they had to take FL’s funds for deals they were doing with Trump because the investment firm was “closer to Putin” (a claim denied by a Kremlin spokesman).

One of the major owners of FL Group had been Kaupthing Bank and, according to a 2008 document posted by WikiLeaks around the same time Bayrock received the $50 million loan from FL Group, Trump Toronto developer Alex Shnaider received a $50 million line of credit from Kaupthing Bank to finance the purchase of a yacht.

In 2008 many of Iceland’s largest banks failed including Kaupthing Bank, which had made loans to Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz companies that accounted for 40% of Kaupthing’s capital base. From 2005 to 2015 Vincent Tchenguiz’s company Consensus Group was the majority owner of SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

In addition to these overlapping links among Alex Shnaider, Boris Birshtein, Seabeco and ENRC/The Trio, Bayrock, Donald Trump and others — the most unusual facet of the Trump Toronto deal is the financing. The construction loan came from an Austrian Bank with deep ties to Russia during a period when U.S. officials were scrutinizing the bank for links to Russian organized crime figures.

$300+ million funding for Trump Toronto came from Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank which does most of its business in Russia and worked with Dmitry Firtash

The 2007 loan of $310 million (Canadian) for the Trump International Hotel and Tower (TIHT) in Toronto came from Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank.

A brief description of some of the Raiffeisen names and subsidiaries: Raiffeisen Zentralbank Österreich A.G., (aka RZB the ‘central bank’ of Raiffeisen) was the main institution in the Raiffeisen Banking Group. Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) was a subsidiary of RZB and the two later merged. RBI was the entity that made the loan to TITH Toronto. Raiffeisen Investment Holding AG (RIAG) is the subsidiary that represented Dmitry Firtash.

The loan from Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank was notable for many reasons — the majority of Raiffeisen’s business is in Russia and Trump Toronto was one of the few known investments it made in North America. Several terms of the Raiffeisen funding were unusually favorable, including that Trump Toronto was given over a dozen non-interest-bearing extensions to repay the loan.

In 2015 Alex Shnaider and Val Levitan’s development company Talon defaulted on the Raiffeisen loan with approximately $260 million outstanding. The Globe and Mail reported that sources said RBI was “willing to sell the loan to a potential buyer for $180-million to $200-million.” However, there were issues for potential buyers including the property’s poor relationship with its condo owners and the Trump Management contract.

When Raiffeisen financed the Trump Toronto deal in 2007 they were being looked at by the U.S. government for their possible link to Russian organized crime and to a gas company run by Dmitry Firtash that worked with Russia’s Gazprom to transport and sell gas from Turkmenistan to Ukrainian company Naftogaz.

A 2006 New York Times article revealed that a subsidiary of Raiffeisen had represented Dmitry Firtash in the deal with Gazprom.

A secret State Department cable released by Wikileaks in 2006 stated that U.S. officials believed the subsidiary, Raiffeisen Investment Holding AG, served as a front for Russian mafia boss Semion Mogilevich “to provide legitimacy to the gas company that we suspect he controls, RosUkrEnergo (RUE).

The links between Raiffeisen and Mogilevich were never proven, but Raiffeisen had a 50/50 partnership with Gazprom in RosUkrEnergo and in 2006 the bank disclosed that their 50% ownership was on behalf of Dmitry Firtash and his business partner Ivan Fursin and their company Centragas.

Trump International RZB Tweet by Wendy Siegelman

I started looking at this in 2017 and tweeted that the original funding for Trump Toronto came from Raiffeisen, which gets 74% of pre-tax profit from Russia, and that the bank was connected to Dmitry Firtash, Ivan Fursin (and perhaps Semion Mogilevich).

In a secret State Department cable released by Wikileaks in 2008 the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, wrote that Firtash had “acknowledged ties to Russian organized crime figure Seymon Mogilevich, stating he needed Mogilevich’s approval to get into business in the first place.”

There are no known direct links from Mogilevich or Firtash to the Trump Toronto deal, however, Dmitry Firtash and Trump Toronto developer Alex Shnaider had unusually favorable transactions with Raiffeisen over a similar timeframe.

It should be noted that there are no links showing that Trump was directly involved in the financing received from Raiffeisen Bank. The only connection I found was one reference in the bankruptcy filing for Trump Toronto that described a 2012 non disturbance agreement among Raiffeisen Bank International and several Trump entities:

Raiffeisen Bank and Oleg Deripaska

Raiffeisen Bank was also a significant funder for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who was a key part of the Mueller investigation and who over many years paid and loaned millions of dollars to Paul Manafort.

In 2008 Deripaska received a 500-million-euro loan from Raiffeisen for his investment in Austrian construction company Strabag.

Martin Sheil reported that at that time Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International was run by Herbert Stepic a close associate of the Chairman of Strabag’s Supervisory board and former Austrian chancellor, Alfred Gusenbauer.

Herbert Stepic had joined Raiffeisn in 1973 and from 1986 until 2013 led RZB’s international division RBI. Stepic ran RBI when it funded Trump Toronto and he responded to news reports after Raiffeisen was revealed to be representing Dmitry Firtash’s ownership in RUE. (Firtash now coincidentally lives in Vienna, Austria, where Raiffeisen is based, and is under house arrest pending a decision on an extradition request by the U.S.).

Stepic and Gusenbauer were both listed in ICIJ’s Paradise Papers as directors and representatives of Novia Management and Stepic resigned his position with Raiffeisen after his offshore connections became public in 2013. During the Mueller investigation Politico reported that Gusenbauer appeared to be a member of the Hapsburg Group that worked with Deripaska associate Paul Manafort to lobby congress in 2013 on behalf of Ukraine.

Deripaska had been involved in discussions to finance a failed real estate deal to purchase the Drake Hotel in New York City that involved Paul Manafort, Dmitry Firtash and others linked to Donald Trump. As part of the deal, in 2007 Dmitry Firtash had wired $25 million from Raiffeisen Bank to Paul Manafort’s company CMZ whose two other principals both had long-standing ties to Donald Trump.

Oleg Deripaska, Boris Birshtein and Robert Mueller

Deripaska was also an associate of Trump Toronto developer Alex Shnaider’s ex-father-in-law Boris Birshtein.

According to the New York Times, around 2006 Boris Birshtein had been in contact with former drug enforcement administrator, FBI agent, and Russian organized crime expert Robert Levinson and helped arrange some meetings to assist in Levinson’s investigations. After Levinson was kidnapped in 2007 while working on a cigarette smuggling case, Oleg Deripaska and Boris Birshtein had discussions with the FBI and offered to help find Levinson and in exchange they wanted to get U.S. visas for themselves. The person Birshtein and Deripaska reportedly spoke to in 2007 about finding Robert Levinson was then FBI Director Robert Mueller.

A broker for Trump Toronto had Russian business ties and worked with a partner of Michael Flynn

A story in Pro Publica mentioned yet another link from Trump Toronto to Russia.

Dmitry (David) Zaikin was a broker at Trump Toronto and in 2005 pre-sold units. During that time Zaiken was also chairman of Siberian Energy Group, a company incorporated in Nevada and focused on energy deals in Russia.

According to Pro Publica Zaiken had also been associated with Elena Baronoff who had been an exclusive Trump Organization salesperson in Florida and who had travelled to Moscow around 2003–2004 with Ivanka, Don Jr., and Eric Trump.

Around 2015 to 2016 Zaikin worked with Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin who also hired Michael Flynn and paid Flynn Intel Group $500,000 during the Trump campaign.

Zaiken had also been a director of RAM Resources (later named First Iron Group), whose board included the deputy chairman of Russian state bank VEB — the bank that financed a significant deal with Shnaider just as he needed money for Trump Toronto.

Shnaider paid Trump after receiving proceeds from deal with Russian Vneshoconombank (VEB)

In 2010, as the Trump Toronto development was launching, Alex Shnaider did a deal with Russian state-owned Vneshoconombank (VEB) to finance the sale of the Ukrainian Zaporizhstal steel mill his company Midland had bought in 1994.

As part of the sale, Shnaider had paid $100 million in fees that reportedly may have gone directly to Russian government officials. The Financial Times story by Tom Burgis that broke this scoop raised questions about whether Shnaider paid bribes to facilitate the steel mill sale and whether the proceeds from the sale paid Trump. It appeared that $40 million in proceeds from the steel mill sale went into financing Trump Toronto and around that time $4 million was paid to Trump as part of his licensing deal.

In 2016 Jared Kushner met with the CEO of VEB and each gave conflicting reasons for the meeting. This encounter was one of several between Trump’s inner circle and Russia that came under scrutiny during Mueller’s investigation. However there is no apparent connection between Kushner’s meeting with VEB and Shnaider’s interactions with VEB.

I recently learned another interesting detail about the 2010 Zaporizhstal steel mill deal: Russian investment bank Troika Dialog, which later became part of Sberbank, was involved with the sale.

A 2010 Wall Street Journal story noted that the buyer, “Ukrainian investors acting through Russian investment bank Troika Dialog — agreed to purchase the companies for $850 million.” OCCRP and Lithuanian news site reported that Troika Dialog had been involved in a scheme called the Troika Laundromat which funneled billions of dollars out of Russia. In 2019 a complaint filed by Bill Browder listed $634 million that was part of the Troika Laundromat that went through the accounts of Raiffeisen Bank.

There was another unusual twist in the story of Shnaider’s sale of the Zaporizhstal steel mill. Originally Midland was going to sell the mill to Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, but backed out of that deal and paid a $50 million termination penalty before selling to Ukrainian investors for $850 million, financed by VEB and with the help of Troika Dialog. However, a few years later in 2011, Akhmetov’s company Metinvest ended up buying a large stake in the mill.

Midland Resources linked to companies with directors affiliated with sanctioned entities

Trump International Shareholders Midland

Alex Shnaider and Eduard Shyfrin’s company Midland Resources UK Limited, which was incorporated in 1997 and dissolved in 2018 had some interesting directors.

The 2012 annual return listed three shareholders: Alexander Shnaider, Mensula Inc., and Prodefin Trading Ltd. A company called Prodefin Trading Ltd incorporated in 2013 and dissolved in 2019 listed one director Rhéal Beaulne and Mensula Inc. listed director Annette Larouche.

In 2017 a company called Emaxon Finance International was sanctioned by the U.S. for connection with Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler. The Montreal Gazette reported that Emaxon’s only listed director was Annette Larouche who had been listed as the president and secretary of almost 150 Quebec-based companies and on most she was later replaced as director by Rhéal Beaulne.

While Dan Gertler had been in business with Eurasia Natural Resources Corporation, formed by two of Boris Birshtein’s former Seabeco employees, there’s no indication Gertler had any direct connection to Shnaider’s Midland Resources. However, both Gerlter’s Emaxon and Shnaider’s Midland had Annette Larouche and Rhéal Beaulne listed as directors for their companies.

The 2018 Financial Times article by Tom Burgis on Shnaider’s steel mill sale is one of the most comprehensive stories on Trump Toronto after Trump became president, and one of the few stories to cover the Raiffeisen financing. The article exposed the VEB funding of Shnaider’s steel mill and raised questions about the $40 million from the deal that was invested in Trump Toronto. Burgis eloquently noted that the Trump Toronto “venture connects the US president with a shadowy post-Soviet world where politics and personal enrichment merge.”

“Some of the money flows that the Financial Times has established raise questions about Trump’s vulnerability to undue influence now that he is in the White House. These include evidence that Trump’s billionaire partner in the Toronto project authorised a secret $100m payment to a Moscow-based fixer representing Kremlin-backed investors… if the $100m payment were deemed a bribe, the flow of money through Shnaider to the Trump Toronto meant that “you could argue that the Trump Organization is receiving the proceeds of crime and therefore is being used as a money-laundering opportunity”. Experts on illicit finance said that any legal vulnerability for Trump and his business would depend on what he and other executives knew — or should have known — about the source of his partner’s funds.” (Financial Times)

In response to questions sent by the FT about Trump Toronto, the Trump Organization replied:

“The Trump Organization was not the owner, developer or seller of the Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto. Consequently, it had no involvement in the financing of the project. Instead, the company’s role was limited to licensing its brand and managing the hotel and residences, which it did until June 2017 when its agreement ended.” (Financial Times)

The Trump Organization claimed that it was not involved in financing, developing or selling the property, although Trump-affiliated staff worked on early pre-sales. Early in the project when it could help sales, Trump was described as a joint venture partner and investor, and news reports over-stated sales. Trump appeared to do little or no due diligence and as investor lawsuits grew, Trump, as usual, claimed little responsibility, accountability, or knowledge of wrong-doing.

The partners and funders of the Trump Toronto deal all deserve further scrutiny: Trump’s first development partner was on the run from the U.S. government and was arrested and sent to prison. Trump’s next development partner Alex Shnaider had many ties to Russia — directly and previously through his ex-father-in-law Boris Birshtein. The financing for the deal came from Raiffeisen Bank which does extensive business with Russia and was linked at the time to organized crime figures and Russians close to Putin such as Oleg Deripaska, who coincidentally had ties to Birshtein. Several former employees of Birshtein’s Seabeco went on to form the Eurasia Group which financed Trump’s real estate partner the Bayrock Group. And Shnaider financed Trump Toronto after completing a deal with Russian bank VEB which included transactions that appeared to be possible Kremlin kick-backs.

In addition to the many links to Russia, the 2017 article in The Star “How every investor lost money on Trump Tower Toronto (but Donald Trump made millions anyway)” captures how the public and investors were constantly misled and were the ultimate victims of a highly mismanaged deal.

From 2001 until at least 2007 Trump lied by describing his ‘investment’ in the project. Meanwhile his partner Shnaider announced in 2007 that he planned to buy the tower’s $20 million penthouse, but public records show he never closed the deal. And the sales figures constantly shifted:

“Seventy-five per cent of the units were sold, Shnaider said in 2007, shortly before groundbreaking. A few months later, Trump said the number was 70 per cent. By 2012, Talon was reporting 60 per cent were sold. The next year, the company admitted less than half the units had been bought.”

The tower had its official grand opening in 2012. In 2013 thirty-eight investors sued the hotel. In 2015 Talon defaulted on the Raiffeisen loan and by 2016 as Trump won the Republican nomination for president, Shnaider tried to sell the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto. In October 2016 JCF Capital acquired the Raiffeisen Bank International AG loan (JCF and Talon 347 page court filing). In 2017 InnVest Hotels acquired the Trump Toronto from JCF Capital and rebranded the tower as The St. Regis Residences Toronto.

The Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto deal resulted in a default and sale and multiple lawsuits. Like so many of Trump’s deals, ordinary investors lost out, while Trump walked away with millions.


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