Mon, Mar 11, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Trump team took money from firms tied to foreigners

Among the creators of firms who donated are said to be a lobbyist with links to Taiwan, an Indian financier and an Israeli real-estate developer

By Jon Swaine  /  The Guardian

Illustration: Yusha

US President Donald Trump’s inauguration received tens of thousands of US dollars from shell companies that masked the involvement of a foreign contributor or others with foreign ties.

The Guardian has identified the creators of three obscure firms that contributed money to Trump’s inaugural committee, which collected a record US$107 million as he entered the White House in 2017.

The three companies each gave US$25,000 to Trump’s inaugural fund. At least one of the contributions was made for a foreign national who appears ineligible to make political donations in the US.

A spokesman for Thomas Barrack, the chairman of Trump’s inauguration committee, declined to comment. The contributors denied wrongdoing.

Federal prosecutors in New York and the attorneys general of New Jersey and Washington have in recent weeks issued subpoenas to the committee, demanding records and information on its contributors and spending.

US election law prohibits non-resident foreigners from contributing to political campaigns, including inaugurations. Donors or campaigns who “knowingly and willfully” breach this rule face fines and prosecution.

One of the US$25,000 was made by a company formed in Georgia by a lobbyist with connections to the Taiwanese government.

His wife said that the firm was funded by Chinese investors.

One of their daughters was later given an internship in Trump’s White House, which they said was unrelated to the donation.

Another donation to Trump’s inauguration was made through a Delaware shell company for a wealthy Indian financier based in London, who appears to not hold US citizenship or residency.

A third US$25,000 contribution was made through a company formed anonymously in New York by an Israeli real-estate developer who has helped other foreign developers with legal issues in the US.

The Israeli developer said he held US residency, commonly known as a “green card,” which permitted him to contribute legally.

Ann Ravel, a former commissioner at the US Federal Election Commission (FEC), said that the use of anonymous companies was the biggest problem for authorities trying to ensure transparency and legality in political donations.

“We need stronger regulation, but our campaign finance system is structured to not let us find out who is behind these contributions,” Ravel said.

Authorities including Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election, are looking into issues around foreign money in US politics and possible attempts to buy influence with Trump’s administration.

A Washington-based lobbyist, Sam Patten, admitted last year that he illegally funneled US$50,000 to Trump’s inauguration from a Ukrainian oligarch.

Patten, a former colleague of convicted ex-Trump aide Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty to lying to the US Congress and failing to register as a foreign agent.

One US$25,000 contribution to Trump’s inaugural fund came from a shell company tied to Cyrus Vandrevala, a Mumbai-born financier based in London.

Vandrevala has said he funds property developments in India, where Trump owns luxury towers.

Vandrevala’s father-in-law, Niranjan Hiranandani, is one of the wealthiest figures in Indian real estate. He serves as president of an influential real-estate industry lobby group in the country.

In an interview published days after Trump’s inauguration, Hiranandani said he hoped the new president would not hinder India’s real-estate industry by restricting US visas.

This story has been viewed 2442 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top