Federal Judge Advances Lawsuit Accusing Felix

Sater of Laundering Loot Through Trump Properties

Adam Klasfeld, Law and Crime, Nov 30th, 2020,

Felix Sater, for­mer busi­ness asso­ciate of U.S. President Donald Trump, arrives for tes­ti­mo­ny before the House Select Intelligence Committee July 9, 2019 in Washington, DC. Sater was the chief nego­tia­tor in the unsuc­cess­ful effort to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

A fed­er­al judge on Monday par­tial­ly advanced a law­suit accus­ing Russian mafia-tied busi­ness­man Felix Sater of laun­der­ing mil­lions stolen from Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank through Trump Organization properties.

“In this case, Kazakhstan’s largest city and a Kazakhstani bank seek to recov­er mil­lions of dol­lars in stolen funds from those who alleged­ly helped the cul­prits laun­der them,” U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan sum­ma­rized in a 25-page opin­ion dis­miss­ing only https://www.opendemocracy.net two counts of a five-count com­plaint. “Felix Sater—the alleged ring­leader of the mon­ey-laun­der­ing operation—along with his asso­ciate Daniel Ridloff and sev­er­al busi­ness enti­ties they con­trol, move to dismiss.”

Like Sater, Ridloff was also for­mer­ly asso­ci­at­ed with the Trump Organization. The law­suit stems from alle­ga­tions of the sys­tem­at­ic loot­ing of Kazakhstan’s largest city Almaty and its bank in 2009.

“The Court empha­sizes that the Kazakh enti­ties will need to adduce evi­dence show­ing the Sater defen­dants’ decep­tive con­duct and their jus­ti­fi­able reliance on that con­duct in sig­nif­i­cant­ly greater detail to meet their bur­dens of pro­duc­tion and of proof as the case pro­gress­es,” Nathan wrote. “However, at this stage, the Court con­cludes that it is not clear on the face of the com­plaint that their claims are untime­ly, and so declines to dis­miss any claims on that basis.”

Almaty’s attor­ney Matthew Schwartz, from the firm Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, expressed his grat­i­tude to the judge for today’s ruling.

“BTA Bank and the City of Almaty are com­mit­ted to hold­ing Mukhtar Ablyazov and his co-con­spir­a­tors respon­si­ble for the theft and laun­der­ing of bil­lions of dol­lars, and look for­ward to prov­ing their case before a jury of New Yorkers,” Schwartz said.

Sater’s coun­sel Jill Levi, from the firm Todd & Levi, LLP, empha­sized that the rul­ing itself does not con­tain explic­it ref­er­ences to Trump properties.

“We also believe that the remain­ing claims are tee­ter­ing on dis­missal based upon, among oth­er things, good statute of lim­i­ta­tions defens­es,” Levi told Law&Crime in an email.

Levi also not­ed that the judge called the alle­ga­tions of decep­tive con­duct “thin.”

The law­suit that the rul­ing advances, how­ev­er, accus­es Sater of help­ing the Almaty mayor’s son Ilyas Khrapunov laun­der stolen funds in at least five schemes through­out the United States, includ­ing through Trump Soho.

“Sater not only met with Ilyas Khrapunov in Trump Tower to dis­cuss laun­der­ing the stolen funds, but he also per­son­al­ly arranged meet­ings between Ilyas and Donald J. Trump to dis­cuss pos­si­ble invest­ments,” the first amend­ed com­plaint against Sater states.

According to the law­suit, there was also a pro­pos­al to fun­nel mon­ey through Trump Tower Moscow, before that plan fell apart around the time of the 2016 pres­i­den­tial election.

“Among oth­er pro­posed invest­ments, Sater con­spired with Ilyas to invest the stolen funds to devel­op a Trump Tower project in Russia, which Sater has claimed would have been a ‘high-rise, high-end devel­op­ment that could make a sig­nif­i­cant amount of mon­ey,’” the law­suit states.

The plain­tiffs do not accuse Trump of wrongdoing.

“The know­ing receipt of stolen funds in fur­ther­ance of a mon­ey-laun­der­ing scheme, in the cir­cum­stances of this case, amounts to a suf­fi­cient­ly close con­nec­tion to sup­port a claim for unjust enrich­ment,” the rul­ing states. “The Court there­fore con­cludes that the Kazakh enti­ties have stat­ed such a claim.”

Judge Nathan dis­missed two counts of fraud and unlaw­ful means con­spir­a­cy, but not oth­ers alleg­ing unjust enrich­ment, con­ver­sion and mon­ey had and received.

Sater of Laundering Loot Through Trump Properties