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Melville House | 01May2018 | Seth Hettena


A Definitive History

[... 168-page pdf file ...]

CONTENTS  [pdf-7]
Cover  [pdf-168]
Also by Seth Hettena  [pdf-2]
Title Page  [pdf-3]
Copyright  [pdf-4]
Dedication  [pdf-5]
Epigraph  [pdf-6]


2. MAFIYA TAJ MAHAL  [pdf-27]

5. LITTLE MOSCOW  [pdf-55]
7. THE CONDO CASINO  [pdf-75]
8. MISTER UNIVERSE  [pdf-81]

9. BLOOD MONEY  [pdf-95]
10. THE DOSSIER  [pdf-104]

NOTES  [pdf-143]

Analysis by Will Zuzak

A Ctrl-F search for "Ukrain" yielded a total of 114 hits with most of these being in Ch.4 (21), Ch.5 (15), Ch.6 (5), Ch.9 (43) and Notes (20).
Obviously, many of the individuals associated with Donald Trump are also associated with Ukraine.

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pdf-19 -- The first stirrings of a Russian organized-crime element in 1970s New York were, by comparison, almost childlike in their simplicity. A group of Ukrainians from the Odessa region became known as the “Potato Bag Gang” after they set up a scamming operation in New York’s harbors.

pdf-39 -- LeBow brought Vadim Rabinovich -- the Ukrainian representative of Nordex GmbH, a Vienna-based company that attracted interest from the CIA -- to a Clinton-Gore fundraiser in September 1995 at the Sheraton Bal Harbour Hotel in Miami.

pdf-46 -- With Russia leading the way for oligarchs to build their private businesses into conglomerate empires, many of them began eyeing other developing post-Soviet nations to divvy up. Among the most tantalizing was Ukraine. Out of all the newly independent nations that had formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine was barely staying on its feet and remained the most dependent on Russia for stability. Ukraine’s GDP in 1994 was half of what it had been at the outset of its independence in 1991, while inflation during the same period had increased by 10,000 percent. With such a pitiful economy, Ukraine became a feeding ground for organized criminals and greedy tycoons who were quickly developing an international network to exploit once  national  industries  and  maintain  dominance  over  them.  Which  is  how  one  oligarch, proposing the novel idea of “sharing interests in Ukraine,” came to host one of the most historic gatherings of organized criminals no one was ever to know about.
IN OCTOBER 1995, A BUSINESSMAN named Boris Birshtein held a meeting in an office in the Diamond Center, a large commercial jewelry space in downtown Tel Aviv. In attendance were several Russian and Ukrainian vory, a who’s who of the Russian and Ukrainian crime world. If the former Soviet Union had had its own version of the 10 Most Wanted, eight of them were now sharing a room.

pdf-47 -- That Birshtein had been able to bring together such powerful and feared figures gives a clue to the importance of their meeting, and of Birshtein’s influence. While any of these crime lords could have made their own deals in Ukraine, Birshtein had connections to make these deals even more lucrative. He had given as much as $5 million to the 1994 campaign of Leonid Kuchma, a pro-Russian politician running for his first term as the country’s president. Another of Birshtein’s underworld Ukrainian connections was a man named Olexander Volkov, an aide to President Kuchma.

Though the FBI report notes dryly, “The subject of the meeting was the sharing of interests in Ukraine,” the country wasn’t just an innocent pie, but a gangster’s paradise. In the years after independence, Ukraine was a country with virtually no law enforcement. As bad as things were in Russia, at least it had the state police agency, the MVD, to battle the gangs. Ukraine had nothing, and in the time it took the new nation to create its own rules and institutions, its criminals  and  corrupt  officials  built  up  enormous  domestic  and  international  influence. Kuchma warned that the country faced a “secret syndicate of Ukrainian gangsters...much more dangerous than the Sicilian mafia.” Even Kuchma’s prime minister, Pavel Lazarenko, would later be discovered to have looted $114 million from the country’s banks.

But  Birshtein  existed  at  the  center  of  a  vast  Venn  diagram  of  corruption,  bribery,  and deception. He was the primary manager of the KGB’s offshore funds after the collapse of the Soviet Union. President Boris Yeltsin even recalled being introduced to Birshtein as a “KGB agent.” The Russian newspaper Izvestia described Birshtein as a gangster who moonlighted as a double agent, working for the KGB and the Mossad, the Israeli spy service, all at the same time. Born in Lithuania, Birshtein left the Soviet Union in the late 1970s for Israel, and later ended up in Toronto where he established the Seabeco Group, which partnered with the Russian government in  a large state-owned fertilizer company and a steelmaking  concern. Birshtein flew around the world in a private jet and was treated like a head of state. When he landed in Moscow, a police motorcade with flashing lights and sirens escorted his limousine to his villa in the Lenin Hills, which was patrolled by armed guards in Russian military uniforms, The Toronto Star reported. In 1991, he was picked to serve as an economic advisor to newly independent Kyrgyzstan, one of the former Soviet republics. He met with Canada’s then prime minister Brian Mulroney and other top officials, but two years later, Birshtein was caught up in a scandal -- involving billions in laundered money, 7 million tons of missing oil, and key Russian politicians -- that rocked the Yeltsin government and led to the resignation or dismissal of several senior cabinet ministers, and Birshtein was forced to flee Toronto, now persona non grata.

Birshtein left Canada and turned his attention to his underworld connections and Ukraine at the Tel Aviv meeting. Wherever Birshtein went, scandal seemed to follow and the opportunities would only multiply.

pdf-48 -- But as Clinton supplied Yeltsin with American aid, the American president also launched NATO campaigns to democratize several former Soviet states, including Ukraine, Russia’s longest-held territory. ...

With Yeltsin reelected, the oligarchy assured of its place, and Birshtein-funded candidate Kuchma installed in the Ukrainian presidency, the Ukraine plan only required getting the right people in the right positions. One of the most notorious of these would be one of Birshtein’s former Seabeco employees, a man named Alexander Shnaider, who had left the firm to form Midland, a steel trade company with operations in Ukraine, where the steel industry accounted for 25 percent of the country’s GDP. After the country’s steel industry was privatized, Shnaider acquired 93 percent of shares of Zaporizhstal, Ukraine’s fourth-largest steel mill. By the time othe Tel Aviv meeting, Shnaider had married Birshtein’s daughter. ...

pdf-49 -- In 1990, Mogilevich incorporated a company called Arigon Ltd. on the Channel Islands and used it to launder proceeds from extortion and trafficking, a service he extended to Mikhailov’s Solntsevskaya organization, while selling illicit oil to the Ukrainian railways on the side. In 1994, Mogilevich’s Magnex company “acquired” Arigon, and renamed his growing company YBM Magnex (the initials apparently didn’t mean anything). The reverse-takeover ballooned YBM Magnex’s worth and it was publicly listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange only five months after Birshstein’s Tel Aviv meeting.

pdf-52 -- Litvinenko also worked to transcribe and translate tapes of Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma’s conversations, which were secretly recorded by one of his bodyguards. In one conversation, Kuchma spoke with Leonid Derkach, the former head of the Ukrainian security services:
KUCHMA: Have you found Mogilevich?
DERKACH: I found him.
KUCHMA: So, are you two working now?
DERKACH: We’re working. We have another meeting tomorrow. He arrives incognito.

Later in the discussion, Derkach revealed a few details about Mogilevich:
DERKACH: He’s on good terms with Putin. He and Putin have been in contact since Putin was still in Leningrad.
KUCHMA: I hope we won’t have any problems because of this.
DERKACH: They have their own affairs.

pdf-58 -- “We had big buyers from Russia and Ukraine and Kazakhstan,” Debra Stotts, one of the World Tower’s sales agents, told the magazine.

The first wave of tenants was helped by a Ukrainian-born electronics store owner turned commodities trader named Sam Kislin, who later became a major donor to Rudolph Giuliani’s 1994 and 1997 mayoral campaigns. Kislin began issuing condo mortgages to people like his longtime friend Vasily Salygin, a future official in the Ukrainian Party of Regions, the same party Paul Manafort would help return to power. Kislin and Trump’s relationship stretched back as far as 1976, when the future president purchased 200 televisions on credit from Kislin’s electronics store for his newly acquired Commodore Hotel. Exactly how Trump found the store isn’t clear, for Joy-Lud Electronics was the only store in New York that catered exclusively to a Soviet clientele. Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko paid a visit. So did Yevgeny Primakov, a future foreign intelligence chief. Ditto for Georgy Arbatov, who served as the Kremlin’s American-based media spokesman. At the time, Kislin’s business partner in Joy-Lud was Tamir Sapir, who would partner with Trump on a real estate development 40 years later and live in a massive Trump Tower condo of his own.

pdf-59 -- Cohen married into a Ukrainian family. I spoke to two former federal investigators who told me Cohen was introduced to Trump by Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ukraine with a 1993 conviction for a money-laundering-related crime. “Fima may have been a (possibly silent) business partner with Trump, perhaps even used as a conduit for Russian investors in Trump properties and other ventures,” a former federal investigator told me. “Cohen, who married into the family, was given the job with the Trump Org as a favor to Shusterman.” (“Untrue,” Cohen told me. “Your source is creating fake news.”) In addition, Shusterman, who owned at least four New York taxi companies, set his son-in-law up in the yellow cab business. Cohen once ran 260 yellow cabs with his Ukrainian-born partner, the “taxi king” Simon V. Garber, until their partnership ended acrimoniously.

Cohen wasn’t the only member of his family who married a Ukrainian woman. His brother, Bryan, also had a Ukrainian father-in-law. Alex Oronov was a naturalized American citizen who raised his family in New York where he worked for many years as an art dealer specializing in Russian artists. Then, in 1994, Oronov left the art world behind and returned to Ukraine to help launch Grain Alliance, an agricultural venture to make Ukraine “the world’s bread basket.” It wouldn’t be long before Oronov brought the Cohen brothers over to Ukraine to explore business deals in bioethanol.

pdf-60 -- Regardless of what he did or didn’t know, Cohen was able to purchase a $1 million condo at Trump World Tower in 2001, persuading his parents, his Ukrainian in-laws, and his partner in the New York City taxi business to do the same in other Trump buildings.

pdf-61 -- Peter  Kiritchenko,  a  Ukrainian  businessman  arrested  on  fraud  charges  in  San Francisco in 1999, and his daughter owned two units at Trump Towers in Sunny Isles Beach worth $2.56 million. (Kiritchenko testified against a corrupt former Ukrainian prime minister [Pavlo Lazarenko] who was convicted in 2004 of money laundering.)

In 2003, Cohen traveled down there to invest $1.5 million in a short-lived Miami-based casino-boat venture run by his two Ukrainian business partners, Arkady Vaygensberg  and Leonid Tatarchuk.

pdf-70 -- Sensing the beginning of an expanding partnership with the Trump Organization, Arif sketched out a grand vision for a series of Trump towers across Eastern Europe, including in Ukraine, Poland, and Turkey.

pdf-71 -- Shnaider sold his stake in a Ukrainian steel mill, Zaporizhstal, for about $850 million.

pdf-73 -- Shortly after Trump took office, Sater teamed up with Cohen to submit a Ukrainian peace plan to then national security advisor Michael Flynn that would have opened the door to lifting sanctions on Russia.

pdf-74 -- The girls were brought in from Russia and Ukraine, and were hired from modeling agencies.

pdf-75 -- While judges from the United States, Canada, Germany, and Japan gave higher scores to the Canadian team, judges from Russia, the People’s Republic of China, Poland, and Ukraine voted for the Russian duo.

pdf-78 -- As he had in Ukraine, Trincher made a living in America by playing backgammon before deciding, at the age of 45, to make a career change from board games to card games. ...

The “Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization,” as the Feds later referred to it, conducted both online and telephonic sports betting with several (and often shadowy) international figures, many of them Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs who could afford to bet nearly $2 million on a soccer match and not flinch if they lost it all.

pdf-83 -- Trump flew to Moscow on a private jet owned by his friend Phil Ruffin, who was married to a former Miss Ukraine who had competed in the 2004 pageant and judged the one the following year.

pdf-96 -- Manafort’s most recent work was in Ukraine, where he had helped elect pro-Russia strongman Viktor Yanukovych president in 2010.

pdf-98 -- Deripaska recommended Manafort to Rinat Akhmetov, a Ukrainian coal-and-steel tycoon and a political kingmaker in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking Donbas region. ...

pdf-99 -- UKRAINE WAS IN THE MIDST of a revolution, and oligarchs like Rinat Akhmetov were unsure which way the political winds were blowing. For over a decade, Ukraine had been governed by its inept and corrupt president Leonid Kuchma.
- One was the Ukrainian prime minister and Party of Regions leader Viktor Yanukovych, a candidate widely seen as friendly to oligarchs and to Russia.
- Yushchenko had formed a popular opposition party, Our Ukraine, and openly spoke of his desire to strengthen ties with the European Union.
- The Russian president had staked considerable resources on his victory by dispatching Russian spin doctors to Kiev, and bombarding Ukrainian viewers with pro-Yanukovych coverage via Russian state TV.
- It brought Ukraine to a standstill and stalled Yanukovych’s claim to the presidency, much to the consternation of his supporters.
- Politicians began to speak openly about splitting Ukraine into two countries.
- There, they met Paul Manafort. Akhmetov wanted Manafort’s help with the upcoming Ukrainian parliamentary elections.
- According to the Wall StreetJournal, Davis Manafort Partners was paid $20 million for its initial work in Ukraine. Manafort set up a base of operations in Ukraine in a nondescript office at 4 Sofia Street near Kiev’s Independence Square.
- Rick Davis took leave from the partnership to run Senator John McCain’s unsuccessful presidential campaign against Barack Obama, and Manafort took the reins in Ukraine. He promoted Rick Gates to be his right-hand man and set out to transform the Ukraine Party of  Regions from a “haven for mobsters and oligarchs,” as a cable from the U.S. ambassador John Herbst had described it, into a legitimate political party. Manafort set up a meeting with Ambassador Herbst, and sought the counsel of a Swedish economic counselor to the Ukrainian government named Anders Åslund, who recalled Manafort as coming off as “highly intelligent and absolutely ruthless.”

pdf-100 -- Manafort began by helping Yanukovych appeal outside of his base, suggesting he give speeches in Ukrainian while in the western half of the country, and in Russian in the pro-Russian eastern half.
- “His vision is to have a relationship with Ukraine’s historic neighbors, while integrating with the West over the longer term. Like Nixon to China, he’s the only national leader who can do that.”
- The Party of Regions won a landslide victory in Ukraine’s parliamentary election in 2006 [26Mar2006], with the repackaged Yanukovych 2.0 reelected as the country’s prime minister.
- ALTHOUGH HE WAS EARNING MILLIONS for his political consulting work in Ukraine, Paul Manafort began using his connections to make even more money. He met Dmitry Firtash, a wealthy Ukrainian businessman involved in the natural gas trade who had friends in top posts in Yanukovych’s administration, and pitched him on his grand vision for Bulgari Tower, a $1.5 billion skyscraper project in midtown Manhattan on the corner of Park Avenue and Fifty-Sixth Street. ... The Ukrainian natural gas tycoon had millions to invest because Gazprom, the natural gas giant controlled by the Kremlin, had given his unpronounceable company, RosUkrEnergo, a monopoly on all gas trades between Russia and Ukraine.

- pdf-101 -- Manafort described it to Deripaska as a vehicle to pursue investments that “leverage [our] business and political relationships” in Ukraine. Pericles sought to achieve an impressive compound annual return rate of 30 percent by investing in Ukraine, as well as other areas of interest to Deripaska -- Russia, the former Soviet republics, Montenegro, and eastern and southern Europe.
- Of the many ideas Gates pitched, Deripaska’s team felt only one had merit: the acquisition of Chorne More (“Black Sea”), a Ukrainian telecommunications firm.
- As Deripaska worked to keep his empire intact, Manafort worked his sorcery on Yanukovych’s presidential campaign in Ukraine’s 2010 election.

pdf-102 -- In the first round of voting in the 2010 Ukrainian presidential election, Prime Minister Tymoshenko and Manafort’s man Viktor Yanukovych emerged as the front-runners. To prep for the second round, Tymoshenko hired AKPD, a consulting firm run by David Axelrod, Obama’s former chief strategist, to help bolster her campaign. But AKPD couldn’t navigate the complex world of Ukrainian politics like Manafort, and after the dust settled from the second round, his years of steering Yanukovych toward his goal paid off. On February 7, 2010, Yanukovych emerged as the winner and was declared Ukraine’s fourth president. Manafort was exalted in the Ukrainian press as a “mythical figure.”
- Almost as soon as he was sworn in, Yanukovych embarked on a platform to rebuild Ukraine’s political alliance with Russia and counter his predecessor’s pro-Western initiatives. He bluntly quashed the long-running NATO membership debate among Ukrainian politicians. And while he publicly called for a free and democratic Ukraine, reports of press censorship proliferated, and his political opponents, including the defeated Tymoshenko, landed in jail on trumped-up charges. Tymoshenko’s imprisonment triggered a fierce international outcry, among them a call to boycott Ukraine’s bid to host the 2012 European soccer championship.
- He hired two firms in Washington -- Mercury Public Affairs and the Podesta Group -- to lobby members of Congress on behalf of Ukraine and President Yanukovych’s interests, paying both firms $1.1 million each.
- It was hard to miss how deep Yanukovych’s corruption and cronyism went. Much of the funding allocated for Ukraine’s economic development went to Donbas, Yanukovych’s home region, and a majority of key governmental and economic posts were given to friends of his from that region, many of whom were clearly unqualified for their positions. That was icing on the cake compared to the staggering $70 billion taken from the Ukrainian treasury and secreted away in foreign accounts, including those of Yanukovych’s son Oleksandr, who during his father’s presidency became one of the wealthiest people in the country.

pdf-103 -- Manafort had been stashing away his paychecks from Ukraine in banks registered to shell companies in Cyprus, the tiny European nation that has long served as an offshore financial center for Russian oligarchs.
- The beginning of the end of Manafort’s sojourn in Ukraine came in the winter of 2013, when Yanukovych broke with his American advisor and rejected a major trade deal with the European Union, opting instead for closer ties with Russia. For the second time in his career, a major protest broke out, this time in Kiev’s Euromaidan Square. Protestors amassed to demand his impeachment for plundering the country’s wealth and turning Ukraine into a police state. Tension mounted as the demonstrations, which began peacefully [on 21Nov2013], went on for months. Violence broke out on February 18 [and 20], 2014, in clashes between protesters and police that lasted several days. At least 82 people were killed over the next few days, including 13 policemen; more than 1,100 people were injured. In the pandemonium, President Yanukovych boarded a helicopter [22Feb2014] and, with help from Vladimir Putin, fled to Russia where he remained.
- Now effectively unemployed, Manafort and Gates shuttered their Ukraine operation.

pdf-110 -- A later Steele report detailed the existence of a “well-developed conspiracy” between Russian leadership and the Trump campaign. In return for hacking the DNC, the Trump campaign had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine in the campaign. At a Republican National Committee meeting in Cleveland a week before the GOP convention, Trump campaign staffers had lobbied to exclude language from a party platform that called for the United States to provide “lethal defensive weapons” for Ukraine to defend itself against Russian invasion.

pdf-120 -- Not long after the conclusion of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, President Vladimir Putin had annexed Crimea, a Russian-speaking region in Ukraine. Putin warned that Russia would no longer tolerate NATO’s efforts to strong-arm his country into submission, as he believed had happened in Ukraine.

pdf-125 -- By then it was too late. Fancy Bear had already claimed a big fish and duped Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, with this email:
Hi John
Someone just used your password to try to sign in to your
Google Account
[email protected]
Details: Saturday, 19 March, 8:34:30 UTC
IP Address:
Location: Ukraine
Google stopped this sign-in attempt. You should change your password immediately.
CHANGE PASSWORD <https://bit.ly/1PibSU0>
The Gmail Team
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