Trump's hotel in Baku is connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
>Conflicts of interest have been a permanent fixture of Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency. But a new report from the New Yorker shines a damning spotlight on one of Trump’s most ethically hazy deals, and one that may leave the Trump Organization open to federal prosecution: The Trump Organization’s work to build and manage a hotel in Azerbaijan in partnership with corrupt oligarchs, themselves apparently linked to individuals tight with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
>To build the Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku — a project conceived in 2008, and nearly finished, but never opened to the public — the Trump Organization worked with the family of Azerbaijan’s transportation minister and a powerful oligarch, Ziya Mammadov. The project has plenty of problems — it’s in the wrong part of town, and can’t compete with existing high-end hotels there — but seems likely to have fallen prey to the notoriously lax local ethics for business dealings.
>Adam Davidson describes in great detail in his investigative report how Mammadov was known as “notoriously corrupt even for Azerbaijan,” in a U.S. diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks years ago. He and his family also have close ties to a prominent Iranian business family, the Darvishis, whose members headed Revolutionary Guard-controlled firms that the U.S. government accused of sponsoring terrorism abroad and engaging in illicit activity including drug trafficking and money laundering.
>With the Baku hotel deal, the Trump Organization may have violated federal corruption laws, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the New Yorker notes. The heart of the problem seems to be little due diligence before Trump jumped into the project, even though the country is known for being corrupt, his partners were billionaires on a $12,000-a-year-government salary, and corrupt practices were so commonly talked about they litter the State Department cables released by WikiLeaks and featured prominently in a 2014 Foreign Policy piece, “The Corleones of the Caspian.”
>“The entire Baku deal is a giant red flag — the direct involvement of foreign government officials and their relatives in Azerbaijan with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Corruption warning signs are rarely more obvious,” Jessica Tillipman, an FCPA expert and assistant dean at George Washington University Law School, told the New Yorker.
>“The Trump Organization’s Baku project shows the lack of ‘extreme vetting’ Mr. Trump applied to his own business dealings in corruption-plagued regimes around the globe…. Congress — and the Trump Administration itself — has a duty to examine whether the President or his family is exposed to terrorist financing, sanctions, money laundering, and other imprudent associations through their business holdings and connections,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said in an email to New Yorker.