As Kushner testifies, real estate deal with Israeli oligarch scrutinized
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As Kushner testifies, real estate deal with Israeli oligarch scrutinized

President's son-in-law purchased New York property from Lev Leviev, partnered with company investigated for money laundering

US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and special adviser Jared Kushner makes a statement at the White House, after being interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington, July 24, 2017. (AFP/YURI GRIPAS)
US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and special adviser Jared Kushner makes a statement at the White House, after being interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington, July 24, 2017. (AFP/YURI GRIPAS)

US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner made a multi-million-dollar real estate deal with a Russian-Israeli oligarch whose company was embroiled in a government-prosecuted money laundering case, The Guardian reported Monday.

The oligarch, Lev Leviev, avoided trial with a financial settlement — a year after Kushner and other members of Trump’s campaign team met with the company’s legal counsel in New York, the report said.

Earlier this month 16 Democrat members of the House judiciary committee wrote to the US Justice Department to ask if there was any interference in the pretrial deal with the Russian-owned company Prevezon Holdings, which is partnered with Leviev, a diamond and real estate mogul.

According to the report, real estate deals involving the Trump family are inviting the close scrutiny of the Justice Department’s special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating suspected collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

In May, two days before the trial was due to start, Prevezon settled out of court for $6 million, said the report, which explored the “overlapping connections” between Leviev and Kushner. Prevezon had been investigated for the suspected laundering of hundreds of millions of dollars taken in tax fraud from the Russian treasury, but as part of the settlement deal was not required to admit guilt. Prosecutors claimed that Prevezon was using real estate deals to launder the cash.

Bukharian billionaire Lev Leviev, center, writing in a Torah scroll with Rabbi Eliyahu Yaakov, right, and Israel's then-defense minister Moshe Yaalon, in Jerusalem, March 23, 2014. (Israel Barddougo/World Congress of Bukhara Jews/JTA)
Bukharian billionaire Lev Leviev, center, writing in a Torah scroll with Rabbi Eliyahu Yaakov, right, and Israel’s then-defense minister Moshe Yaalon, in Jerusalem, March 23, 2014. (Israel Barddougo/World Congress of Bukhara Jews/JTA)

Kushner, along with Donald Trump Jr. and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, met in June 2016 with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who at the time was legal counsel for Prevezon. The meeting recently made headlines after Trump Jr. admitted that at the time he had been promised that Veselnitskaya, whom he was told was linked to the Kremlin, had damning information that would undermine the election campaign of Trump’s rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton. The information was not forthcoming and the meeting ended quickly, Trump Jr. claimed.

Since news broke of the Trump Tower meeting, congressional investigators have been taking a closer look at the settlement of the Prevezon case, the report said.

The year before the meeting with Veselnitskaya in Trump Tower, Kushner had paid $295 million for some of the floors in the old New York Times building, purchased in 2015 from the US branch of Leviev’s company, Africa Israel Investments (AFI), and partner, Five Mile Capital.

According to the report, the sale “has been identified as of possible interest” to Mueller.

Kushner later borrowed $285 million from the German financial company Deutsche Bank, which has also been linked to Russian money laundering, although Kushner is not currently suspected of any wrongdoing in connection with the loan.

AFI was cited in the Prevezon case as one of the business partners of the defendants. In another deal, Leviev’s company sold New York condominiums to Prevezon Holdings that were later frozen by US prosecutors investigating the alleged money laundering. Following the pretrial deal, the apartments were released.

Natalia Veselnitskaya speaks to journalists in Moscow, Russia, July 11, 2017. (AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Natalia Veselnitskaya speaks to journalists in Moscow, Russia, July 11, 2017. (AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Kushner on Monday testified to the US Senate intelligence committee in a closed door session as the panel probes Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Kushner declared, “All of my actions were proper.”

Kushner, a quiet insider who generally avoids the spotlight, was the first top Trump lieutenant to be quizzed by the congressional investigators. He spoke privately with staff members of the Senate intelligence committee and was set to return to talk to the House intelligence panel Tuesday.

“Let me be very clear,” Kushner, a scion of a wealthy developer, said afterward in a rare public statement at the White House. “I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so.”

Before the Senate committee meeting, Kushner released an 11-page statement that was billed as his remarks to both the Senate and House committees. In it, he acknowledged his Russian contacts during the campaign and then in the following weeks, in which he served as a liaison between the transition and foreign governments. He described each contact as either insignificant or routine.

Kushner described the Trump Tower meeting with Veselnitskaya as a “waste of time.”

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