September 21, 2017
The Daily News quoted me in Oligarch family in Trump Russia dealings sells $2.8M Manhattan apartment. It opens,
The oligarch tied to President Trump’s dealings in Moscow sold a multimillion-dollar apartment in Midtown as his family’s name began to surface in the Russia investigation.
Irina Agalarova, the wife of Kremlin-connected billionaire Aras Agalarov, closed the sale of her pad on W. 52nd Street at the end of June, according to city property records.
The two-bedroom property fetched more than $2.8 million, up only $300,000 from what the Agalarovs paid for it last February.
It was not immediately clear why the wealthy family, whose patriarch rose from his roots in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan to become one of the biggest real estate developers in Russia, chose to sell its Manhattan digs.
The sale, which had not previously been reported, closed roughly 15 months after the apartment was purchased.
Agalarov’s connections to Trump came under scrutiny as part of the probes into alleged Moscow meddling in the 2016 election.
Property documents list the Midtown apartment contract date as May 11, as investigations into possible Kremlin collusion with the Trump campaign heated up with the firing of FBI Director James Comey.
The family’s connections to Trump go back further, however, to when Emin Agalarov, the pop-star son of Aras, featured Miss Universe in a music video.
That choice that later led to the family bringing Trump and his Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013, with the then-reality TV star trotting out his catchphrase, “you’re fired,” in another of Emin’s Europop videos.
Trump and Agalarov also had discussions about creating a Trump Tower Moscow, which never materialized.
While Aras Agalarov had a passing mention in the unverified “dossier” against Trump published in January, his family was brought back into investigators’ orbit after Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, unveiled his list of foreign contacts in late June.
Those contacts included a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on the Clinton campaign that Aras Agalarov had obtained from Moscow’s top prosecutor.
Emails show that Rob Goldstone, the British publicist for Emin Agalarov, told Trump Jr. that the information was part of the Russian government’s “support for Mr. Trump.”
Trump Jr. and others have said that nothing came of the meeting, which also included Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, Kushner, Goldstone, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, a translator and Agalarov employee Ike Kaveladze.
News of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting sparked interest in the oligarch family’s dealings, including that Aras Agalarov had put his posh home in Bergen County, N.J., up for sale in mid-June.
Real estate website Zillow shows that the listing was removed on July 14, in the aftermath of the Trump Jr. emails.
Scott Balber, a lawyer representing the Agalarovs in the U.S., told the Daily News Wednesday that the timing was not in any way a reaction to swirling investigations in Washington.
“There is absolutely no connection between selling these two properties to anything in the news,” Balber said.
“I can assure you that Mr. Agalarov knows a lot more about real estate investment than you or I do,” he said.
In fact, the Agalarov clan’s properties in New York, which public records show include two other apartments, are just a few tacks on the map of foreign buyers gobbling up Manhattan real estate.
David Reiss, a real estate expert at Brooklyn Law School, told The News the buyers from abroad can have numerous motivations for coming to New York including “getting real estate as an asset class, taking money from their home country and bringing it abroad so it can’t be clawed back by the local government, or to have another home for family members.”
While Balber trumpeted his client’s investment acumen as a reason for the sale, Reiss said that the $300,000 gain may have actually been a loss after other fees are included, raising questions about its use as an investment.
“In the context of the Agalarovs’ portfolio this is probably a very small item so it was unlikely that this was considered a significant investment by the family,” he said.
While Reiss said there are no indications of wrongdoing on the Agalarov’s part, money laundering has become a persistent worry as multimillionaires and billionaires stash possibly ill-begotten cash in Manhattan apartments.| Permalink