A company owned by the controversial US presidential candidate Donald Trump recently partnered with two firms tainted by bribery allegations to bid for a lucrative casino license in Cyprus, an investigation by Global Sources Magazine has revealed. The investigative team leader Bill Hutman reports.
THE Trump Organisation LLC, a privately owned multinational conglomerate based in Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, also hired a former finance minister of Cyprus in its efforts to win the tender, Cypriot officials close to bidding process told the magazine.
The officials said the entire process has been swamped with intensive behind-the-scenes lobbying. Bidders first submit their proposals to an independent consultant for review, but the Cypriot government itself will make the final decision on who gets the casino license. This has triggered the back-room lobbying activity, especially in the ranks of the Democratic Rally, the ruling party of President Nicos Anastasiades.
The Cypriot officials confirmed to Global Sources Magazine that one of the Trump partners is Aktor of Greece, a company under investigation for its involvement in a €3.5 million ($4 m.) bribe and money-laundering accusation in Macedonia. An Aktor subsidiary, Helector, was also heavily involved in a waste management bribery scandal in Paphos, Cyprus, according to a court case currently in progress there.
Trump’s other partner is the gaming company Navegante Group, based in Paradise, Nevada, USA, which was accused of attempting to influence New York officials while trying to win gaming rights at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens. The New York Times reported in 2010 that Navegante chairman Larry Woolf was part of a coordinated effort to influence senators with campaign contributions. Woolf gave $3,000 as part of $40,000 donated by members of the group to Senate Democrats. The state inspector-general, in a scathing 308-page report on the Aqueduct affair, said: “It was awash in unrestrained political considerations, lobbyists and targeted campaign contributions.”
Cypriot officials said the Trump Organization should at least have been aware of the allegations against Aktor, as they are widely known in the business communities of Cyprus and Greece and have been widely reported in local media.
The Trump-Navegante-Aktor consortium proposes a grandiose development in the Cypriot capital Nicosia, featuring multiple hotels, a convention center, an outdoor amphitheater and a luxury shopping mall.
The “guest profile” of clients the Trump group is aiming to attract to the Nicosia complex includes “Europeans, Russians and Arabs, along with visitors from other countries in the region,” according to officials who have seen the group’s bid for the tender.
One source close to the bidding process told Global Sources Magazine that despite the Trump groups’s efforts, it appears its partnership has not been short-listed by the government as a candidate for the license. But that has not slowed the efforts of Trump Organization LLC as it continues to work behind the scenes in a last-ditch push to win the bid. Our sources said that Trump representatives recently approached several influential parties in Cyprus to try to win their support.
An official announcement of the bidders short listed could be made as early as March 15, one source said, though others said it could be several weeks before a decision is made.