Speed Reads

Things that make you go hmmm

The Trumps' Panama City tower has some incredibly shady buyers

The Trump Organization and family failed to make inquiries into who was purchasing condos in the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama City, instead accepting money from a range of shady clients including members of the Russian mafia and drug cartel money launderers, an NBC News/Reuters investigation found. "I had some customers with questionable backgrounds," said Brazilian real estate salesman Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, who sold hundreds of units in the building beginning in 2006 but now lives as a fugitive due to an unrelated money-laundering scheme. "Nobody ever asked me," Ventura added. "Banks never asked. Developer didn't ask and [the] Trump Organization didn't ask. Nobody ask, 'Who are the customers, where did the money come from?' No, nobody ask."

Former Panamanian financial crimes prosecutor Mauricio Ceballos put it more bluntly, calling the Trump Ocean Club "a vehicle for money laundering."

Although the Trump Organization was not the developer for the building, it did license its brand and it operates the hotel and receives a cut of the condo sales. President Trump continues to make money from the project, earning $13.9 million over the last three years. In the words of Ventura, the Ocean Club was Ivanka Trump's personal "baby." NBC News writes that while there is "no indication that the Trump Organization or members of the Trump family engaged in any illegal activity, or knew of the criminal backgrounds of some of the project's associates," a willingness to turn a blind eye could nevertheless get the Trumps in trouble with U.S. law.

Panama constitutional law professor Miguel Antonio Bernal said there are hundreds of buildings in Panama City like the Trump Ocean Club that are used for money laundering. "There are more than 500 buildings like this," he explained. "But this — the difference of this — is that this has the name of the actual president of the United States." Read the full investigation here.