Why did Trump say, ‘I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?’ and who was he talking to?

“Eduard Nektalov paid $1.6 million cash for a unit at Trump World Tower in 2003, according to the New York City Department of Finance.”

June 6, 2003 — Drug Money Laundered Into Gold, U.S. Says

“Yesterday, federal prosecutors announced the arrest of 11 jewelry dealers and others who were accused of participating in an international money-laundering scheme…

James B. Comey, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said the use of the jewelers highlighted ‘the vicious circle of drugs to money to gold back to money’ that was essential ‘for drug lords to be able to survive.’

‘The big problem for drug lords is not so much getting the drugs into the United States,’ he said. ‘In some ways, a bigger challenge for them is how to get the money back to Colombia so they can get rich off of it.’

Mr. Comey said the jewelers ‘may not be drug lords, but they’re every bit as important to the success of those drug endeavors as the dealers themselves.’

Some jewelers on the busy, insular block of 47th Street expressed surprise yesterday at the arrests, while others shrugged their shoulders and complained that a few bad people were harming the reputation of the diamond trade. ‘In this business, everyone knows who does what,’ said a jeweler out on the street who declined to give his name. ‘This industry would be better without those few people’…

A jeweler who said he had worked on the block for 28 years and who also refused to give his name expressed surprise at the arrests. ‘They are very respectful people in the diamond industry,’ he said.

A jeweler standing nearby interjected, ‘The whole block is surprised.’

The two men described one of the defendants, Roman Nektalov, who prosecutors said was an owner of Roman Jewelers, as someone who had worked on the block for more than three decades, was often relied on for advice and could be trusted.

‘On 47th Street, everything is on the trust,’ one of the jewelers added. Mr. Nektalov’s lawyer could not be reached by telephone last night…

Part of the genius of the scheme, Mr. Comey said, was that it avoided the banking system, where institutions have been clamping down on money-laundering schemes…”

-Excerpt courtesy of The New York Times, “Drug Money Laundered Into Gold, U.S. Says,” by Benjamin Weiser and Daisy Hernandez — June 6, 2003: https://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/06/nyregion/drug-money-laundered-into-gold-us-says.html

May 21, 2004 — Slaughter on Sixth Ave.

Indicted Jewelry Merchant Executed on Busy Street

-Images courtesy of Newspapers.com, The New York Daily News, May 21, 2004, and Google Maps

Slain Diamond Merchant Had Faced Trial

“A diamond merchant who was killed on a Midtown sidewalk at dusk on Thursday was planning to prepare next week for his July 17 trial in a federal money-laundering case that has already brought eight convictions, his lawyer said yesterday.

The merchant, Eduard Nektalov, and his father, the government charged, were involved in a scheme to smuggle gold to Colombian drug dealers as everyday objects like belt buckles and tools.

Mr. Nektalov’s lawyer, Christopher E. Chang, said yesterday that his client had no intention of pleading guilty or becoming a cooperating witnesses for the government. Nor do the police think that the trial or the business dealings that led to his indictment a year ago had anything to do with his murder, a senior law enforcement official said yesterday.

Instead, investigators are focusing more intently on his possible ties to Russian organized crime and a different, smaller money-laundering scheme, the official said.

‘It looks like it’s just internecine stuff with the Russians,’ the official said…

-Excerpt courtesy of The New York Times, “Slain Diamond Merchant Had Faced Trial,” by Michael Wilson, May 22, 2004: https://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/22/nyregion/slain-diamond-merchant-had-faced-trial.html

Who was Eduard Nektalov?

“Who was Eduard Nektalov? It’s a surprisingly complicated question. To start with, Nektalov lived his life within two insular subcultures. He was a member of the notoriously arcane world of the 47th Street jewelry business, where, it is said, more than 90 percent of the diamonds sold in America are handled.

He was also a Bukharan Jew. He came to the U.S. almost 30 years ago from the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan. The Bukharans trace their history in Central Asia back almost 2,000 years. Most came here following the breakup of the Soviet Union, and almost all of them have settled in Rego Park and Forest Hills, where the Bukharan community, which consisted of fewer than twenty families during the seventies, now numbers nearly 60,000 people…

Nektalov was a man of considerable importance in the Bukharan community, a member of one of its most prominent and successful families. But he had a darker side as well. Last year, he was arrested, along with his father and nine other 47th Street jewelers, for laundering drug money. Eduard and Roman were caught in a sting run by the El Dorado Task Force…

Up until the mid-nineties, De Beers controlled almost the entire global diamond market. As new mines opened up, however, more people were able to get into the business, and De Beers’ market share has now dropped, by most estimates, to less than 65 percent…

Interestingly, one of the most successful challenges to De Beers’ dominance of the market has been mounted over the past decade by a Bukharan Jew named Lev Leviev. A native of Tashkent and a friend of Vladimir Putin’s who now lives in Israel, Leviev managed to outmaneuver De Beers and negotiate a deal with Angola for exclusive access to its diamond production. At 48, he is a multibillionaire and an enthusiastic supporter of Jewish causes…

On 47th Street, since much of the business is still conducted on the honor system, a man’s reputation is about as valuable a commodity as the stones themselves. Diamonds change hands all the time with little more than a handshake or a note scribbled on a scrap of paper.

‘One accusation can make it impossible to do business,’ says Benny Cohen. ‘In fact, sometimes you don’t even need an accusation. All you need is a whiff that something isn’t right. That’s enough to ruin someone. Everyone knows this, so they are very careful about what they say.’

But David Ribacoff, one of the founding members of New York’s Bukharan community, who helped start its first synagogue and who has assisted hundreds of immigrants in getting settled here, is scathing in his assessment of the Nektalovs. ‘I knew someday something was going to happen with these people,’ he says. ‘If you play with fire, you’re going to get burned.'”

-Excerpt and image courtesy of New York Magazine, “Iced,” by Craig Horowitz, November 19, 2004: https://nymag.com/nymetro/news/people/features/10490/

Russia, if you’re listening…

Dec. 18, 2015 — ‘I think our country does plenty of killing also’

“Trump said on Morning Joe that Putin was a better leader than Obama, and dismissed Joe Scarborough’s allegations that the Russian president ‘kills journalists that don’t agree with him.’

‘He’s running his country and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country,’ Trump said.

He added: ‘I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, a lot of killing going on, a lot of stupidity.'”

Dec. 20, 2015 — ‘You’re saying he killed people. I haven’t seen that’

In an interview with ABC’s ‘This Week,’ Trump defends against allegations Putin has ordered the killings of journalists and dissidents.

‘As far as the reporters are concerned — as far as the reporters are concerned, obviously I don’t want that to happen. I think it’s terrible — horrible. But, in all fairness to Putin, you’re saying he killed people. I haven’t’ seen that. I don’t know that he has. Have you been able to prove that? Do you know the names of the reporters that he’s killed? Because I’ve been — you know, you’ve been hearing this, but I haven’t seen the name. Now, I think it would be despicable if that took place, but I haven’t’ seen any evidence that he killed anybody in terms of reporters.'”

-Excerpt and image courtesy of CNN.com, “80 Times Trump Talked About Putin”: https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2017/03/politics/trump-putin-russia-timeline/

‘I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?’

January 23, 2016 — Donald Trump at Dordt College in Sioux Center

“With less than two weeks to go until the Iowa caucus, Donald Trump remains characteristically confident about his chances. In fact, the Republican front-runner is so confident, he says his supporters would stay loyal even if he happened to commit a capital offense.

‘I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?’ Trump remarked at a campaign stop at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa. ‘It’s, like, incredible.’

The businessman, whose Trump Tower stands on the major Manhattan thoroughfare, cracked the joke Saturday to a receptive audience at the Christian college.”

-Excerpt courtesy of NPR, America, “Donald Trump: ‘I Could … Shoot Somebody, And I Wouldn’t Lose Any Voters,'” by Colin Dwyer, January 23, 2016: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/23/464129029/donald-trump-i-could-shoot-somebody-and-i-wouldnt-lose-any-voters

Jan. 26, 2016 — ‘People are saying they think it was him, it might have been him, it could have been him’

“In an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, Trump discusses the 2006 murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian security agent, and the 2016 findings of a British inquiry that Putin ‘probably approved’ his poisoning.

‘Have they found him guilty?’ Trump said. ‘I don’t think they’ve found him guilty.’

‘If he did it, fine. But I don’t know that he did it. You know, people are saying they think it was him, it might have been him, it could have been him. But Maria, in all fairness to Putin — I don’t know. You know, and I’m not saying this because he says, ‘Trump is brilliant and leading everybody’ — the fact is that, you know, he hasn’t been convicted of anything.'”

-Excerpt and image courtesy of CNN.com, “80 Times Trump Talked About Putin”: https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2017/03/politics/trump-putin-russia-timeline/

Wow, It’s Strange These Russians Paid Millions in Cash for Trump Properties

“Buyers connected to Russia or former Soviet republics made 86 all-cash sales — totaling nearly $109 million — at 10 Trump-branded properties in South Florida and New York City, according to a new analysis shared with McClatchy. Many of them made purchases using shell companies designed to obscure their identities.

‘The size and scope of these cash purchases are deeply troubling as they can often signal money laundering activity,’ said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and a former federal prosecutor. ‘There have long been credible allegations of money laundering by the Trump Organization which, if true, would pose a real threat to the United States in the event that Russia were able to leverage evidence of illicit financial transactions against the president.’

Eduard Nektalov, a Uzbeki diamond dealer was arrested on charges he laundered drug money before he was killed in New York, according to multiple news reports. He purchased a unit at Trump World Tower for $1.6 million in 2003, according to the New York City Department of Finance.”

-Excerpt and image courtesy of Esquire, “Wow, It’s Strange These Russians Paid Millions in Cash for Trump Properties,” by Charles P. Pierce, June 19, 2018: https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a21654291/wow-its-strange-these-russians-paid-millions-in-cash-for-trump-properties/

Trump’s Top Targets in the Russia Probe Are Experts in Organized Crime

“As Trump praised and defended Russian President Vladimir Putin along the campaign trail, financial analysts and money-laundering experts questioned whether the real-estate mogul had any financial incentives — including business ties or outstanding debt — to seek better relations with Moscow…

By the early 2000s, a third of the buyers of Trump Tower’s most expensive condos were Russia-linked shell companies or individuals from the former Soviet Union — including Eduard Nektalov, a mob-connected diamond dealer from Uzbekistan…

Trump’s own sons have boasted of the Trump Organization’s dependence on Russian money. ‘Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,’ Donald Trump Jr. said in 2008. ‘We don’t rely on American banks,’ Eric Trump reportedly told a golfing buddy in 2014. ‘We have all the funding we need out of Russia.’

Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen — who pleaded guilty last week to tax fraud and campaign-finance violations, in which he implicated the president — once bragged that he was part of the Russian mob, according to The Wall Street Journal.

-Excerpt courtesy of The Atlantic, “Trump’s Top Targets in the Russia Probe Are Experts in Organized Crime,” by Natasha Bertrand, August 30, 2018: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/08/trumps-top-targets-in-the-russia-probe-are-experts-in-organized-crime/569056/

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