An unopened Trump hotel in Azerbaijan has been linked to corrupt officials who support the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, reports Adam Davidson in a New Yorker piece.
Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku, a sleek 5-star hotel in the shape of a ship sail in Azerbaijan’s capital, never opened despite appearing nearly complete.
Plans to build the tower began in 2008, when developers first drew up a “high-end apartment building” downtown in the capital of Azerbaijan.
In 2012, the Trump Organization and Azerbaijani developers signed off on a contract to turn the building into a luxury hotel.
Even though the hotel has Trump’s name emblazoned on it and had previously been posted as a future project on Trump Organization’s website, the organization’s chief legal officer Alan Garten said that Trump played only a nominal role in construction of the hotel — he was “merely a licensor” who had allowed Anar Mammadov, the son of powerful Azerbaijani oligarch Ziya Mammadov, to use his name, the New Yorker reports.
Trump’s own financial disclosure report showed that he earned $2.5 million in income from the project between January 2014 and July 2015 and an additional $323,000 afterwards. In 2014, Ivanka Trump visited the Baku construction site and posted photos and videos of her trip to Instagram.
But some in Azerbaijan allege the Trumps had a more active hand in the project. “We were always following their instructions,” an unnamed Azerbaijani lawyer involved with the project told The New Yorker. “We were in constant contact with the Trump Organization. They approved the smallest details.”
A few weeks before Trump took office as President, he cancelled construction of the nearly-finished building in Baku to avoid potential conflicts of interest even though the construction was in its final stages. Last June, The Washington Post reported that the hotel had plastic-wrapped reception desks in the lobby.
Azerbaijan consistently ranks as one of the most corrupt countries in the world by human rights watchdogs — only two weeks ago, President Ilham Aliyev named his wife to serve as the country’s Vice President.
According to The New Yorker, the Trump Organization signed off on the deal with the powerful Mammadov family who, aside from regularly getting called out for exploiting political power to increase personal wealth, has reported ties with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — anextremist military force that has helped finance Iran’s nuclear weapons program and trained terror organizations like Hezbollah.
Azerbaijan’s Transportation Minister, Ziya Mammadov reportedly “awarded a series of multimillion-dollar contracts” to a construction company controlled by the IRGC in 2008, when development of the Baku Trump Tower first started.
“The entire Baku deal is a giant red flag—the direct involvement of foreign government officials and their relatives in Azerbaijan with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard,” Jessica Tillipman, an assistant dean specializing in government anti-corruption at George Washington University Law School told the New Yorker. “Corruption warning signs are rarely more obvious.”
The 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act forbids companies from “participating in a scheme to reward a foreign government official in exchange for material benefit or preferential treatment.” However, Garten told The Washington Post that the organization’s investigation into the Mammadov family “did not raise any red flags.”
Only last week, a Reuters report indicated that Trump’s administration is currently trying to label the IRGC as a “terrorist organization.” But only a few years ago, Trump’s company evidently had few qualms about lending his name to a project that could benefit them.