Sam Kislin

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Trump Had Early Business Deal with Sam Kislin and Tamir Sapir

During the 1970s, Sam Kislin and Tamir Sapir operated a Manhattan electronics store frequently visited by Soviet dignitaries and sold 200 television sets to a hotel Trump was developing at the time. “Almost two decades earlier, Kislin had sold Trump about 200 televisions on credit. ‘I gave him 30 days, and in exactly 30 days he paid me back,” says Kislin, now 82. “He never gave me any trouble.’ He says the televisions were for the Commodore Hotel, which Trump had bought in 1976 with Hyatt Corp. Trump purchased the sets from an electronics store that Kislin had opened in New York with Tamir Sapir, an immigrant from Georgia. It was famous among Soviets who would buy VHS players and tape recorders to take back home.” (Bloomberg News, March 16, 2017)

1986: Sam Kislin received a modest $350,000 mortgage from Citibank for a condominium in Lincoln Plaza. (Mortgage, recorded May 9, 1986)

After the Collapse of the Soviet Union, Kislin and Sapir Became Ultra-Wealthy

Sam Kislin immigrated from the Soviet Union as part of a wave of Soviet emigres in the early seventies, and had “made a fortune in commodities” within 25 years. “According to the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, in Washington, 17,000 people left the Soviet Union from 1968 through 1971. Most headed to Israel, but a few thousand went to the United States. Soon reports were filtering back to the Soviet Union of a strange place called Brooklyn. […] Two and a half decades later, in early February, the United Jewish Appeal held a glittering fund-raising party at a restaurant called Cabaret Lido in Marine Park, Brooklyn, a few miles east of Brighton, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the arrival of Sam and Ludmila Kislin, who came from Odessa and made a fortune in commodities.” (New York Times, March 14, 1999)

  • Kislin’s business partner in the electronics store, Tamir Sapir, later became a billionaire investor in Russian oil and New York real estate. “Sapir later grew rich trading Russian oil. He invested the proceeds in New York real estate, eventually becoming one of Trump’s development partners in Trump SoHo, a frequent focal point in inquiries about Trump’s financial ties to Russia and questionable Russian money. Sapir died in 2014.” (Bloomberg News, March 16, 2017)

Sam Kislin officially established Trans Commodities in 1992, a company that he owned entirely until 1997. “This suit arises from a sales contract between the plaintiff Kennett International Corp. (“Kennett”) and TCI Trans Commodities A.G. (“TCI Switzerland”), a Switzerland-based corporation that is now bankrupt. The plaintiff seeks to recover outstanding debts incurred by TCI Switzerland from the defendant, a New York-based corporation called Trans Commodities, Inc. (“Trans Commodities”). […]In the original complaint, Macready was named as a plaintiff, and Seymon Kislin (“Sam Kislin” or “Kislin”), David Kislin, Henry Kislin, and Elliot Asher were named as individual defendants. […] Trans Commodities was created in 1992 by Kislin although Kislin had been using the name “Trans Commodities” in commodities trading work he was doing as early as 1990. From 1992 until 1997, Kislin was the sole shareholder and CEO of Trans Commodities.” (Memorandum, Docket #94, Macready v TCI Trans Commodities, United States Eastern District of Pennsylvania Case #2:00-cv-04434, filed October 12, 2011)

Kislin Teamed Up with an Early Russian Oligarch to Buy Russian Steel Mills

1995: Russian news sources reported that Sam Kislin’s Trans Commodities had acquired a large ownership stake in a Russian steel mill and would invest hundreds of millions of dollars in steel trading and steel production. “The U.S. Trans Commodities trading company plans to buy $450 million worth of metal in Russia this year and to invest $120 million to $130 million into the Russian metal industry, Interfax reported Thursday. Interfax quoted company President Sam Kislin as saying that Trans Commodities plans to bid for an 18 percent stake in the Magnitogorsk steel mill, one of the biggest mills in Russia, and take part in a series of investment tenders for equity stakes in some other Russian metal companies. Kislin also said the company plans to invest $12 million to $14 million in new equipment for the Tulachermet metal plant, in which Trans Commodities has a 40 percent equity stake, according to Interfax. The company already has invested $10 million and helped to increase iron output of Tulachermet by 10 percent to 12 percent from 140 to 145,000 tons a month in 1991.” (Moscow Times, June 30, 1995)

Sam Kislin was business partners with Michael Cherney, a Russian oligarch who has feuded with Oleg Deripaska. “Oleg Deripaska, whose fortune recently exceeded that of Roman Abramovich, is being sued for 40 per cent of the aluminium company Rusal, a stake worth at least $6bn. The man bringing the suit is a little-known Russian businessman living in Israel called Michael Cherney, who gave Deripaska his first break, in 1993, as one of his factory managers. […] After Cherney went into partnership in 1988 with Sam Kislin, a Ukrainian-American, the deals began to multiply: iron ore pellets in exchange for Lada cars; coke and coal for food and sugar. 'Basically, I converted roubles to dollars by exporting coke and importing consumer goods,' he says.” (The Guardian, June 3, 2007)

  • Kislin’s Russian business partner has been described as the “missing link” between former Soviet bureaucrats and today’s generation of wealthy Russian tycoons. “Cherney has avoided the limelight since emigrating to Israel in 1994 and, unlike the oligarchs, stayed out of the political intrigues revolving around Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. He is, however, the missing link between the 'red directors' of Soviet industry and today's Russian tycoons. As well as fostering Deripaska, Cherney also backed Iskander Makhmudov and Vladimir Lisin, the metals magnates now worth $8bn and $11bn respectively, and Alexander Mashkevich, a minerals billionaire.” (The Guardian, June 3, 2007)
  • Cherney claims that he emigrated to Israel in 1994 in the face of pressure from the Russian Interior Ministry and intelligence services, who allegedly beat up one of his business partners for signing a deal with him. “A company backed by the Russian Interior Ministry and the FSB security service began to pressure Cherney and his partners. After a manager who had just signed a deal with Cherney was beaten up, friends at Yeltsin's tennis club in Moscow told him: 'We've heard people want to kill you. You should leave.' Cherney emigrated to Israel, from where he has conducted his business since 1994. Meanwhile the 'aluminium wars' raged in Russia, a struggle from which Rusal is now emerging as the world's number one aluminium producer. 'In 2001, I sold my stake to the Deripaska group,' he says. 'I'm out of the aluminium business now, except for the money owed to me from this stock sale.'” (The Guardian, June 3, 2007)
  • Cherney has claimed that after 1997, he was the target of an orchestrated smear campaign, known in Russia as “kompromat.” “Sitting in a Russian restaurant in the Israeli port of Jaffa, now 55 and greying, Cherney still looks every inch the boxer he once was. 'I managed my businesses in Russia from here,' he says. 'Everything went fine until 1997. But then kompromat - black propaganda - began to be published in Russia at someone's behest. […] He refuses to say whether it was Deripaska who instigated the kompromat . 'People don't pay what they owe you; that's life. But this is different. When I first met Deripaska, I liked him. He penetrated my soul. I took him to Paris, showed him expensive hotels and women for the first time. He was young, a dynamic achiever. I saw in him a reliable partner. So I'm not going to let him do this.'” (The Guardian, June 3, 2007)

Kislin Personally Issues Mortgages to Russian Buyers of Trump Apartments

Sam Kislin later acted as a bank, issuing mortgages under his own name to Russian buyers of luxury condos in Trump World Tower. “Trump’s soft spot for Russia is an ongoing mystery, and the large number of condominium sales he made to people with ties to former Soviet republics may offer clues. […] Trump World Tower, opened in 2001, became a prominent depository of Russian money. Sam Kislin, a Ukrainian immigrant, issued mortgages to buyers of multimillion-dollar apartments in World Tower. It’s highly unusual for individuals to issue formal mortgages for U.S. luxury real estate, and the tower loans are the only ones Kislin ever made in New York, public records show.” (Bloomberg News, March 16, 2017)

  • Kislin issued the mortgage for a unit at Trump World Tower to a buyer who would later become a prominent leader of the Ukraine’s Party of Regions, a political party aligned with Russia that received advice from Trump’s future campaign manager, Paul Manafort. “At Trump World Tower, Kislin provided a mortgage to Vasily Salygin, a future official of the Ukrainian Party of Regions linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin, to buy an 83rd-floor apartment. Salygin’s time in office overlapped with Paul Manafort’s tenure as an adviser to the party. Manafort later served as Trump’s campaign manager before his Russian links led to growing criticism and his resignation.” (Bloomberg News, March 16, 2017)

An FBI Report Accused Kislin of Money Laundering and Organized Crime

1999: The FBI alleged that Sam Kislin had been involved in organized crime and that Trans Commodities was “known to have laundered millions of dollars from Russia to New York.” “A campaign contributor to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Sen. Charles Schumer has been identified by the FBI as a member of a Russian crime syndicate whose company has laundered millions of dollars. Semyon ‘Sam’ Kislin, 64, along with family members and businesses, gave $46,250 to the mayoral campaigns of Giuliani in 1993 and 1997 and $8,000 to the Senate campaign of Schumer last year. […]Despite internal FBI reports on Kislin alleging money laundering and mob ties, the bureau has not pursued charges. FBI spokesman Joe Valiquette declined to comment Tuesday. A 1994 FBI intelligence report obtained by The Associated Press claims Kislin is a ‘member or associate’ of a Brighton Beach crime operation headed by Vyacheslav ‘Little Japanese’ Ivankov, who got 10 years in prison in 1997 for extortion and a fraudulent marriage aimed at preventing his deportation. The FBI report said Trans Commodities ‘is known to have laundered millions of dollars from Russia to New York.’” (Associated Press, December 2, 1999)

  • Kislin denied that he had any connection to Russian organized crime or that his company had been used to launder funds from Russia. “Kislin's suspected involvement with organized crime was first reported Tuesday by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group based in Washington. […] In an interview with the center, Kislin said he doesn't know Ivankov and noted that he has never been charged with a crime. He also denied that his company, Trans Commodities, laundered money for Russian organized crime figures. As for the mayor, he said: ‘I did a lot of fund raising for Giuliani.... He's a good man, doing a good job for the city of New York.’” (Associated Press, December 2, 1999)
  • Sam Kislin was later honored by the New York City Council despite persistent allegations of ties to organized crime and money laundering. “A wealthy Russian-American businessman who has been linked to organized crime in FBI and Interpol reports was recently honored by the City Council, The Post has learned. […] Semyon "Sam" Kislin, a 68-year-old commodities trader who once gave large donations to ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), is a suspected member of a Brooklyn-based Russian crime syndicate. He allegedly used his company, Trans Commodities, now of Westchester, to launder millions of dollars, according to the FBI and Interpol. […] Kislin's name has been linked to the Russian mob for about a decade. A 1994 FBI intelligence report called him a "member or associate" of a Brighton Beach crime operation headed by Vyacheslav "Little Japanese" Ivankov, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1997 for extortion and a fraudulent marriage to prevent his deportation. The FBI report claims Kislin's company co-sponsored a Russian crime boss and contract killer for a U.S. visa, and called Kislin a "close associate" of the late arms smuggler Babeck Seroush.” (New York Post, June 30, 2003)
  • Kislin denied the existence of a Russian mafia and was not charged with any crime. “Kislin did not return phone calls. In the past, Kislin has denied all wrongdoing and, in one press conference, even denied the existence of Russian organized crime. "There is no such thing as a Russian mafia," Kislin said in a 1999 press conference. At the time, Kislin acknowledged talking to the FBI. Despite internal FBI reports alleging money laundering and mob ties, the bureau never pursued charges.” (New York Post, June 30, 2003)

Accusations that Kislin had been involved in money laundering would later hinder the efforts of his former partner, Tamir Sapir, to enter the casino business. “Three years ago, a faction of Maine's Passamaquoddy tribe contracted with New York real estate investor Tamir Sapir to build and operate a high stakes bingo hall in Albany Township as a prelude to the operation of a full-fledged Las Vegas-style casino. Local residents, fearful that a gambling hall would change their rural quality of life, vigorously opposed the idea. But few seemed to realize that Sapir is a former business partner of Sam Kislin, a fellow Russian emigree and fellow New Yorker who was later identified in an FBI document as an associate of a Brooklyn-based Russian criminal organization. […] Sapir insisted Kislin has never been involved in Russian organized crime and Kislin himself has denied the allegation. But an FBI document reviewed by the Globe and provided by the Center for Public Integrity says companies connected to Kislin helped launder millions of dollars of illegally obtained Russian money into the United States.” (Boston Globe, December 13, 2000)

Sam Kislin was never formally charged with money laundering offenses in the United States and has claimed that he is innocent of the earlier charges against him. “Kislin became a fundraiser for Rudolph Giuliani’s mayoral campaign, bringing in millions for the future Trump surrogate. Investigated by the FBI in the 1990s for allegations including mob ties and laundering money from Russia, Kislin was never charged, and he maintains his innocence.” (Bloomberg News, [March 16, 2017)

Kislin May Have Been Accused in Russia of Money Laundering and Working for the FBI

An Armenian news agency has reported that Sam Kislin is a co-defendant in a criminal money laundering case brought by Russian officials against a Russian-Armenian businessman. “On May 25, the Moscow City Court dismissed the petition for releasing businessman Levon Hayrapetyan on bail and found the decision to keep him under home arrest till July 15 legal. Hayrapetyan is charged with embezzlement of the property of Bashneft Company. […] Citing the Federal Penitentiary Service, the investigator said Hayrapetyan violates the conditions of the home arrest by coordinating his stand with Sam Kislin, another defendant in the case, a U.S. citizen. […] Hayrapetyan is charged with being privy to the Bashneft sale by Ural Rakhimov to AFK Sistema's structures in April 2009. Rakhimov headed Bashneft for 3 years. On July 24, the Russian Federation Investigation Committee brought two criminal charges against him: embezzlement or misuse, and money laundering. On September 12, the Russian-Armenian businessman was charged with fraud, too.” (ARMINFO News Agency, May 25, 2015)

A Russian news source claimed in 1996 that Sam Kislin had formerly worked for the FBI and suggested a former Soviet diplomat who had worked for Sapir and Kislin exposed an FBI agent who had been spying for Russia. “The scandal over the detention last week of FBI officer Earl Pitts is growing. It seems the U.S. authorities have not the slightest doubt that Pitts spied for Russia, writes MOSKOVSKY KOMSOMOLETS. Meanwhile, Moscow is silent about the case. […] However, the paper writes it knows the name of the man who turned Pitts in. The man is Rollan Dzheikiya, 60, former senior counsellor of Russia's permanent mission at the UN. He arrived in the U.S. August 1984, and FBI man Earl Pitts mistook him for a KGB officer and offered him his cooperation. But the term of Dzheikiya's temporary service in the U.S. expired in 1992. He was not eager to return home and tried to get a permanent job at the UN, but he failed. After that Dzheikiya was employed at a firm owned by Timur Sapir, an immigrant from the Soviet Union. The paper also has information that Dzheikiya could have something to do with the Trans Commodities firm allegedly headed by Sam Kislin, a former FBI man.” (Russian Press Digest, December 25, 1996)

Kislin had a former FBI agent on his payroll who publicly defended him against charges that he had ever been involved in organized crime, claiming that the FBI investigation had stemmed from a case of mistaken identities. “A major contributor to the campaigns of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Sen. Charles Schumer is disputing law enforcement claims that link him to the Russian mafia. And he has a former FBI agent to back him up. Semyon (Sam) Kislin on Wednesday denied allegations contained in a 1994 FBI report that his commodities trading company has been involved in money laundering and co-sponsored a U.S. visa for an alleged hit man with ties to the Russian mob. […]Joel Bartow, a former FBI agent who headed an investigation into Kislin's company and now works for him, said the allegations about Kislin's mob ties are the result of a mix-up. Bartow said that several years ago, the FBI confused the name of Kislin's company, Trans Commodities Inc., with a firm called Transeas Commodities. […] But Bartow, who is now a private investigator, acknowledged that since he left the FBI he has worked for Kislin and is currently on retainer to Kislin's attorney.” (Associated Press, December 29, 1999)

Russian Fraudsters Stole Kislin's Chicken in US and USSR

7/18/00: American officials indicted two Russian brokers of chicken meat who sold frozen chicken to Sam Kislin in a scam that involved selling the same cargo to multiple buyers. “Using forged documents and shipments of frozen chicken legs to Eastern Europe, a father and son from Westchester County with links to Russian organized crime stole more than $35 million from banks and financiers in Latvia and the United States, Manhattan prosecutors said yesterday. The men, Nickolai and Serguei Kouznetsov, who already face a half- dozen civil lawsuits in Florida, Illinois and New York, and an accomplice were indicted yesterday on charges that they sold -- and resold -- the same chicken legs to multiple buyers. […] The authorities said the elaborate scheme began on Long Island, where the Kouznetsovs sold frozen chicken-leg quarters, along with whole chickens, beef liver, turkey thighs and hot dogs, to various chicken exporters. Among those exporters was one of the largest such American company, Trans Commodities Inc., based in New York City and run by Sam Kislin, who has been a contributor to Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and other New York politicians.” (New York Times, July 18, 2000)

  • The scheme depended on a bank in Latvia accepting warehouses full of frozen chicken in Florida as collateral on multimillion dollar loans. “But according to the indictment, the Kouznetsovs did not stop at selling the chicken legs once. They obtained a loan from the Paritate Bank in Latvia by giving the bank false warehouse receipts showing that more than six million pounds of chicken were being held for the bank as collateral in a warehouse in Pensacola, Fla. On the basis of the warehouse receipt, the Paritate Bank wired $3.5 million to the Kouznetsovs account at the Bank of New York in New York City. But the chicken had already been sold to another purchaser and was on a ship on its way to Estonia. It was not clear yesterday whether investors had made any independent effort to verify whether the chicken actually existed. As John W. Moscow, deputy chief of the Manhattan district attorney's investigation division, said of the loan from Paritate, ‘There are a lot of suckers at that bank.’” (New York Times, July 18, 2000)

4/11/01: Russian authorities arrested two customs inspectors who were accused of illegally confiscating frozen chicken imported into Russia by Sam Kislin. “The case of the disappearing chicken, which has led to two officials being charged and an ongoing investigation, appears to be part of a years-long racket in St. Petersburg harbors that some say continues to this day. Sources familiar with the scam say it has involved criminal groups, local investigators and a line of government officials that stretches to the Kremlin. […] Charged in the chicken investigation are Alexander Travin, the head of the Justice Ministry's northwestern offices, and Anatoly Baranov, a senior investigator for the regional transport prosecutor's office and the man who ordered the chicken impounded. Both are accused of abuse of office. […] Trans Commodities Food head and founder Sam Kislin said he lost $ 3.5 million. ‘These people organized a team of bandits and stole and sold my cargo,’ he said by telephone from New York.” (Moscow Times, April 11, 2001)