Mysterious 8th person at Trump Jr. meeting allegedly ran massive Russian money-laundering scheme

Irakly Kaveladze’s checkered past.

CREDIT: Twitter/@ikeusa
CREDIT: Twitter/@ikeusa

For several days, the identity of the eighth person who attended a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and other top campaign officials in June 2016 has remained a mystery.

The meeting was set up by a Russian billionaire, Aras Agalarov, through several intermediaries including his son Emin, to pass along “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary” as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

On Tuesday, the eighth person was identified: Irakly Kaveladze.

Kaveladze, a U.S. citizen who was born in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, currently works for the Agalarovs as a vice president of their family company, Crocus International. But Kaveladze also has a checkered history.

An October 2000 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) accuses Kaveladze of being involved in a massive effort, over nearly 10 years, to launder $1.4 billion of Russian and Eastern European money through U.S. banks.

Although the government report does not identify Kaveladze by name, a New York Times story from November 2000 exposes Kaveladze as the central figure.

In a a nine-month inquiry that subpoenaed bank records, the investigators found that an unknown number of Russians and other East Europeans moved more than $1.4 billion through accounts at Citibank of New York and the Commercial Bank of San Francisco.

The accounts had been opened by Irakly Kaveladze, who immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1991, according to Citibank and Mr. Kaveladze. He set up more than 2,000 corporations in Delaware for Russian brokers and then opened the bank accounts for them, without knowing who owned the corporations, according to the report by the General Accounting Office, which has not been made public.

Kaveladze denied any wrongdoing and described the GAO investigation as a “witch hunt.”

Kaveladze’s company told the GAO that his company, IBC/Euro-American, has a client base that consists “entirely of brokers in Moscow, Russia.”

According to the GAO, “more than $800 million was deposited through wire transfer transactions from foreign countries into IBC/Euro-American client accounts at Citibank. Over 70 percent of these deposits was subsequently moved out of the U.S. banking system through wire transfer transactions to accounts in foreign countries. According to a Citibank official, these deposits included funds from Russia; and Citibank no longer opens accounts for clients of IBC/Euro-American because of concerns over suspicious account activity.”

Here is a description, from the GAO, of one example of how the accounts set up by Kaveladze were used:

Corporation A initiated a series of wire transfers of money on its behalf through Absolute Bank in Moscow, Russia, to the Bank of New York in the United States, which had a correspondent banking relationship with Absolute Bank. The Bank of New York then transferred the funds to Republic National Bank of New York, which had a correspondent banking relationship with Trust Commercial Bank in Latvia. Republic National Bank, in turn, sent the funds by wire to Trust Commercial Bank in Latvia where they were deposited into Corporation B’s account. Approximately $6.8 million was moved in this fashion from Corporation A to Corporation B during a 2-month period. Using wire transfers, money was moved in large dollar amounts into and out of accounts on the same day or within 1 or 2 days

The GAO says their findings “raise questions about whether the U.S. banks were used to launder money.”

The New York Times reported that the money “was highly likely to have arisen from Russian executives who were seeking to avoid taxes, although some money could be from organized crime.”

Kaveladze’s company told the GAO that it was “currently being liquidated due in part to concerns about money-laundering issues that were raised in 1999 when the media reported allegations that Russian organized crime had laundered billions of dollars through the Bank of New York.”

After being contacted by the GAO, Citibank closed all the accounts opened by Kaveladze. The other entity, Commercial Bank, “shut its international banking department in June because of laundering investigations.”

The investigation into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia has expanded into financial matters: The Senate Intelligence Committee has received “a trove of banking records from the Treasury Department” which tracks suspicious financial activity. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said the documents could reveal “information that relates to financial connections between Russia and President Trump and his associates, whether direct or laundered through hidden or illicit transactions.”

Kaveladze is represented by Scott Balber, who has previously represented Donald Trump.

Ryan Koronowski contributed reporting to this article.