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Russian Mogul's Aide Attended Meeting With Trump Jr. During Campaign

  • RFE/RL

Donald Trump (left) and Aras Agalarov, Azerbaijani-born Russian real estate tycoon, at a Miss Universe party in Moscow in 2013

An executive working for a Russian billionaire and one-time partner with U.S. President Donald Trump was the eighth person at a meeting between Russians and the president's son during last year's presidential campaign, media reported on July 18.

Ike Kaveladze, who works for Azerbaijani-Russian developer Aras Agalarov, attended the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York in June 2016, The Washington Post, Reuters, AP, and CNN reported, citing an attorney for Agalarov, Scott Balber.

Balber told media that Kaveladze was there to represent Agalarov and his son Emin, who partnered with Trump to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013 and were named in e-mails that promised Trump Jr. the meeting would yield damaging information on Trump's Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

In an online profile, Kaveladze lists himself as a vice president of Moscow-based Crocus Group, Aras Agalarov's firm, and says in a separate LinkedIn profile that he handled tax preparation for the company.

Balber told media that officials from the Justice Department's Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office had contacted him about Kaveladze and that he and Kaveladze, who also goes by the name Irakly Kaveladze, were cooperating with the investigation.

Mueller was appointed to investigate possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which also is investigating the Russian matter, said it is disturbing how long it took for news that Kaveladze attended the Trump Tower meeting to come out.

"The Trump family is not coming clean with information" about the meeting, said Senator Mark Warner, noting that Kaveladze has a history of setting up money-laundering operations for wealthy Russian businessmen.

"I doubt if this individual who had a history of setting up thousands of fake accounts in Delaware was really there to talk about Russian adoptions," Warner said.

Trump Jr. arranged the meeting with the Russians after he was promised that a Russian government lawyer would provide negative information about Clinton. In e-mails, Trump Jr. expressed enthusiasm at getting such information during the summer at a critical time during the presidential campaign.

The meeting also was attended by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, publicist Rob Goldstone, and Rinat Akhmetshin, a prominent Russian-American lobbyist and former Soviet military officer.

Trump Jr. scheduled the gathering after Goldstone, a publicist for pop singer Emin Agalarov, said Veselnitskaya might have damaging information on Clinton she could share.

After the meeting was disclosed this month, Trump Jr. said the information Veselnitskaya provided wasn't useful and the meeting yielded nothing for the Trump campaign. His father has echoed that assessment.

Vaselnitskaya has denied that she works for the Russian government. She says the meeting focused on U.S.-Russian adoption policies and a sanctions law.

Kaveladze was named a vice president of the Crocus Group in 2004. He lists among his achievements the development of Russia's Far Eastern Federal University, a cluster of more than 70 college buildings near Vladivostok that Agalarov built, his web profiles say.

In 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the facility and, a year later, gave Agalarov a national Order of Honor.

In 2000, The New York Times cited Irakly Kaveladze as a conduit for international money laundering who allegedly moved more than $1.4 billion for Russian and Eastern European clients, routing the funds through more than 2,000 shell corporations. The accounts were then set up at Citibank in New York and Commercial Bank in San Francisco.

The money-laundering operation was investigated by the U.S. General Accounting Office. Kaveladze told the Times that the GAO investigation was a "witch hunt" and that he had committed no crimes. The investigation did not lead to criminal charges.

Former Senator Carl Levin (Democrat-Michigan) said Kaveladze was "in a sense the poster child" of how foreigners established U.S. corporations that don't disclose their true owners while laundering money through U.S. banks.

In 2000, Levin had requested the GAO's investigation of the use of shell corporations for money laundering.

The New York Times reported at the time that Kaveladze was born in the Soviet Republic of Georgia in 1960 and graduated from the Moscow Finance Academy -- a degree that Ike Kaveladze also reports on his LinkedIn and Internet pages.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, The Washington Post, and CNN
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