The sex stuff may sell, but we should look for a slavery case
estimates by Eric Jackson
chair of Democrats Abroad Panama and editor of The Panama News
“Altshoul attended the Mar-a-Lago party with another Homes partner, Stanislau Kavalenka, recalled people who were there. Kavalenka was also a Canadian émigré from the former Soviet Union. … In 2004, Canadian prosecutors had accused Kavalenka of pimping and kidnapping Russian prostitutes. That case was dropped in 2005 after the alleged prostitutes, who were the main witnesses, did not show up in court. … ‘I was running some girls. That’s how I made money.'”Reuters, at http://www.businessinsider.com/r-special-report-ivanka-trump-and-the-fugitive-from-panama-2017-11
The proper Democratic response to tales like this? At this point, to laugh and decline comment, or to tell “Is fake news planted by moose and squorrel” jokes.
HOWEVER, the things we raise in public and the questions we raise in other contexts, for example with investigators for congressional Democrats who are looking into the whole Trump affair – if there are any investigators who are GOOD at it, hard workers, fair minded, cautious, patriotic – are a different matter. Asking rude questions in private is not the same thing as publishing lurid accusations for mass consumption. The difference is between asking a question and making a statement.
And the Trump prostitution, pornography (a subset of prostitution) and human trafficking (an ancillary business of prostitution and pornography) questions ought to be looked into. I say this as a man who lives in a country where prostitution is legal and who thinks that although it’s in many cases a form of slavery prostitution is better legal than illegal. (One big eye opener for me, years ago, was in court when a woman who had a good heart and a decent set of values as far as I could see when she was a city council constituent of mine a few years before, was pleading guilty to a solicitation charge. Crack addiction had brought hard times upon her, but count me out of any stone-throwing mob.)
But now that the sensationalists have prostitution front and center in the Trump story and it’s probably not libel, it really is time to start pressing the questions about that aspect of Donald Trump as the organized crime story. That is a compelling and better demonstrated than most Russian angle. And woe to the prosecutor who goes out on a limb with a fanciful or less than absolutely damning collusion with the Kremlin case, because about 30 percent of the national jury pool would be into nullification anyway. Making the case that associates Trump with sleazy Russian human traffickers and pimps, however, is a back door to the national security peril angle to the extent that it can be shown that these operators had significant Russian government ties. That’s because then the Kremlin would know, and could blackmail Trump about such matters.
In 2015 I wrote a story, mostly based on open sources but also by asking a few key people about the front man in the development of the Trump Ocean Club in Panama City, Roger Khafif. He is not who and what he claimed. It was said that he made his fortune in the Colon Free Zone, but prominent Free Zone merchants and execs who would have known him if that were so didn’t know of him in that context. It is said that he was a real estate developer in the upscale resort community of Coronado, but nobody in the real estate business there can verify that. It is said that he is the developer of this ultra-exclusive resort on the island of Saboga in Panama’s Perlas Archipelago, but not only does this development not exist, but a source in the Perlas – alas, unpublishable once or twice removed hearsay – told me that what was going on is that Khafif would send a work crew to the island on a boat with, say, six guys, and come back to Panama City with perhaps 15 people aboard. That is, that he is or was a human smuggler. But I have limited resources and I don’t have such a death wish as to go to Saboga and start asking strangers about smuggling activities.
In my story I identified two mob lawyers with Russian ties with the Trump circle: Alexander Altshoul, a Canadian of Belorussian origin and Juliette Passer, an American who was a consultant in the Yeltsin era privatizations in and around St. Petersburg and who does a lot of her business in Russia and in Russian satellites like Kazakhstan to this day.
Others have fleshed out some of this story. Some just tangentially touched on Panama in their own original investigations of Trump’s Russian mob ties. See, e.g., http://time.com/4433880/donald-trump-ties-to-russia/ .
Reuters and NBC recently ran a thing, and I had extensive discussions with the Reuters folks in the course of their doing that investigation. I am not claiming credit for their work, but the big media don’t station people in Panama and instead tend to pick the brains of us smaller media folks who cover the beat, so they asked me to meet with them and talk about the Trump situation here.
Reuters and NBC – https://www.nbcnews.com/news/investigations/panama-tower-carries-trump-s-name-ties-organized-crime-n821706 – went after Alex Ventura, the low-hanging piece of fruit. They didn’t get very deep into his political escapades in Panama, nor the even more remarkable ones of David Murcia Guzmán, nor Murcia Guzmán’s sudden Plan Colombia rise from a guy selling pirate CDs on the streets of Santa Marta to a fabulously wealthy racketeer in Putumayo province just when the Colombian Army and its tacit AUC paramilitary allies were conquering that area’s drug trade from the FARC guerrillas. (Later FARC mostly took it back, and by some accounts the Valle del Norte Cartel paid “taxes” first to FARC, then to the AUC, then to FARC again and through much of that process used Murcia Guzmán and his uncle as key money launderers.) More importantly, they didn’t get much into who and what Khafif really is. Maybe, like this reporter, they could find what he wasn’t but could not establish what he was with enough certainty to publish.
Also working closely with Reuters and NBC was Global Witness. I met with Ken Silverstein about the story while they were working on it. See https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/corruption-and-money-laundering/narco-a-lago-panama/ and hit your find feature to get to the snippet about Stanislav Kavalenka.
So what is proven? Except for one afflicted with paranoiac ideation, just a bunch of circumstances without any particular connecting causal relationships, just a bunch of ugly associations.
But consider some more circumstances:
– The president’s grandfather was among other ventures in the prostitution business. See http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/trump-canada-yukon-1.3235254. The Donald is from a pimp lineage.
– When this reporter came back to Panama in 1994, the reputed rules and pecking orders were first, that Russians laundered money here like criminal organizations of many other nationalities but they didn’t get directly involved in the rackets here. But that changed, with Russian playing at least technical contractor roles in drug smuggling – http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/915059.stm – and gradually displacing the Spaniards as the dominant players in Panamanian prostitution – obliquely, see http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/tony-galeota-from-running-porkys-miamis-most-notorious-strip-joint-to-rotting-in-a-panamanian-jail-6389358 and know that the word on the street was that a rival Russian organization paid off Panamanian authorities to shut down Galiota’s organization.
A case to take into court this is not. Not yet, anyway. But there is enough there to did deeper. Donald Trump’s escapades with some hookers and porn stars may be lurid enough to damage him with many voters but they are not the stuff of dignified discussion by Democrats. Donald Trump’s business ties with mobsters in the human trafficking / prostitution / pornography industry IS something that respectable Democrats should look into, and about which a competent prosecutor may well build a money laundering case.