Sunday, October 22, 2017

Things that should be illegal but aren't ... by gimleteye

Oh boy. The United States is in a grim fix, and no one can say it is for the lack of powerful voices calling for moral conduct, personal responsibility, or high-handed religiosity.

In American political life, a well-designed system of checks and balances should keep hypocrites from having the upper hand. There should be, as President Obama often noted, an arc of history that bends toward truth and light. With Donald Trump, we are far off that arc. (To read more, read the excellent weekly compilation by Amy Siskind, here.)

Miami plays out in this morass, importantly, through real estate transactions that use perfectly legal strategies to keep ownership concealed.

The top line story is the infiltration of Russia/ Putin in deforming free and fair elections; pushing the 2016 result to Trump.

The bottom line is the legal ability of shell corporations from Russia (and everywhere else) to influence decision-makers through real estate transactions.

Yesterday, the Miami Herald reported,
This Russian general fought the mob. Why does he own $38 million of Florida real estate?
OCTOBER 20, 2017 6:00 AM

There is life after being one of Russia’s top crime fighters — and it can be very good.

Anatoly Petukhov gave up Moscow’s icy winters for the warm embrace of South Florida, where he’s amassed a $38 million portfolio of condos, office buildings and prime development sites, not to mention a 31-foot powerboat. Petukhov is part of a wave of wealthy Russian businessmen and officials washing up in Miami. The local real estate industry — always happy to take cash with few questions asked — has welcomed him since he arrived in 2010.

So how did Petukhov make his fortune?

The retired policeman, 59, refused repeated interview requests from the Miami Herald. His biography suggests he might have good reason for avoiding the spotlight: Petukhov served as a general in an elite law-enforcement unit dedicated to fighting organized crime. The task force was so corrupt — “the most criminalized structure within the police,” according to Louise Shelley, a professor at George Mason University — that it was reorganized and eventually shut down after a scandal involving its top official.

There has been plenty of press about the role of Russian money in Donald Trump's real estate empire. Eye On Miami noted a Reuters analysis of the significant number of Russian nationals who reported ownership in Trump South Florida properties and wrote at the time, "
Hiding financial assets is part of the rigged system that prevent Americans from understanding the true facts of the Trump/Russia connection."

In 2016, Miami real estate transactions were part of a limited Obama Treasury Department initiative to require disclosure -- as a test program -- of underlying ownership of limited liability corporations, frequently used to conceal the identity of owners. (At the time we called it, "the best news of 2016".)

The normalization of transactions between Russian money and undisclosed buyers and Miami real estate is central to understanding why Trump believes the Russia conspiracy to influence the 2016 election to be "FAKE". What Trump means is that it is no more illegal for a real estate developer to take advantage of Russian money, to float his developments, than it is for Facebook to allow its social media platform to be used as a campaign finance utility/ app.

Americans, irrespective of political party, should reflect on this question: do we really want to allow democracy to be spit roasted by anonymous real estate transactions and social media platforms that mix the profit motive with political power, from lowly county commissions to the highest office in the land, the White House? The characterization is true, and the answer is no.

It is well past time for Congress to lay down the law on things that should be illegal but aren't.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Won't deny Russian influence in election of Trump. Yet, the US isn't above interfering in other countries politics. As a for instance, in Chile during 60s and 70s:

The US has a tendency to actively engage in furthering its agendas, even if this means waging war.