Guardian News and Media/New York
A Russian American businessman once accused of laundering more than $1.4bn into the US from eastern Europe attended the meeting where Donald Trump’s son expected to receive secret information from Moscow.
Irakly “Ike” Kaveladze was the eighth participant in the notorious get-together at Trump Tower in Manhattan on 9 June 2016, his attorney Scott Balber confirmed to the Guardian on Tuesday. Kaveladze’s attendance was first reported by CNN.
Kaveladze, 52, is an executive at a Moscow-based property firm owned by Aras Agalarov, a business associate of Trump who is also enmeshed in the controversy over the meeting during last year’s presidential election campaign.
Trump’s son Donald Jr agreed to the meeting after being told by e-mail that he would be given damaging information about Hillary Clinton, their Democratic opponent, as part of an effort by the Russian government to support Trump.
The meeting brought together Donald Jr and two other senior campaign aides with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin, and Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian American political operative and former military officer.
Kaveladze was in 2000 named by the New York Times as responsible for using about 2,000 shell companies in the US to launder $1.4bn from Russia and eastern Europe into accounts at Citibank and the Commercial Bank of San Francisco.
A report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the alleged scheme did not identify Kaveladze by name but confirmed the involvement of his company, International Business Creations. “It is possible that these transfers were used to launder money,” the report said of the transactions.
Kaveladze and Balber, his attorney, did not respond to questions on Tuesday about his alleged involvement in money laundering. Charles Young, a spokesman for the GAO, said he could not independently confirm reports of Kaveladze’s involvement.
Disclosures about the Trump Tower meeting have intensified concerns over what US intelligence services say was a concerted campaign by Russia to sway the 2016 election. Emails released by Trump Jr last week gave the first confirmation that the campaign at least tried to collude with that effort.
In the days before the meeting, Donald Jr sent an email eagerly welcoming the offer of damaging information on Clinton, which was described as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump” by a go-between operating on behalf of Agalarov, the Russian real estate tycoon.
Aras Agalarov and his pop singer son Emin have known the Trumps for years. Now the Donald Jr email scandal has put them in an unwanted spotlight.
That go-between was Rob Goldstone, a British music publicist who represents Agalarov’s son Emin, a well-known pop singer in Russia. Goldstone, Kaveladze, Akhmetshin, Veselnitskaya and a translator were joined by Trump Jr; the then Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser.
All are likely to come under the scrutiny of simultaneous inquiries into the Russian campaign that are being conducted by two congressional committees and Robert Mueller, a former FBI director who is serving as a special counsel on the subject. Kushner, now a senior White House official, originally failed to note the meeting in paperwork submitted when he took his government job, which was illegal.
Donald Trump Sr and his supporters have tried to paint the meeting as an unremarkable attempt to glean some useful “opposition research” for the rough-and-tumble of national politics. Numerous veterans of presidential campaigns for both parties reject this, insisting that the appropriate response would have been for the Trump team to report the Russians to the FBI.
Akhmetshin, the Russian American political operative, has said Veselnitskaya, the Russian attorney, gave the Trump campaign aides a plastic sheath of documents during the meeting, calling into question claims by Trump Jr that she offered “no meaningful information” and that the meeting concerned Russia’s ban on children being adopted by Americans.
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