United States

Trump-Branded Skyscraper in Panama Has Ties to Organized Crime

One former financial crimes prosecutor in Panama called the building "a vehicle for money laundering"

The sail-shaped Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama City was riddled with brokers, customers and investors who have been linked to drug trafficking and international crime, according to an NBC News and Reuters investigation.

The Trump Organization was not the building's developer — the Trump name was licensed — and the investigation found no indication that it or members of the Trump family engaged in any illegal activity or knew that some of the project's associates had criminal backgrounds.

But one former financial crimes prosecutor in Panama, Mauricio Ceballos, called the building "a vehicle for money laundering." And legal experts said the Trumps should have asked questions as part of due diligence on a project in a nation perceived to be highly corrupt, as Panama has been, or risk being liable under U.S. law.

One Brazilian real estate salesman who fled real estate fraud charges in Panama and admits to NBC News that he's laundered money said he was involved in the project and that the Trumps never asked questions about buyers or their money. Alexandre Ventura Nogueira also said he struck a deal in 2006 with Ivanka Trump in which he promised to sell 100 units at the building in a week "without telling [the buyers] the price."

Ivanka Trump referred questions about the project to the Trump Organization, which distanced itself from both Ventura and the Panama project in a statement: "the company was not responsible for the financing of the project and had no involvement in the sale of units or the retention of any real estate brokers."

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