PALM BEACH — For all her photogenic grace, a new report outlining Ivanka Trump’s involvement with a fugitive from Panama, makes it seem like the first daughter’s apple doesn’t fall far from Donald Trump’s shady tree.
In 2007, Ivanka Trump, met with a host of foreign investors, including Russians, in Panama to discuss the new Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower, which would include luxury apartments on the water, as well as a casino.
One of Ivanka’s guests was Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, who has been described by Justine Pasek, former Miss Universe crowned by Trump and a spokesperson for Nogueira’s company Homes Real Estate Investment & Services, as “an outgoing and lively young man.”
Nogueira, 43, took special interest in Ivanka, who was heading the Trump Organization’s Panama project. Ivanka was impressed with Nogueira’s sales skills and she enlisted him to broker the development investment project.
Nogueira’s reputation, however, was far from sterling. Among his business partners were a Colombian convicted of money laundering in the US, a Russian imprisoned in Israel for kidnapping and murder threats, and a Ukrainian convicted for human trafficking in Kiev.
Nogueira, himself, was eventually arrested in Panama on charges of fraud and forgery. After being released on $1.4 million bail, he escaped the country, leaving behind a trail of victims, who he had cheated over apartment sales in the Trump project.
Nogueira says he’s innocent, claiming, “I am no Angel but not Devil either.”
Ivanka, of course, denies ever meeting or speaking to Nogueira, which is ironic considering they appeared in a promotional video together.
Panama is known for being a hotbed of corruption. Jimmy Gurule, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and a former under-secretary at the U.S. Treasury Department, has stated that Americans working in Panama should avoid “anyone with a potential link to criminality” as a matter of good ethics.
Alan Garten, the chief legal officer at the Trump Organization, says the company’s role “was at all times limited to licensing its brand and providing management services. As the company was not the owner or developer, it had no involvement in the sale of any units at the property.”
Adding that the Trump Organization “never had any contractual relationship or significant dealings” with Nogueira.
However, in an interview with Reuters, Nogueira confirmed that he had worked with the Trumps on the Ocean Club project, which involved members of the Russian mafia.
“I didn’t know the money was coming from anything illegal. As long as they were doing wire transfers and not cash, I wasn’t worried about the source of it,” he said. “Nobody ever asked me. The banks didn’t ask. The developers didn’t ask. The Trump Organization didn’t ask me. Nobody asked me: ‘Who are the customers? Where did the money come from?'”
This isn’t the first time the Trump Organization has worked with Russian investors. In March, Reuters reported that at least 63 Russians had invested $98.4 million in seven Trump properties in southern Florida.
In 2005, Roger Khafif, a developer, met with Trump in New York to discuss the Panama project.
Khafif recalls that Trump wanted the project to be headed by Ivanka. He proceeded to set up a meeting in 2006 in Panama with Nogueira, Ivanka and several other real estate brokers. The initial price for the condos was $120,000, yet Nogueira believed that the Trump name would enhance the property value.
“Here, it is Trump selling. You have to give a value to that name. Make it $220,000!” He said Ivanka replied, “Can you sell it?”
Nogueira said that in the following months he met with Ivanka to discuss marketing and sales in Panama, Miami and New York. They also took a trip with other investors to view a site for a potential Trump project in Cartagena, Colombia.
According to Nogueira, the day to day operations were handled by Ivanka.
“I spoke to her a lot of times, a lot of times.” He also met with Donald Jr. and Eric Trump.
Though the Trump family denies any ties to Nogueira, his real estate company is listed as the seller for half of the 666 apartments at the complex.
“Everybody was lining up to work with him … During those days, he was the hottest real estate agency in town,” Khafif said.
In 2013, Nogueira was recorded by a former business partner, saying that he had laundered tens of millions of dollars in Miami and the Bahamas.
“More important than the money from real estate was being able to launder the drug money – there were much larger amounts involved,” he said. “When I was in Panama I was regularly laundering money for more than a dozen companies.”
In early 2007, a party was held at Palm Beach’s Mar-a-Lago to celebrate breaking ground on the Panama project. Guests, which included Regis Philbin, were hosted by Donald Trump and his children, Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka. Nogueira was also there and met the current president.
“They introduced me and said, ‘That’s the guy selling Panama,’ and he thanked me. We just talked for two or three minutes,” he said.
Other guests included Russian investors, such as Alexander Altshoul, who has stated that “Russians like their brand names,” referring to Trump. “The moment was right, they were speculating. Many people hoped to get profits.”
Among Altshoul’s business partners was Arkady Vodovosov from Moscow, who was sentenced to five years in prison in Israel in 1988 for kidnapping, as well as threats to kill and torture.
Altshoul was at the Mar-a-Lago party with Russian investor Stanislau Kavalenka, a former pimp, arrested for kidnapping prostitutes.
Following the Mar-a-Lago party, the Panama project “pre-sold approximately 64 percent of the building’s condominium and commercial units” for profits of $278.7 million. In a promotional video, Trump says the residences sold “like hot cakes.”
The problem was that Nogueira was not just selling property to individuals. He was often selling the same condominiums to two or three different people.
Roniel Ortiz, a former Nogueira lawyer, said that “When the building was completed and people arrived to seek out their apartments, they ran into each other – two, three people who were fighting for the same apartment.”
Nogueira was eventually arrested for fraud in May 2009. After being released on bail, he fled Panama two years later to Brazil, where he is now under federal investigation for international money laundering
Despite the fraud charges, the Trump family still profited from the project, earning between $30 million and $50 million from licensing fees.