Former Donald Trump associate Felix Sater will have to face a lawsuit accusing him of laundering stolen funds in part through Trump properties, a federal judge ruled on Monday.
Sater, a longtime former business associate of Trump’s linked to the mob, is accused of laundering millions of dollars stolen by Khazakh officials from a Kazakhstan bank and the the city of Almaty. He and his partner Daniel Ridloff, another former Trump business associate, allegedly laundered the money through businesses they controlled and Trump properties.
The pair also allegedly planned to launder money through the proposed Trump Tower Moscow, but discussions to develop the high-rise fell by the wayside during Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016.
U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan tossed two of five claims in the suit Monday, but rejected a motion to dismiss the case, Law & Crime first reported.
Kazakh bank BTA Bank and the city of Almaty filed the suit in Manhattan federal court in March 2019. They seek to recover the laundered funds, which they say are a portion of the billions stolen by a bank executive and the city’s mayor.
Trump is not named in the suit, but the schemes allegedly involve Manhattan’s Trump Soho (now called The Dominick) and the proposed Trump Tower Moscow.
In her ruling Monday, Nathan warned that the Kazakh parties will need to provide more evidence to prove in “significantly greater detail” the “Sater defendants’ deceptive conduct” as the case progresses.
Almaty’s attorney Matthew Schwartz praised the ruling.
“BTA Bank and the City of Almaty are committed to holding [the] co-conspirators responsible for the theft and laundering of billions of dollars, and look forward to proving their case before a jury of New Yorkers,” he told Law & Crime.
Sater’s attorney Jill Levi emphasized that the case must still be proven. She also noted that the ruling did not explicitly mention Trump properties.
The lawsuit itself, however, accuses Sater of helping Kazakh businessman Ilyas Khrapunov, the son of Almaty’s mayor, to launder stolen funds in five different schemes in the U.S., including via $3 million in down payments for three condos in Trump Soho.
“Sater not only met with Khrapunov in Trump Tower to discuss laundering the stolen funds, but he also personally arranged meetings between Ilyas and Donald J. Trump to discuss possible investments,” the complaint alleges.
In 2012, Sater was a senior adviser to Trump, had an office in Trump Tower in Manhattan and had Trump’s name on his business cards. Sater suggested to Trump’s then-attorney Michael Cohen in 2015 that Russian President Vladimir Putin be offered a free $50 million condo in a planned Moscow tower to pave the way for the development. But it never came to be.
Sater, who once spent a year in prison for stabbing a man in the face during a bar fight, has called the accusations “baseless.”