Is the Trump Organization criminal probe linked to consulting fees paid in connection with Vancouver hotel?

The New York attorney general's office hasn't been forthcoming with details, but a Vanity Fair writer has raised this possibility

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      The Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver has not always generated great headlines.

      In 2020, the operator of the building sought court protection from its creditors.

      There has also been speculation that the Trump name has been bad for sales of the residential units. The hotel's grand opening in 2017—attended by three of Donald Trump's children—was dogged by a noisy protest.

      And last week, the Vancouver hotel was referred to in a Vanity Fair article about a recently disclosed criminal probe of the Trump Organization by the New York attorney general's office.

      It revolved around whether consulting fees paid to Ivanka Trump in connection with the Vancouver hotel could be a part of this investigation.

      No criminal charges have been laid and nothing has been proven in court.

      Vanity Fair writer Bess Levin pointed out that Attorney General Letitia James's office is working with officials working for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

      Levin added that Vance's office has obtained eight years of Trump's tax returns.

      She also mentioned that last November, the New York Times reported that Trump reduced his taxable income by paying $26 million to consultants over the eight-year period.

      "On a 2017 disclosure [Ivanka Trump] filed when joining the White House as a presidential adviser, she reported receiving payments from a consulting company she co-owned, totaling $747,622, that exactly matched consulting fees claimed as tax deductions by the Trump Organization for hotel projects in Hawaii and Vancouver, British Columbia," the New York Times declared at the time.

      The paper went on to say that subpoenas were focused on payments to Ivanka Trump's firm, which "represented just a portion of the $26 million [in write-offs], according to a person with knowledge of the matter".

      So did Ivanka Trump, as an executive of the Trump Organization, receive consulting payments from her employer in connection with the Vancouver hotel? And were they in compliance with Internal Revenue Service rules that these be "market-based and reasonable", as the New York Times put it?

      Donald Trump Jr. and his brother Eric returned to Vancouver in 2017 for the hotel's opening.
      Tammy Kwan

      Former president blasts prosecutor

      In a May 19 statement on his blog, Donald Trump denied any wrongdoing, declaring that there is "nothing more corrupt that an investigation that is in desperate search of a crime".

      "But, make no mistake, that is exactly what is happening here," Trump stated. "The Attorney General of New York literally campaigned on prosecuting Donald Trump even before she knew anything about me. She said that if elected, she would use her office to look into 'every aspect' of my real estate dealings."

      Moreover, Trump insisted that Attorney General James "swore that she would 'definitely sue' me.

      "She boasted on video that she would be, and I quote, 'a real pain in the ass.' She declared, 'just wait until I’m in the Attorney General’s office,' and, 'I’ve got my eyes on Trump Tower.' She also promised that, if elected, she would 'join with law enforcement and other Attorney Generals across this nation in removing this President from office,' and, 'It’s important that everyone understand that the days of Donald Trump are coming to an end.' "

      Back in 2018, CNN cited two unnamed sources in reporting that FBI counterintelligence officials were investigating negotiations and financing of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver.

      CNN claimed that it could have an impact on Ivanka Trump's security clearance, which was vehemently rejected by a spokesperson for her ethics counsellor. The Trump Organization stated at the time that it merely sold naming rights and was not involved in the financing of the Vancouver project.

      In 2018, the developer of the Trump International Hotel and Tower Vancouver, Holborn Group, also issued a statement in response to the 2018 CNN report.

      Holborn declared that neither the company nor its leader, Joo Kim Tiah, had been contacted by the FBI or any other authorities, nor had they had any business dealings with Ivanka's husband, Jared Kushner.

      However, Holborn acknowledged that Ivanka was involved in the negotiations related to the building, specifically with regard to interior design.

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