The last sign declaring a SoHo hotel part of the Trump empire has come down, though the building’s past will likely play a role in the future of investigations intothe President’s ties with the former Soviet Union.
Trump SoHo, on Spring Street, will now be called The Dominick Hotel after the street at its back side, and follows string of properties in Toronto and Panama that are rebranding after their namesake’s rise in politics.
The Trump Organization, which licensed its name and managed the 46-story hotel and condo building once displayed for the world on “The Apprentice,” cut ties with it in late November as former clients such as NBA teams looked elsewhere.
“Everything Trump was basically taken off today, even our Wi-Fi,” said Kevin Sinnot, a 28-year-old Australian guest, adding that robes and shower gels were also changed by room service on Wednesday.
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He told the Daily News he was able to book the room for himself and his fiancee at a discount, but appreciates the name change as “You don’t like telling your mates you stayed at the Trump.”
While Trump’s properties have suffered from their newfound infamy, Trump Soho has drawn particular attention, however, for its ties to alleged money laundering from Russian and Kazakh oligarchs.
Hopes for the project’s profits took a hit in 2007 after the past of one of Trump?s partner in the deal, Felix Sater of development group Bayrock, emerged.
Sater, a Brooklynite financier born in Russia, had previously served time for stabbing a man with a margarita glass in the 1990s, and avoided prison for a stock scam by becoming a government witness.
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Records show that Bayrock received millions for Trump Soho from an Icelandic bank popular with the Russian elite getting money out of their country, and that companies linked to Kazakh oligarchs Viktor Khrapunov and Mukhtar Ablyazov bought apartments worth more than $3 million there.
Khrapunov and Ablyazov, who say they are political persecuted, have been convicted in their home country of embezzling billions of dollars from a state bank and stashing it in property and ventures throughout the world.
They are accused by Kazakhstan in an ongoing Manhattan federal court case of putting $40 million into New York projects including 135 W. 52nd Street, where another Trump-linked oligarch Aras Agalarov’s family also had an apartment until recently.
Sater is cooperating with an international money laundering probe against Kazkahs, according to the Financial Times, and will also reportedly be interviewed by Congress after he popped up as a link between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
Emails first reported by the New York times from late 2015 show that Sater spoke with Trump lawyer Michael Cohen about pursuing a deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow during the presidential primary campaign.
He said that he would “get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected” also adding “our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it.”
A letter of intent was signed for the Trump Moscow project, though Cohen said that the Trump Organization did not move forward with it and that Sater was “prone to ‘salesmanship.’”
Beyond its ties to Sater, Trump SoHo was also the subject of lawsuits from condo buyers who said they were duped by Ivanka Trump’s statements to the media in 2008 that 60% of units had been sold when only 15% actually had.
That case ended in a settlement, and a criminal probe was opened into Ivanka and her brother Donald Trump Jr. over their statements, though Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. dropped the case after a visit from Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz in 2012.
Vance denied any wrongdoing and said he did not have enough evidence to pursue charges, though returned a $31,000 donation from Kasowitz after news of his involvement broke.
With ANDY MAI
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