What do the current legal travails of a Russian “oligarch” (he has zero power) in Monaco actually have to do with him having gotten involved in a real estate transaction (“money laundering”) with Bad Orange Man a decade ago?
A Russian billionaire who purchased a mansion from President Trump in 2008 in a business deal that is now being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller was detained Tuesday in Monaco and questioned related to an ongoing corruption probe.
Dmitri Rybolovlev, president of AS Monaco, was detained voluntarily by authorities in Monaco on Tuesday and is under investigation for charges of corruption and influence peddling according to French news service Le Monde. …
Rybolovlev was the purchaser of a Florida mansion from Trump in 2008 for $95 million, a sharp increase from the $41 million Trump had paid for the property just four years earlier. Never living in the mansion, Rybolovlev instead divided the property into three parcels, two of which he has sold so far for a combined $71 million, according to The New York Times.
Let’s have a look at housing prices in Florida: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/FLSTHPI
As one can see, they did indeed come close to doubling between 2002 and the peak at 2006, before starting to plummet in late 2007. I assume the uptick in elite property prices was even larger.
True, the actual transactions happened two years later in both cases, but (1) deals of such value take time to go through, and (2) as a Russian, it’s rather doubtful that Rybolovlev was reading Calculated Risk and had a good handle on the US property market.
It’s worth noting that Rybolovlev has quite an impressive history of making very bad luxury goods investments, having been fleeced of a significant portion of his $2 billion in art purchases in the Bouvier Affair.
Furthermore, the Florida sale closely preceded acrimonious divorce proceedings, so profit margins may not have been a priority at that time next to the need to quickly spread out his assets. Though in the event, it seems that he didn’t get burned so badly in the end ($71 million out of $95 million, with one parcel left to go).
In the past few years, Rybolovlev has divested himself of his Russian assets and has tried to recraft his image as that of a respectacle Western businessman and philanthropist. This included continuing his art collection hobby. I know that he was actively recruiting high-paid assistants to help out with that as little as a few months ago.
In Monaco, Rybolovlev has been under investigation ever since text messages surfaced revealing that his lawyer was regularly in contact with top law enforcement officials in Monaco, enticing them with event tickets and other perks, according to the Times. No charges have yet been filed.
Philippe Narmino, Monaco’s justice minister, resigned last year over the scandal after it was revealed that he had thanked Rybolovlev through the Russian’s attorney for a helicopter trip to Rybolovlev’s ski resort.
But while you can take the boorish oligarch out of the ex-USSR, you can’t take the ex-USSR out of the boorish oligarch.
So there’s two theories:
1. This is yet another jigsaw piece in the interuniversal Russiagate conspiracy.
Rybolovlev, having psychic knowledge of his Presidency in ten years’ time, bought influence with Drumpf to bring him even further under the influence of his lord and master Putler.
2. Foreign oligarch with poor understanding of American housing market in a failing marriage buying American property close to its peak from an American oligarch with decades of experience in said market.