Could Putin or his Oligarchs invest in Kushner’s Balkan Development Deal?


Russia Has a Historic Stake in the Region...

Below is an edited transcript of the conversation I had yesterday with Richard Painter, Bush White House Ethics Czar, about news reports that Jared Kushner, along with former special envoy to the Balkans and acting Director of National Intelligence (and rumored candidate for Secretary of State) Ric Grenell, are on the verge of doing several real estate deals in the Balkans.

Readers of this newsletter know that Richard and I often discuss the perception of conflicts of interest around Jared Kushner and the Trump Administration.

I would also like to point out that the idea of a 99-year-lease, as Jared is now positing in Belgrade, is not new for the Kushners. As I reported in Kushner, Inc. the 99-year-lease is the mechanism by which Jared’s father, Charles, solved the problem of the enormous $1.4 billion loan due on 666 Fifth Avenue in 2018. As you may recall, the clock was ticking like a time-bomb when Jared entered the Trump White House, quickly becoming the “Secretary of Everything” – including US foreign policy. The Kushners knew they were reliant on a foreign buyer for the building, because American developers did not think 666 Fifth Avenue was worth anything close to $1.4 billion. A partner of the Kushners’ even said it would be worth more “if it was dirt”.

It’s not a good thing, to put it mildly, when someone in government, is economically dependent on foreign investors.

As I reported, the Canadian firm, Brookfield Asset Management (whose second largest shareholder is the government of Qatar) ultimately solved the Kushner’s headache and in the nick of time, leased the building for 99 years, paying all the rent up front, in a deal widely perceived as uneconomic. The appearance of a conflict, given Jared’s White House role, subsequently caused an investigation by Congress, because as the deal was being negotiated, the US withdrew its support of a Saudi/Emirati blockade of Qatar. (Kushner has denied any wrongdoing.)

Richard Painter points out there could be even more problematic conflicts with a Kushner development deal in Serbia, given the war in Ukraine. Even if Kushner doesn’t go into a second Trump Administration, he is nonetheless Trump’s son-in-law. And Grenell is being talked about in Republican circles as a future Secretary of State.

Painter zeroed in on a potential risk regarding possible dark money in the deal from Russia and Russian President, Vladimir Putin. The Russians have long regarded the Balkans as a critical region to wield soft power. A deal struck by an American president’s son-in-law in Serbia, could be viewed as pro-Russia at a critical point in the Ukraine conflict. Serbia has not supported the EU’s sanctions on Russia. Kushner told the New York Times on Sunday that he understood the risks attached to his high-profile position. “Everything has to be completely above board,” he told the Times.

Read on at Vicky Ward Investigates