EXCLUSIVE – My friends are Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin – and I’m still going bust: Billionaire oligarch who set up notorious Trump Tower meeting says coronavirus has crippled him too

  • Russian real estate magnate Aras Agalarov, 64, is Donald Trump’s former business partner who hosted the 2013 Miss Universe pageant owned by Trump 
  • Agalarov said his Crocus Group business is in trouble due to coronavirus shutdowns and fears the worst is yet to come when Russia hits its peak in May 
  • ‘The story is, I’m sitting in this office like captain of a small boat, and watching it sink,’ he told Russian media group RBC
  • Agalarov and his popstar son Emin were big players in the Mueller investigation for their role in organizing the notorious 2016 Trump Tower meeting
  • His business of shopping malls, exhibition facilities, an aquarium, restaurants, and fitness clubs employs 15,000 staff, but 2,000 are now in shutdown 
  • He pointed to lack of help from President Vladimir Putin’s government   
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Donald Trump’s former Russian business partner is watching his business empire ‘sink’ due to the coronavirus shutdown.

Real estate and retail magnate Aras Agalarov, 64, hosted the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, then owned by Trump and NBC Universal, and the oligarch went on to have a walk-on part in the Mueller report.

He has never spoken of his inside knowledge of Trump’s visit to Russia which was the subject of lurid allegations by British ex-spy Christopher Steele.

Agalarov – worth $1.7 billion before COVID-19 and seen as close to Vladimir Putin who awarded him a high honor – said his Crocus Group business was in trouble over the lockdown amid warnings there is worse to come as Russia will not hit its coronavirus peak until May 5-10.

‘The story is, I’m sitting in this office like captain of a small boat, and watching it sink,’ he told Russian media group RBC. ‘And I can’t do anything, it’s impossible to influence it in any way.’

Russian real estate magnate Aras Agalarov, 64, (right) is Donald Trump’s former business partner who hosted the 2013 Miss Universe pageant owned by Trump. Agalarov said his Crocus Group business is in trouble due to coronavirus shutdowns. Pictured with Donald Trump and his son Emin Agalarov (left) 

Billionaire Agalarov pointed to lack of help from his friend President Vladimir Putin’s government in getting his businesses out of a financial hole 

His business of shopping malls (like the one above in Russia), exhibition facilities, an aquarium, restaurants, and fitness clubs employs 15,000 staff, but 2,000 are now in shutdown

His group employs 15,000 staff and all but all but 2,000 are now in shutdown.

‘A ship of 15,000 people is just slowly sinking before the eyes of the captain of the ship, who cannot even pump out water, because they simply do not provide an opportunity,’ he said, apparently referring to lack of help from Putin’s government.

Agalarov fears the worst is yet to come when Russia hits its coronavirus peak in May 

The group manages over 1.5 million square meters of commercial real estate.

His portfolio includes shopping malls, exhibition facilities, an aquarium, restaurants, and fitness clubs.

Vladimir Putin today extended the Russian lockdown until May 11 as the country suffered its highest daily death toll of 72 and record rise in infections of 6,411.

The Agalarov-owned Crocus Expo exhibition center near Moscow is to be used as one of two new emergency 1,500-bed coronavirus hospitals with infections on an upward curve.

Agalarov’s singer son and first vice president of Crocus Group, Emin Agalarov said: ‘It’s true. Indeed, such a task has been set for us.

‘We are actively working on it now … I’m not ready to give exact dates.

‘But I can say that it will be very fast.

‘I think this is a matter of several weeks.’

Agalarov and his son Emin he had more than 50 mentions in the Robert Mueller report following the investigation into Russian interference in the last presidential election.

At the center of the inquiries was a meeting on June 9, 2016, which Emin, 40, set up at the behest of his father, using former publicist, Rob Goldstone.

This involved a lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, seen as close to the Kremlin, other Russian officials, and senior members of Trumps’s campaign, including Don Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, since convicted of financial fraud.

The year after the Moscow Miss Universe, Agalarov senior’s real estate arm discussed a licensing deal for Trump in Moscow, but in the event nothing came of it.

In Moscow there has been speculation that Agalarov senior holds ‘kompromat’ – compromising material on Trump. – from the 2013 visit.

The US president once described the Agalarov’s as ‘the best family in Russia’.

‘The story is, I’m sitting in this office like captain of a small boat, and watching it sink,’ Agalarov (center) told Russian media group RBC of the damage the coronavirus shutdown is having on business 

Agalarov, a pro-Putin billionaire, was the Russian backer for Miss Universe 2013 in Moscow and attempted to develop Trump Tower Moscow with the president 

Emin, the Russian pop star and son of Aras Agalarov, was involved in the Mueller investigation for his role in organizing the notorious 2016 Trump Tower meeting 

Another Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska with close links to Putin and complex relations with America has spoken out in support of Steve Bannon over his claims that the Chinese Communist Party was culpable in the spread of COVID-19. 

‘Millions of victims of the virus around the world want to get an answer to the question of how was this possible and where this virus came from,’ said the 52-year-old metals mogul.

‘And they have the right to demand an investigation. What is happening in the world now is biological Chernobyl.

‘Even Fox reporters are wondering how could it happen that with so many victims in Wuhan, the number of cases in Beijing is negligible compared to New York or Milan.’

He said more people were coming round to the views of Bannon ‘and they will agree that the UN, under its auspices, initiate a thorough investigation of this Wuhan Chernobyl’.

His inflammatory language goes beyond what the Kremlin has said but the outburst is intriguing.

Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska spoke out in support of Steve Bannon over his claims that the Chinese Communist Party was culpable in the spread of COVID-19


Russian model and self proclaimed ‘sex coach’ Anastasia Vashukevich, 28, also known as Nastya Rybka, claimed secret recordings between Deripaska and Russian ex-deputy premier Sergei Prikhodko (right), showed a secret back channel between Putin’s top henchmen and the Trump election campaign

Two months ago the Financial Times reported that the US Treasury believed Deripaska had laundered personal money for Putin.

The Russian moneyman was sanctioned among two dozen others for Russia’s ‘malign activity around the globe.’

Deripaska dismissed the claims as ‘guesses, rumors and balderdash’, and were denied by the Kremlin.

Separately, Deripaska was embroiled in a 2016 scandal when his alleged ex-mistress recorded conversations on his yacht involving Russian ex-deputy premier Sergei Prikhodko, a close Putin lieutenant.

Anastasia Vashukevich, 28, also known as Nastya Rybka, who has described herself as a ‘sex coach’, claimed the recordings showed a secret back channel between Putin’s top henchmen and the Trump election campaign.

Deripaska’s associates included jailed Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign adviser, who had ‘offered private briefings’ to the Russian mogul.

German Gref, head of Sberbank, today claimed Russia will not reach its coronavirus peak until the first or second week of May.

 

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