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Investigators looking at suspicious money transfers after Trump Tower meeting, election: report
Federal investigators are reportedly looking into a pair of suspicious money transfers from some of the planners and participants in a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Kremlin-connected lawyer who promised "dirt" on Hillary Clinton.
BuzzFeed News reported on Wednesday that secret documents it evaluated show that a complex web of financial transactions may play a role in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's election interference.
They involve money from Russia and Switzerland being moved to places such as the British Virgin Islands, Bangkok and New Jersey, according to BuzzFeed.
Four federal law enforcement officers told the news outlet that investigators are specifically looking into two bursts of transactions that bank examiners found suspicious.
One of the bursts occurred 11 days after the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, while the other happened right after President Trump's election.
In the first, an offshore company controlled by Aras Agalarov, a billionaire real estate developer with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump, wired almost $20 million to his own account at a New York bank, according to BuzzFeed.
The second burst happened when Agalarov transferred $1.2 million from the Agalarov family bank in Russia to an account in New Jersey controlled by his son, Emin Agalarov.
BuzzFeed noted that the account had been dormant since 2015 and that bankers found it unusual that Emin Agalarov's checking account grew after Trump's election.
The New Jersey account reportedly also sent money to a company controlled by Irakly Kaveladze. Kaveladze is a longtime associate of theirs and represented the family at the Trump Tower meeting, BuzzFeed reported.
It additionally noted that Kaveladze's company funded a music business launched by Rob Goldstone, Emin Agalarov's British publicist, who first pitched the Trump Tower meeting.
"I'm actually perplexed why anybody is interested in this or why anybody in their right mind would treat this as suspicious," Scott Balber, an attorney representing the Agalarovs and Kaveladze, told BuzzFeed. "These are all transactions either between one of Mr. Agalarov's accounts and another of Mr. Agalarov's accounts or one of Mr. Agalarov's accounts and an account in the name of one of his employees."
The news outlet noted that the transactions were discovered after law enforcement officials told financial institutions to sift through records of people connected to the Russia probe. Bankers then reported the "suspicious activity reports" to the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
A suspicious activity report does not mean there is any evidence of criminal activity. But BuzzFeed notes that federal prosecutors have used those reports to charge people such as Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
Manafort was convicted in August for several charges related to bank and tax fraud. Prosecutors have not charged the Agalarovs, Goldstone and Kaveladze.