Meet Trump’s often unorthodox overseas business partners

Trump’s foreign network

The president-elect’s unorthodox overseas business partners

Published on January 13, 2017

Donald Trump will enter the White House with a network of un­or­tho­dox foreign contacts — some of them high-living risk-takers, some with past trouble with the law — who have done business with him in nations from Latin America to the Middle East to Asia.

Several of Trump’s foreign business partners have been investigated for financial improprieties, and some of them were required to pay large fines or settlements. Others were relatively inexperienced local developers who had major economic problems with their risky, Trump-branded mega-projects. Trump has also worked with businessmen with close connections to authoritarian governments.

With contributions from: Michael Birnbaum, Erin Cunningham, Kareem Fahim, Annie Gowen, Rama Lakshmi, Hugh Naylor, Joshua Partlow, Dom Phillips, Alan Freeman and Jon Emont

Above photos by: Mohammed Salem/Reuters, Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg News, Tolga Bozoglu/European Pressphoto Agency, Fernando Lemos/Agencia O Globo, Michael Steele/Getty Images/Baku European Games Operation Committee, Kena Betancur/AP

Ethics lawyers have raised concerns about whether some of the Trump family’s overseas alliances could raise conflicts of interest for the incoming president or tie the White House to questionable characters.

“A businessman can deal with these types of businesspeople and hopefully be smart enough not to get sucked in or be taken advantage of,” said Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush and a vocal critic of Trump. “But when you move into public service as president of the United States, these are exactly the types of business entanglements you have to dispose of.”

Washington Post correspondents in nine countries reviewed the records of many of those whom Trump and his family have worked with on foreign real estate, golf and hotel projects. Like Trump, some are outspoken and larger-than-life characters with a taste for glitz and Rolls-Royces. A couple of them have also jumped from business into politics — one has a plan to “make Mumbai great again” and another said he intends to run for president of Indonesia.

Trump will be the first U.S. president who has built a fortune by turning himself into a global business brand, and his constellation of foreign contacts is unique. Many previous presidents had cultivated networks of diplomats, political leaders, military officers, intelligence officials and dissidents before entering the White House. But Trump’s overseas partners have been primarily businessmen looking to make a profit using his name.

Trump on Wednesday announced a plan to shift his assets into a trust managed by his sons and a longtime employee and turn over operation of his business to them. The Trump Organization said it will also avoid any new foreign deals during his presidency. But Trump will still own the business, and concerns remain that policies he pursues in office could affect the value of his family’s holdings.

Alan Garten, the Trump Organization’s general counsel, declined to comment specifically on the Trump partners reviewed by The Post. But he said that any with blemishes on their records are not “reflective of the portfolio as a whole,” which includes business dealings in at least 18 countries.

He also said the organization conducts thorough “due diligence” background checks on partners.

“The company does not engage in transactions that they’re not comfortable with at the time,” Garten said. “There’s always been close vetting and extensive diligence performed. I think going forward, vetting will be more intensive because it’s a much different situation now.”

Since his election, Trump has met with several of his foreign partners , raising questions about their continued relationship once he is in the White House. Trump representatives have described the meetings as social calls.

Hussain Sajwani, the Trump company’s billionaire partner in Dubai, and his family attended a New Year’s Eve celebration at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, according to a video obtained by CNN.

On Wednesday, Trump said at a news conference that Sajwani’s company, Damac Properties, offered him $2 billion this month to do new deals in Dubai — deals Trump said he rejected, even though “I didn’t have to turn it down.”

Sajwani, whom Trump described as “a very, very amazing man,” has had legal trouble in the past. He was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison on corruption-related charges in Egypt in 2011 over a real estate deal. He fought the conviction in an international arbitration court, eventually paying a fine of about $15 million, and the conviction was canceled, according to a lawyer involved in the case and Egyptian media reports.

“That’s why he [Trump] has got to divest from his business,” Painter said after the news conference. “We can’t have the president have these kinds of business contacts all over the world.”

Many of Trump’s partners operate in developing economies where bribery is common and ethical lines between business and government are not as sharply drawn as they are in the United States.

F. Joseph Warin, a former federal prosecutor and specialist on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act at the Gibson Dunn law firm in Washington, said that having foreign partners who had trouble with the law could be dangerous for any U.S. company, since a repeat of that behavior could potentially put an American company in violation of U.S. law. And there is even greater risk for an entrepreneur who becomes president.

“Presidents must be ethically pristine, and associating with business partners with unsavory pasts diminishes the president’s reputation,” Warin said.

Michael D’Antonio, author of “Never Enough,” a Trump biography, said his research into Trump’s life and career suggests that even as president, Trump will be willing to reject traditional ways of doing things.

“He’s not that concerned about the usual definitions of conflict of interest or disqualifying backgrounds,” D’Antonio said. “If there’s advantage in it for him to partner with unsavory characters, he’ll do it.”

Trump has noted that he is not legally required as president to divest from his private business holdings. He has also said that voters were well aware that he had a global business.

In recent weeks, however, Trump has announced that he is pulling out of two of his most controversial foreign projects: a Brazil hotel and a hotel in Azerbaijan, the former Soviet republic with a famously kleptocratic and repressive government.

In Azerbaijan, Trump partnered with Anar Mammadov, 35, whose companies have profited from more than a billion dollars’ worth of transportation and construction contracts by the Transportation Ministry, run by his father, according to investigations by media organizations and an anti-corruption watchdog group.

Human rights activists have voiced concern about Trump dealing with a man so closely linked to a government the State Department has criticized for “corruption and predatory behavior by politically connected elites.”

Before he ended the relationship recently, Trump had earned at least $2.8 million from the project since January 2014 — even though the hotel has never opened — according to his financial disclosure forms.

Trump ended his hotel deal in Brazil amid a federal investigation into potential bribery involving his local partners. Trump Organization officials have said their company was not a target of that investigation. No charges have been filed in the case.

Here are closer looks at some of Trump’s overseas business partners.

Hussain Sajwani, chairman of the real estate company Damac Holdings, shown in Dubai in 2007. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

United Arab Emirates

Hussain Sajwani

Age: 60
Primary business/industry: Real estate
Affiliated with Trump: Since at least 2013


Hussain Sajwani’s company, Damac Properties, features some of the glitziest residential real estate in Dubai, selling apartments decked out in Versace furnishings and giving away Lamborghinis to buyers of multimillion-dollar homes.

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Hary Tanoesoedibjo, head of MNC Group, one of Indonesia's largest media properties, shown in Jakarta in 2012. (Beawiharta/Reuters)


Hary Tanoesoedibjo

Age: 51
Affiliated with Trump: Since at least 2016
Primary business/industry: Media (television)

An investigator for the Indonesian attorney general’s office started receiving alarming text messages in January of last year, when he was looking into possible tax fraud at a telecommunications company.

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LEFT: Tony Tiah, nonexecutive chairman of TA Enterprise, shown here in 2009. (Raymon Ooi/Malaysia Star). RIGHT: Donald Trump announces the new hotel and condominium complex in Vancouver, B.C., in June 2013. (Andy Clark/Reuters)


Tony Tiah Thee Kian

Age: 70
Time affiliated with Trump: Since 2013
Primary business/industry: Finance and real estate (Malaysia)

Tony Tiah Thee Kian, a leading Malaysian businessman, pleaded guilty in 2002 to submitting a false report to the Malaysian stock exchange. He was fined $783,000, forced to quit as chief executive of his financial firm and barred from corporate boardrooms for five years, according to media reports about a case that was headline news in the Southeast Asian nation.

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Developer Ricardo Hazoury in Cap Cana, Dominican Republic, in 2006. (Mauricio Ramirez)

Dominican Republic

Ricardo Hazoury

Age: 56
Primary business/industry: Real estate
Time affiliated with Trump: 2007 to 2013

Ricardo Hazoury had whipped up a frenzy of anticipation. On a Caribbean cliff top with views of pristine beaches and a PGA Tour-quality golf course, the developer planned to erect dozens of mansions, a Donald Trump-branded cocoon of luxury inside his resort city that was already larger than Manhattan.

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LEFT: India state legislator and Lodha Group founder Mangal Prabhat Lodha with Mumbai Mayor Snehal Ambekar in 2015. (Ashish Rane/Mid-Day). RIGHT: A Mumbai billboard, shown in June, advertises the Trump Tower underway in the city. (Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images)


Mangal Prabhat Lodha

Age: 61
Primary business/industry: Real estate developer and politician
Time affiliated with Trump: Since 2013

Mangal Prabhat Lodha is a state legislator who favors wrinkled shirts over fancy suits. He is also a billionaire who has been accused of wielding his political clout to help his real estate development business, one of India’s largest.

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LEFT: Donald Trump in 2012 with daughter Ivanka Trump and Dogan Holding's Mehmet Ali Yalcindag in front of the Trump Towers mall in Istanbul. (Tolga Bozoglu/European Pressphoto Agency) RIGHT: Trump Towers Istanbul, shown in 2015. (Emrah Gurel/AP)


Mehmet Ali Yalcindag

Age: 52
Primary business/industry: Media and real estate development
Time affiliated with Trump: Since at least 2012


In 2012, Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka celebrated the opening of the Trump Towers in Istanbul, two soaring, scissor-like buildings with apartments, offices and upscale shops.

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Aras Agalarov, founder of Crocus Group, and his son, Emin Agalarov, both shown in Moscow in 2014. (Photos by Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg News)


Aras and Emin Agalarov

Ages: Father, 61; son, 37
Industry: Real estate developers. Emin is also a pop-music star.
Time affiliated with Trump: Since 2013

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LEFT: The Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower in Panama City, shown in 2014. (Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg News). RIGHT: Donald Trump and Roger Khafif in New York in 2006. (Matt Carasella/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)


Roger Khafif

Age: 61
Primary business/industry: Real estate developer
Time affiliated with Trump: Since 2005

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LEFT: Paulo Figueiredo Filho in November 2015. (Fernando Lemos/Agencia O Globo). RIGHT: The former Trump Hotel, foreground, in the Barra da Tijuca district of Rio De Janeiro. (Nadia Susman/Bloomberg News)


Paulo Figueiredo Filho

Age: 33
Primary business/industry: Real estate/hotel developer
Time affiliated with Trump: 2012 to 2016

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