AS Monaco majority owner Dimitri Rybolovlev has been drawn into the world’s media spotlight again, although this time it’s not because of his protracted feud with art dealer Yves Bouvier, but due to his purchase ten years ago of the Florida mansion that once belonged to Donald Trump.
A senior Democratic senator, Ron Wyden, has asked the US Treasury Department to make public documents relating to the sale of the six-acre estate in Palm Beach to Mr Rybolovlev for €77 million ($95 million) at the height of the global economic crisis in 2008. The price was one of the highest-ever paid for a single property.
The current US President had bought the property for less than half the price, just €33 million ($41 million), four years previously. Mr Rybolovlev later demolished the building amid reports of rising damp, and sold off the land in lots.
Senator Wyden, who is on the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin: “It is imperative that Congress follow the money and conduct a thorough investigation into any potential money laundering or other illicit financial dealings between the president, his associates, and Russia.”
Bloomberg News reported last July that Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating possible Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections, was also looking into Russian purchases of Trump real estate properties.
A spokesperson for Mr Rybolovlev issued a statement last week: “When the Rybolovlev family trust acquired the property in Palm Beach in 2008, it was made very clear that the purchase was an investment. The transaction was publicly announced and widely covered by the US media. There was no suggestion whatsoever of any impropriety about the purchase.
“What is more, the investment today remains on track to deliver a significant return to the trust. The first two lots of the property have sold for $71.3 million and the final lot has been listed for $42 million.”
In 2016, then candidate Trump told ABC News that the sale of the mansion was one of the few times he had ever done business directly with a Russian national. The now-gone seven-bedroom home had a garage that could accommodate 80 cars, while the house itself had marble floors, bulletproof windows, and a full-sized ballroom.