He has ties to Russian real estate titans. He has a checkered history with handling Russian money in the United States. And when he came under public scrutiny for alleged corruption, he declared he was the victim of a “witch hunt.”
He is … Ike Kaveladze, the eighth person at the infamous Russia meeting in Trump Tower last year, who has a $ 1 billion laundering accusation in his past.
Kaveladze’s lawyer confirmed Tuesday that his client joined Russian nationals and Trump campaign associates in June 2016 for a secret meeting centered on supposed dirt about Hillary Clinton.
Kaveladze appears to be a central link between the Russians and the Trump team. He works for a Russian company owned by the Agalarov family, which has ties to Trump and initiated the Trump Tower meeting.
But his attorney claimed Kaveladze played no serious role in the meeting, and was brought along to just “make sure it happened.”
For now, Kaveladze’s presence — and his history — still raise plenty of questions of how he fits into the Trump-Russia saga.
Kaveladze, 52, is a native of Georgia, part of the former Soviet republic. He immigrated to the United States in the ’90s and earned an MBA from the University of New Haven, according to his LinkedIn page. Kaveladze’s multiple business websites state that he works in Moscow and in California.
He serves as a senior vice president for the Agalarovs’ Moscow-based company, the Crocus Group. His personal website says he focuses mostly on international developments, including “securing and structuring project investments.”
The Crocus Group is run by Aras Agalarov, a Russian billionaire who met Trump in Moscow during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. Kaveladzecan be spotted in one photo from the time with Trump and the Agalarovs at a private dinner.
Trump later tweeted to Agalarov about his desire to work together on “Trump Tower Moscow,” which never happened.
Agalarov’s son Emin, a pop star, wanted to set up the meeting with Trump Jr. last year about Clinton. Kaveladze attended as a representative for the family, according to his lawyer.
His earlier business career ran into trouble with the U.S. years ago.
In 2000, the Government Accountability Office alleged that Kaveladze was a central figure in a massive money laundering scheme for Russian brokers.
The office accused Kaveladze of setting up more than 2,000 shell companies in Delaware on behalf of Russians, and then opening bank accounts for them. He then allegedly funneled more than $ 1.4 billion in Russian and eastern European money through the United States.
Kaveladze denied that he did anything wrong and dropped a defense that sounds familiar today.
“What I see here is another Russian witch hunt in the United States,” he told The New York Times.
Kaveladze ultimately faced no charges.
In 2003, the Russian mining company Norilsk Nickel nominated Kaveladze to the board of the Stillwater Mining Co. in the United States, which it planned to acquire. But Kaveladze turned down the nomination “for personal reasons,” according to The Mining Journal.
One year later, according to his LinkedIn page, he joined the Crocus Group.