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Published On: Tue, Aug 14th, 2018

Monaco Project Loses One Controversial Billionaire But Gains Another

Monaco’s newest real estate development has dodged one potential scandal but appears to have found another as details of its financing have been made public for the first time.

L’Anse du Portier (or Portier Cove) is a project to reclaim about six hectares of land from the Mediterranean and expand the principality’s seafront territory. According to new documents, the €2 billion development was initially going to be backed by Colony Capital, whose founder is a close friend of President Donald Trump.

The Huffington Post has reported that the Colony Capital planned to take a 60% stake in Le Portier Holding SCA, a Luxembourg entity that would have financed construction.

Image/Prawny

Colony is run by Tom Barrack, a real estate mogul from California who was a top fundraiser for Trump in the Presidential election. Barrack has been linked to a number of possible roles in the White House and has also been questioned by Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor appointed to investigate Trump’s connections to Russia.

According to media reports, the questioning related to Barrack’s relationship with Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign manager in 2016. Manafort is currently standing trial on 18 counts of tax evasion, tax fraud and bank fraud.

According to documents seen by the Huffington Post, Colony Capital dropped out of L’Anse du Portier because the other investors insisted that the holding company be based in Monaco, which allows company owners to remain secret.

The departure of Barrack may spare Monaco some blushes should there be further revelations in the Trump-Manafort-Russia probe. However, the principality has replaced Barrack with another billionaire friend of a President.

One of the new investors in L’Anse du Portier is a company called Janus. At a meeting to discuss the progress of the Portier project, Monaco Government officials described Janus as the “family office of a wealthy resident of Central Asia, who lives in Monaco”.

This wealthy resident is Bulat Utemuratov, a billionaire oligarch from Kazakhstan. Utemuratov has previously been linked to Janus in the media and there are other clues to show his involvement in the company. For example, the managers of Janus are Edward Jennings and Christophe Kosman, who both previously worked at a Monaco law firm called Gordon S. Blair. The owner of Gordon S. Blair is Xavier de Sarrau, who sits on the board of Utemuratov’s private investment vehicle Verny Capital.

Janus reportedly owns 5% of L’Anse du Portier but Utemuratov’s involvement comes as Monaco is trying to distance itself from oligarchs with questionable sources of wealth. The principality is under pressure from the EU to do more to stop money laundering and tax evasion by its residents.

Utemuratov’s wealth – estimated at more than $4 billion – appears to stem from his close relationship with President Nazabayev of Kazakhstan, who has ruled the Central Asian country since its independence from the Soviet Union.

Utemuratov was described as a “billionaire with no business” in US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks and the oligarch is said to have acted as Nazbayev’s “personal financial manager”.

It appears that no matter which billionaire backs the Portier Cove project, controversy will follow them.

Author: James North

On the DISPATCH: Headlines  Local  Opinion

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