Trump’s chief lawyer car­ries Ukraine bag­gage

Kyiv Post - - National - BY JOSH KOVENSKY KOVENSKY@KYIVPOST.COM

Blun­der­ing past the bound­ary be­tween pri­vate busi­ness and pub­lic ser­vice that has long de­fined Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal life, U. S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s lawyer Michael D. Cohen ap­pears to have played a key role in An­drey Arte­menko’s botched back-door at­tempt at a peace deal for Don­bas.

The New York Times re­ports that Cohen acted as a mid­dle­man for Arte­menko, de­liv­er­ing the peace plan to now-ousted Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor Michael Flynn.

Cohen has de­nied that he gave the plan to Flynn, is­su­ing con­flict­ing state­ments on the mat­ter.

But that wouldn’t be Cohen’s first run-in with Ukraine. The 49-year old long­time Trump at­tor­ney, who said in a 2009 in­ter­view that he speaks some Rus­sian, ap­pears to have at least trav­eled to Ukraine in the mid-2000s in con­nec­tion with in­vest­ing in an ethanol plant, and even set up a com­pany to that end.

Cohen’s wife is of Ukrainian ori­gin. His brother, Bryan, also mar­ried into a Ukrainian fam­ily that holds agri­cul­tural in­vest­ments.

Michael Cohen re­signed from his po­si­tion as ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion on Jan. 20 to serve as Pres­i­dent Trump’s per­sonal lawyer.

Cohen did not re­ply to emailed re­quests for com­ment.

Ethanol in­vest­ments

In 2006, tow­er­ing oil prices around the world were push­ing in­vestors to con­sider bio­fuel pro­duc­tion.

Ukraine, with its abun­dant crop pro­duc­tion, seemed to be an ideal can­di­date for ethanol fuel.

So a group of in­vestors, ap­par­ently led by former peo­ple’s deputy and Yushchenko-era deputy coal min­is­ter Vik­tor Topolov, set out to build a $110 mil­lion ethanol pro­cess­ing plant in a town of Zolotonosh­a 155 kilo­me­ters south­east of Kyiv.

It’s not clear where the fund­ing came from – at the time, Topolov was on the boards of state-owned Ukrek­sim­bank and In­dex Bank, which was bought by Credit Agri­cole in Au­gust 2006.

A Kharkiv-born Amer­i­can busi- ness­man named Alex Oronov joined the project in 2006 through a com­pany called Har­vest Moon East. Oronov is con­nected to Cohen through fam­ily: Oronov’s daugh­ter is mar­ried to Cohen’s brother Bryan.

Ev­geniy Radovenyuk, the former CFO of Har­vest Moon East and cur­rent CFO of Grain Al­liance, said that the two Cohen brothers vis­ited Ukraine in the mid-2000s, as the launch of the Zolotonosh­a plant was be­ing dis­cussed.

“He par­tic­i­pated in dis­cus­sions, but there was no fi­nan­cial in­volve­ment,” Radovenyuk said.

The ques­tion of the ex­tent of Co­hens’ in­volve­ment comes down to the own­er­ship of two com­pa­nies: In­ter­na­tional Ethanol of Ukraine Ltd. and Ukrethanol LLC.

The Cohen brothers founded In­ter­na­tional Ethanol in April 2006 with Oronov, ac­cord­ing to the New York State Cor­po­rate Reg­istry. In­ter­na­tional Ethanol does not ap­pear in Ukrainian reg­istries as ever hav­ing done busi­ness here, de­spite the com­pany’s name and tim­ing of its found­ing.

Ukrethanol ac­quired half of Har­vest Moon in 2008, and con­tin­ues to man­age part of Oronov’s Ukraine busi­ness, ac­cord­ing to fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sures.

Ukrethanol is reg­is­tered to an ad­dress on Long Is­land, care of Bryan Cohen. The ad­dress be­longs to a law firm that Michael Cohen is re­ported to have for­merly worked at.

Har­vest Moon pulled out of the Zolotonosh­a project in 2010, one year from its sched­uled launch. Since then, the fac­tory has stood idle.

Taxis

The Trump at­tor­ney has an­other Ukraine link: Si­mon Gar­ber, an Odesa-born busi­ness­man who owns taxi­cab ser­vices in New York, Chicago, and New Or­leans. Be­fore link­ing up with Trump, Cohen was a busi­ness part­ner with Gar­ber.

But Amer­i­can press re­ports sug­gest that Gar­ber has his own Krem­lin con­nec­tions. The Chicago Tri­bune wrote in 2004 that Gar­ber be­friended Rus­sian par­lia­men­tar­ian Vladimir Sloutsker while on a 1992 trip to Monaco.

Sloutsker, who served as a Rus­sian sen­a­tor from 2002 to 2010, re­port­edly gave Gar­ber the po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions to run a Moscow taxi ser­vice un­til the 1998 Rus­sian eco­nomic col­lapse.

Cohen said he sold his stake in the taxi busi­ness in the early 2000s.

The Wall Street Jour­nal also re­ported that Cohen ran a cruise ser­vice that took cus­tomers on boats out of U.S. ter­ri­to­rial waters to al­low them to gam­ble. Florida busi­ness records show that Cohen part­nered with two men, Leonid Tatarchuk and Arkady Vay­gens­berg, for the ven­ture. The WSJ re­ported that both were also Ukrainian.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump’s per­sonal lawyer Michael D. Cohen on Dec. 16. (AFP)

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