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Was Qatar the Middleman For a Rosneft Payoff for Trump?

In a federal court case in Los Angeles, between investors in an old-timers 3-on-3 basketball league, a court filing claims that a Qatari Consul was involved in a political influence operation in the US when he invested in the league. The Qatari Consul was also a Director of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA). Documents filed in that case state allege that the Qatari investor boasted about successfully bribing Michael Flynn, and offered to bankroll Bannon’s American political websites and influence operations. The man in question is Ahmed al Rumaihi. The same man who was in the photo Michael Avenatti released, entering an elevator at Trump Tower with Michael Cohen, on December 12, 2017.

The allegations of bribery in these court filings have made headlines, but Ahmed al Rumaihi’s connection to the sale of Rosneft have been largely overlooked. The Qatar Investment Authority he worked for runs the Qatar’s sovereign investment fund that purchased 19.5% of Rosneft, just five days before his visit to Trump Tower. It was also 4 days after Carter Page met with top Rosneft managers in Moscow.

Not all the dots are connected yet, but the emerging plot is that Qatar was supposed to be the middleman between the Russians and the Trump campaign. They were supposed to launder money to the Trump campaign, through the sale of Rosneft, but got cold feet when the Steele memos were published in January 2017. Here is the timeline:

December 7, 2016: Rosneft deal announced

December 8, 2016: Page met with top Rosneft managers in Moscow

December 12, 2016: Cohen/Flynn met with Al-Rumaihi at Trump Tower meeting.

January 10, 2017: Buzzfeed published the Steele memos which alleged a deal between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. Steel had predicted Rosneft sale as part of a deal to repay Trump for removing US sanctions on Russia.

Spring 2017, the Qataris turned down financing for the Kushner family.

Summer 2017: US foreign policy towards Qatar changed dramatically, when the Trump administration sided with UAE and the Saudis and their blockade of Qatar.

Fall 2017, Qatar finally came though with a loan to Kushner, and the Trump administration’s position on Qatar softened.

Steele memo Rosneft saleThe Steele Memos

The Steele memos said that Carter Page met with Rosneft officials in the Summer of 2016, and promised that a Trump administration would remove sanctions on Russia in exchange for brokerage of the Rosneft deal. During congressional testimony, Page acknowledged meeting with the head of investor relations at Rosneft, during his July 2016 trip to Russia and discussing the sale of Rosneft as well as “some general reference” to sanctions.

The Rosneft Sale

When Russia sold 19.5% of its state-owned oil company, Rosneft, it was widely reported that the buyers were Qatar Investment Authority and Glencore, a Swiss-based commodities firm. In reality, Glencore contributed very little, and not all of the buyers are known. Financial experts believe the sale was deliberately kept under 20% to avoid certain reporting requirements, allowing the money to be moved around anonymously. The entire deal was structured to launder money, in secret, to specific beneficiaries, by producing millions in commissions. The deal also included an unusual provision that Russia could buy the stake back.

So who actually bought the 19.5% stake in Rosneft?

The total sale price was $11.5 billion, and it was sold to a Singapore-registered investment called QHG Shares. However, public records in Singapore show that Russian state-controlled VTB bank loaned QHG Shares the full $11.5 billion that it paid to the Russian state. Yes, that is right. The sale of 19.5% of the state-owned oil company was initially financed by a Russian state-owned bank! VTB held the 19.5% Rosneft stake as collateral for that loan before giving it back to Rosneft’s state-owned parent company, who in turn gave it to the Qatari-Glencore investment vehicle in Singapore when their financing came through.

Glencore only put up $338 million, and Qatar contributed $2.8 billion. The rest of the money came from banks. The Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo SpA lent $5.8 billion to the Glencore-Qatar consortium, and Russian banks, including Russian government-owed VTB, supplied the remaining $2.5 billion.

Public records show the ownership structure of the stake also includes a Cayman Islands company, and that the Rosneft shares aren’t held directly by Glencore and Qatar, but by a U.K. limited liability partnership.

The Singapore-registered investment vehicle is called QHG Shares, but it is owned by a London-registered limited liability partnership, QHG Investments, which has two owners. One of the owners is another London-registered limited liability partnership, QHG Holding. One of the partners in QHG Holding is QHG Cayman Limited.

In 2017, Glencore and Qatar sold off a major part of their stake of Rosneft to China, then bought it back in 2018. There have also been reports that Russia has begun buying back the stake from QHG.

So, now do you understand?

I realise these details of the Rosneft deal leaves more questions than answers, but that is the whole point. The deal was deliberately structured to conceal who really owns this stake in Rosneft, and who is benefitting from it. Millions in commissions are going to unknown beneficiaries. It is basically a huge money laundering machine, spewing untraceable money through a maze of shell companies and investment vehicles, while hiding their ownership. Eventually, when everyone has been paid off and the money has been laundered, this stake of Rosneft will return to its original owner – the Russian government. The documents just released by the Senate Intelligence Committee include the cryptic notes Manafort took during the Russian meeting in Trump Tower. Several of the entries certainly look like planning for a payoff.

Manafort Notes

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