Democratic senators allege Trump deal in Azerbaijan flouted Iran sanctions laws

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Three Democratic U.S. senators are calling for a federal investigation into allegations that President Donald Trump did business with an Azerbaijani family alleged to have busted Iran sanctions.

The letter Thursday from Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Dianne Feinstein of California and Ben Cardin of Maryland is based on reporting earlier this month by the New Yorker that detailed efforts to build a Trump International hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital.

Trump’s real estate development and branding business ended its ties to the initiative in December and the building stands unused.

The letter, addressed to Secretary Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI director James Comey, seeks an inquiry into whether the Trump Organization followed U.S. laws requiring due diligence when dealing with foreign business.

The Mammadovs, a politically connected family, according to the New Yorker story, have a relationship with Azarpassillo, an Iranian company headed by Keyumars Darvishi, who has ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Dealings with the IRGC are blocked by U.S. sanctions law; not knowing one is dealing with a sanctioned entity does not necessarily absolve an American business from criminal liability because of the due diligence laws.

“It appears that the lack of due diligence by the Trump Organization described in the article exposed President Trump and his organization to notoriously corrupt Azerbaijani oligarchs, and may also have exposed the Trump Organization to the IRGC,” the senators wrote. “Even though the Trump Organization appears to have withdrawn from the Baku Tower deal, serious questions remain unanswered about the Trump Organization’s potential criminal liability.”

Trump Organization officials said the organization did due diligence in setting up the deal, but did not share the documentation wit the New Yorker, saying it was confidential.

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