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Butina, Russia, EB-5… Dot, Dot, Dot…

Believe it or not, we just got a dot that connects Maria Butina and the Russians to South Dakota’s EB-5 scandal.

Last Sunday, Maria Butina blew me and Dusty Johnson a kiss from jail as her previously documented associations with the NRA, Republican schemers, and South Dakota blew up into an arrest by the FBI for conspiring to infiltrate America decision-making apparati on behalf of Mother Russia. The government’s memorandum to the court last Wednesday said that Butina, far from depending on her pretend boyfriend, South Dakota GOP hustler Paul Erickson, for support, may well have had the financial backing of Russian oligarchs:

In addition to her ties to the Russian government, there is evidence that Butina is well-connected to wealthy businessmen in the Russian oligarchy. Her Twitter messages, chat logs, and emails refer to a known Russian businessman with deep ties to the Russian Presidential Administration. This person often travels to the United States and has also been referred to as her “funder” throughout her correspondence; he was listed in Forbes as having a real-time net worth of $1.2 billion as of 2018. Immediately prior to her first trip to the United States in late 2014, Butina engaged in a series of text messages with a different wealthy Russian businessman regarding budgets for her trip to the United States and meetings with the aforementioned “funder.” Individuals such as these wealthy businessmen could, through their wealth and influence, be in a position to offer a safe harbor for Butina [Government’s Memorandum in Support of Pre-Trial Detention, U.S.A. v. Butina, 2018.07.18].

Yesterday the Washington Post reported that Butina herself named that Russian funder in testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee last April. Konstantin Nikolaev is a Russian oligarch worth $1.1 billion by Forbes’s latest estimate. While Nikolaev’s people deny to WaPo anything beyond strictly professional connections to the Russian government, one generally doesn’t get to keep that much money and one’s freedom in Russia without some connection to Vladimir Putin. Nikolaev enjoyed a seat at Putin’s annual oligarch’s dinner in 2014.

Nikolaev also owns, with a couple of partners, a 34% stake in Globaltrans, “Russia’s Leading Freight Rail Group.” In 2011, Nikolaev and his partners held a 50.1% stake, and Globaltrans reported owning over 49,000 rail cars (and 56 locomotives!). The company’s 2017 report shows over 66,000 rail cars (and 69 locomotives!) “principally engaged in the transportation of oil products and oil.”

Globaltrans had a subsidiary based in Cyprus called Ultracare Holdings. Between December 2007 and April 2008, Ultracare Holdings received three payments totaling $1.5 million from Northern Beef Packers, based in Aberdeen, South Dakota. At that time, Northern Beef Packers was four years and two more rounds of EB-5 visa investment dollars away from slaughtering any cattle. NBP was five years away from its bankruptcy, the suicide of Richard Benda, and the eruption of South Dakota’s EB-5 scandal.

Now that $1.5 million is less than 1% of Globaltrans’s pre-tax profit in 2008 of $174 million. And no one outside of NBP and he EB-5 scandal knows just what that cash bought for the plant (what? rail cars? the nearest track is a third of a mile away from the plant).

But perhaps there is some twisted comfort we can take in knowing that whatever portion of that $1.5 million in NBP EB-5 went from Aberdeen to Cyprus to Russia, Konstantin Nikolaev may have reinvested it right back into South Dakota, helping Maria Butina pay for her pheasant hunt at Elk Point and other journeys around our fair state.

So don’t tell me: next week, we’ll learn that Maria Butina encouraged Annette Bosworth to run for Senate.

18 Comments

  1. Roger Cornelius 2018-07-23

    Cory
    From your reporting a few years back about EB-5 you were right on target and found that dot that connects the whole Russian connection to South Dakota republicans. Congratulations on some excellent reporting.
    I just read a report from South Dakota News Watch on Paul Erickson’s South Dakota LLC’s, one showing Butina was a partner in one of them.
    Everyday Trump’s Russian scandal gets more mind boggling.

  2. Shirley Harrington-Moore 2018-07-23

    Heard on SiriusXM that Mariia Butina is residing in the District of Columbia jail whose accomodations are far from one star digs. She’s had visits from her attorney and several Russians. She is not holding up well in jail. Lavarov asked that she be released. No hearing date is set at this time. Her account at the jail for extras might could use a little cash if any good Republican wants to donate. How about you, Dusty??

  3. leslie 2018-07-24

    MARTY will cut a deal w the Feds using Trump’s clout to keep Rounds/Daugaard/Tidemann out of the headlights, maybe?

    Imagine if Seiler or Means had a shot at directing investigation, depositions/discovery, legislative oversight & prosecuting EB5 fraud. IM 22 as amended may just be on the books now. Maybe we’d find out how solid all those republican judges are, with all due respect. And set a national example of legislative ethics.

    Thank god all we have to beat are Kristie & Ravensborg…and their money.

  4. Adam 2018-07-24

    The Russia-South Dakota connection just gets deeper every day.

    Why won’t any SD Republicans, who met Butina along the way, step up and denounce how she used them? – how wrong it was? – how they are currently cooperating with law enforcement to put her behind bars? – and how terrible it makes them feel to be treated as such tools by a foreign enemy?

    I just really feel that those SDGOP members who are being questioned about their relationship to her – step forward and be honest with the public about it. Their timidness to get out in front of the story makes me think they are hiding deeper relationships to Russian oligarchs than anyone may have guessed.

  5. mike from iowa 2018-07-24

    Riger, that LLC partnership between Ericson and Butina was supposedly to supply money to further her education, but no money ever passed through it.

    https://heavy.com/news/2018/07/paul-erickson/

    This gives a nice overview. :)

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-07-24

    Roger, I noticed that SD News Watch report and thought, “Holy Cow!” But I checked: the new company Erickson formed last month, Medora Consulting, is at the same address as his other businesses, but the papers say nothing about Butina. Bridges LLC, the company he formed with Butina in 2016, has been reported on these pages and widely elsewhere (like in Mike’s 2017 link). Medora may be a piece of this puzzle, but it could also just be more of Erickson’s usual paper wheeling and dealing.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-07-24

    Shirley, Butina has a hearing tomorrow. From PACER: “Set/Reset Hearings as to MARIIA BUTINA:Status Conference reset for 7/25/2018 at 10:15 AM in Courtroom 9 before Judge Tanya S. Chutkan. (tb) (Entered: 07/19/2018)”

  8. jerry 2018-07-24

    “(Reuters) – Russian hackers gained access to the networks of U.S. electric utilities last year, which could have allowed them to cause blackouts, according to federal government officials, who said the campaign is likely continuing, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

    The hackers, who worked for a Russian state-sponsored group known as Dragonfly or Energetic Bear, claimed “hundreds of victims” in 2017, according to officials at the Department of Homeland Security, the Journal reported.

    Hackers used conventional tools such as spear-phishing emails and watering-hole attacks that trick victims into entering their passwords and then gained access to corporate networks of suppliers, which allowed the hackers to steal credentials and gain access to utility networks, the report on.wsj.com/2LxBrtZ said.”

    So, could there be another reason Comrade Butina came to South Dakota besides cuddling with Comrade Dusty? Don’t forget that we generate electricity here at our dams that is sent everywhere but here it seems. Stealing elections is one thing, trumps love affair with Putin turns out the lights. Ask an ag producer what you do when you power goes off? Then ask them how they would cope by not getting fuel to run the generator? We are at war with Russia, make no mistake. Russia is our Enemy.

  9. marvin kammerer 2018-07-24

    i think the natl.rifle association needs to do a lot of explaining , or maybe they will again cover their ass by waving the flag & honeying up to corporates who sell weapons weapons to any con outfit in the world.maybe a few of the wannabes will figure out what it means to be a real patriot.

  10. Eve Fisher 2018-07-24

    Great stuff, Cory! I’m going to use this (with citations, of course) for my next blog post!

  11. leslie 2018-07-24

    Pete Brownell, a gun company chief executive who took part in the 2015 Moscow trip w/Butina, Sheriff Clarke and others, became NRA president in 2017. In May this year, his tenure ended abruptly and earlier than expected. Representatives did not respond to questions about whether his departure was connected to the Russia trip.

    NRA has been absolutely silent since Butina was exposed.

    According to the FBI, when guns didn’t bring her to Trump, Butina tried again with God. An investigator described in court filings a series of contacts between Butina and an organiser for the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Butina and Torshin attended in February 2016.

    (Torshin and Butina came even closer to a meeting with the president at the following year’s Prayer Breakfast. Shortly before the scheduled encounter, a White House aide flagged Torshin’s “baggage” and cancelled the meet and greets.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/17/maria-butina-donald-trump-accused-spy-russia-charges

  12. mike from iowa 2018-07-24

    If Torshin gets convicted, gets probation in lieu of jail time do we call that Torshin bar suspension? Curious iowan needs to know.

  13. Debbo 2018-07-25

    Brownell? I was just in Grinnell, Iowa, a couple days ago. Brownell has a big factory there.

    Wait till Mueller digs into Buttina’s SD fun. The SDGOP won’t be able to hide. Glub, glub to Thune, Rounds, Noem, Dusty, and many, many more!

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-07-25

    Confederates supporting Putin—because once a traitor, always a traitor.

  15. Pat Richardson 2018-07-25

    The pile of manure gets wider and deeper every day doesn’t it?

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-07-25

    We may all be dirty, Pat! Pretty soon I’ll be browsing through my archives and find that one of the Russians I met during my travels in the 1990s was Maria Butina’s mom.

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