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.