Federal prosecutors probed Donald Trump’s social media company for potential violations of money laundering laws in connection with $8 million in loans that appeared to have Russian ties, the Guardian reported.
According to the report, $8 million in funds wired to Trump Media & Technology Group in 2021 and 2022 came from “two obscure entities that both appear to be controlled in part by the relation of an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin.”
Representatives for TMTG did not respond to a request for comment. Nicholas Biase, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, declined to comment.
Trump, the former U.S. president who failed in his 2020 reelection bid, formed Trump Media & Technology Group in the fall of 2021. That came after Trump was suspended from major internet and social platforms — including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube — over his praise and encouragement of rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, seeking to overturn the 2020 election results.
In early 2022, TMTG launched Truth Social, a Twitter-copycat app, where the ex-president currently has about 5 million followers. Elon Musk reinstated Trump’s Twitter account, and more recently Meta allowed him back on Facebook and Instagram, but Trump has claimed he will remain exclusively on Truth Social.
Trump Media & Technology Group previously announced plans to combine with Miami-based Digital World Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), to become a publicly traded entity. The deal would provide TMTG with up to $1.3 billion in capital, according DWAC filings. TMTG is led by CEO Devin Nunes, the former congressman who once unsuccessfully sued Twitter alleging in part he was defamed by anonymous parody accounts “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow.”
In June 2022, Digital World disclosed that it had received subpoenas in a federal grand jury investigation in the U.S. Justice Department’s Southern District of New York seeking information on its financial dealings in connection with the planned merger with Trump Media & Technology Group. DWAC previously revealed its proposed TMTG deal also was being probed by the SEC.
After the DWAC-TMTG merger was delayed by the SEC investigation, Trump Media & Technology Group “was on the brink of collapse” and “needed a bridge loan to keep the company afloat,” according to the Guardian report. The $8 million in loans, facilitated by DWAC CEO Patrick Orlando, were traced to Paxum Bank, registered in the Caribbean nation of Dominica; one of the bank’s directors, Anton Postolnikov, “appears to be a relation” of Russian businessman and close Putin ally Aleksandr Smirnov, per the Guardian report.
Prosecutors appeared to have “taken a special interest” in Paxum Bank’s payments to TMTG because the bank “has a history of providing banking services for the pornography and sex worker industries, which makes it higher risk of engaging in money laundering and other illicit financing,” according to the Guardian report.
The “obscure origins” of the $8 million in loans “caused alarm at Trump Media” and in the spring of 2022, the company’s then-CFO Phillip Juhan “weighed returning the money,” the Guardian reported, citing an interview with ousted TMTG co-founder Will Wilkerson. The money was not returned in part because Trump Media only had roughly $12 million in cash on hand at the time, Wilkerson told the Guardian.
Trump — who has repeatedly and falsely claimed he won the 2020 election — is seeking the Republican nomination for the 2024 U.S. presidential election.