​In June, a Belarusan American businessman who goes by the name Sergei Millian shared some tantalising claims about Donald Trump.

Trump had a long-standing relationship with Russian officials, Millian told an associate, and those officials were now feeding Trump damaging information about his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Millian said that the information provided to Trump had been “very helpful.”

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Unbeknownst to Millian, however, his conversation was not confidential. His associate passed on what he had heard to a former British intelligence officer who had been hired by Trump’s political opponents to gather information about the Republican’s ties to Russia.

The allegations by Millian – whose role was first reported by the Wall Street Journal and has been confirmed by The Washington Post – were central to the dossier compiled by the former spy, Christopher Steele. While the dossier has not been verified and its claims have been denied by Trump, Steele’s document said that Millian’s assertions had been corroborated by other sources, including in the Russian government and former intelligence sources.

The most explosive allegation that the dossier says originally came from Millian is the claim that Trump had hired prostitutes at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton and that the Kremlin has kept evidence of the encounter.

By his own evolving statements, Sergei Millian is either a shrewd businessman with high-level access to both Trump’s inner circle and the Kremlin, or a bystander unwittingly caught up in a global controversy.

An examination of Millian’s career shows he is a little of both. His case lays bare the challenge facing the FBI as it investigates Russia’s alleged attempts to manipulate the American political system and whether Trump associates participated.

It also illustrates why the Trump administration remains unable to shake the Russia story. While some of the unproven claims attributed in the dossier to Millian are bizarre and outlandish, there are also indications that he had contacts with Trump’s circle.

Millian told several people that during the campaign and presidential transition he was in touch with George Papadopoulos, a campaign foreign policy adviser, according to a person familiar with the matter. Millian is among Papadopoulos’s nearly 240 Facebook friends.

Trump aides vehemently reject Millian’s claims to have had close contact with Trump or high-level access to the president’s company.

Millian did not answer a list of detailed questions about his interactions with Trump and his role in the Steele dossier, instead responding by email with lengthy general defenses of Trump’s election as “God’s will” and complaining that inquiries about his role are evidence of a “witch hunt” and “McCarthyism.”

“Any falsifications, deceit and baseless allegations directed against any US President is damaging to the national security interests of the United States,” he wrote in one email. “Publishing slanderous stories about the President’s decency and offensive material about the first family is malicious propaganda and a threat to the national security in order to destabilise the integrity of the United States of America and stir civil disorder aiming at reducing its political influence in the world.”

In late January, Millian appeared on Russian television, where he denied knowing information that could be damaging to Trump. “I want to say that I don’t have any compromising information, neither in Russia nor in the United States, nor could I have,” he said, speaking in Russian. “Without a doubt it is a blatant lie and an effort of some people – it’s definitely a group of people – to portray our president in a bad light using my name.”

The dossier, decried by Trump as “phony stuff” and “fake news” and derided by Russian President Vladimir Putin as “rubbish,” consists of a series of reports compiled by Steele over the course of several months before the election.

Millian, identified in different portions of the dossier as “Source D” and “Source E,” is described as a “close associate of Trump.”

In addition to the salacious allegations that gained widespread attention, the dossier attributed other claims to Millian. For instance, Steele wrote that Millian asserted that there was a “well developed conspiracy of cooperation between [Trump] and Russian leadership,” claiming the relationship was managed for Trump by former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. A Manafort spokesman said “every word in the dossier about Paul Manafort is a lie.”

Some of those who know Millian described him as more of a big-talking schmoozer than a globe-trotting interlocutor. They say he’s a self-promoter with a knack for getting himself on television – like the time he appeared on a 2013 episode of the Bravo reality show “Million Dollar Listing,” where he attempted to broker a sale with a Russian-speaking client who agreed to pay $US7 million in cash for a luxury New York unit.

“He’s an opportunist. If he sees an opportunity, he would go after it,” said Tatiana Osipova, who was a neighbour of Millian’s when he lived in Atlanta and who in 2006 helped him found a trade group, the Russian American Chamber of Commerce in the USA. Osipova now lives in St. Petersburg but has remained in touch with Millian. “He’s a fun guy, a smart guy. But always talking. He talks so much shit.”

Millian’s original name was Siarhei Kukuts, but those who know him say he changed it because he wanted something that sounded more elegant. He told ABC News in July that he changed his name to honour his grandmother, whose last name he said was Millianovich. He has also at times gone by the name Sergio Millian.

“My general impression of him was that he just wanted to be important. Nobody really knew what he or the chamber were doing, but he presented himself with grandeur,” said Nadia Diskavets, a New York photographer who was also a founding member of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce but has not been in touch with Millian recently. “So I always took everything he said with a grain of salt.”

Another acquaintance referred to him in a similar way, saying he exaggerated his connections with Trump and with the Russians. “He’s too small of a fish to deal with Russian people,” she said. “They will smell his smallness from miles away.”

Born in Belarus, Millian, 38, attended a university in Minsk. A Russian-language version of his biography that was posted on the Russian American Chamber of Commerce’s website says he studied to be a military translator.

He arrived in the early 2000s as a young, single professional in Atlanta, which has a large Russian-speaking community. Friends there said he worked in real estate, and, according to one resume posted online, he opened a translating business whose clients included the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Friends said that Millian founded the Russian American Chamber of Commerce as a way to forge business ties between the United States and Russia and as a personal networking opportunity.

Millian’s affiliation with the group also appears to have boosted his profile in Russia. He hosted events in the United States and abroad on the chamber’s behalf and, after moving to New York, began being interviewed repeatedly by Russian-language news outlets as an expert on US-Russia relations. He travelled to Moscow in 2011 courtesy of a Russian government cultural group later investigated by the FBI for allegedly recruiting spies, though there is no evidence that the inquiry involved Millian.

Millian’s account of his relationship with Trump has shifted over time. As the Republican candidate was rising in the spring of 2016, a time before there was close scrutiny of Trump’s ties to Russia, Millian used his media appearances to describe deep connections with the New York real estate mogul.

He told the Russian state-operated news agency RIA Novosti last April, for instance, that he met Trump at a Miami horse-racing track after “mutual associates” had organised a trip for Trump to Moscow in 2007.

From there, Millian said, he entered into a business arrangement in which he says he helped market a Trump-branded condominium complex in Hollywood, Florida, to international investors, including Russians.

Millian’s description of the Miami event appears to match up with a picture he posted on Facebook that appears to show him posing with Trump and the project’s developer, Jorge Pérez – the only evidence that Millian ever met Trump.

A spokesman for Pérez said his company has no record of paying Millian in connection with the project, and Pérez declined to comment further.

A White House spokeswoman said, “Sergei Millian is one of hundreds of thousands of people the president has had his picture made with, but they do not know one another.”

Millian, however, promoted ties he claimed to hold with Trump’s company.

A 2009 newsletter posted to the website of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce reported that the group had “signed formal agreements” with the Trump Organisation and Pérez’s company “to jointly service the Russian clients’ commercial, residential and industrial real estate needs.”

In the interview with RIA Novosti, Millian boasted that when he was in New York, Trump introduced him to his “right-hand man,” Michael Cohen, a longtime Trump adviser – a claim that Cohen has denied.

“He is the chief attorney of Trump, through whom all contracts have to go,” Millian told the Russian news outlet, adding, “I was involved in the signing of a contract” to promote Trump’s real estate projects in Russia.

“You can say that I was their exclusive broker,” Millian continued in Russian. “Back then, in 2007-2008, Russians by the dozens were buying apartments in Trump’s buildings in the USA.”

Asked in the April interview how often he spoke to Trump or his associates, Millian responded: “The last time was several days ago.”

Millian told people last year that he was in touch with Papadopoulos, whom Trump had described in a March 2016 Washington Post editorial board interview as a member of his foreign policy team and an “excellent guy.”

Papadopoulos received attention during the campaign largely because of reports that he had exaggerated his resume and cited among his accomplishments that he had participated in a Model United Nations program for college and graduate students.

But, according to foreign news reports and officials, he conducted a number of high-level meetings last year and presented himself as a representative of the Trump campaign. He told a group of researchers in Israel that Trump saw Putin as “a responsible actor and potential partner,” according to a column in the Jerusalem Post, while later he met with a British Foreign Office representative in London, an embassy spokesman said. He also criticised US sanctions on Russia in an interview with the Russian news outlet Interfax.

Papadopoulos did not respond to questions about contacts with Millian. But Papadopoulos said by email that his public comments during the campaign reflected his own opinions and that some of his energy policy views run counter to Russian interests. “No one from the campaign ever directed me to discuss ‘talking points,’ ” he said. In a separate email, he accused The Post of relying on “innuendo” and “unsubstantiated claims by irrelevant sources.”

Neither Millian nor a White House spokeswoman responded to questions about Papadopoulos. The person familiar with the contacts, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, did not provide details.

Over the summer, as Trump prepared to accept the Republican presidential nomination, Millian travelled to Russia. He posted pictures on his Facebook page showing that he attended a Russian government-sponsored summit in St. Petersburg in June. One photograph shows him with Russia’s minister for energy. Another shows him chatting with Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, who is close to Putin. A spokeswoman for Deripaska declined to comment. A spokesman for the Russian Embassy did not respond to questions about Millian.

Later in the summer, Millian continued boasting of his Trump connections.

He told ABC News that he had been the “official broker” for the Trump-branded condo building and described Trump’s affinity for working with Russians. He pointed to “hundreds of millions of dollars that [Trump] received from interactions with Russian businessmen.”

Millian added that Trump “likes Russia because he likes beautiful Russian ladies – talking to them, of course. And he likes to be able to make lots of money with Russians.”

Millian told ABC that he was “absolutely not” involved with Russian intelligence. But when asked whether he had heard rumors to that effect, Millian replied, “Yes, of course.”

Millian also said that, at times, he talked about US politics with top Russian officials. “Usually if I meet top people in the Russian government, they invite me, say, to the Kremlin for the reception, of course I have a chance to talk to some presidential advisers and some top people,” Millian said.

While Cohen has said he has never met Millian, the two did interact last year over Twitter. Millian was, for a time, one of about 100 people that Cohen followed and they tweeted at each other on one occasion in August after Cohen appeared on television.

Cohen later unfollowed Millian, telling The Post that he had mistakenly thought Millian was related to a Trump Organisation employee with a similar last name.

“He is a total phony,” Cohen said in an interview. “Anything coming out of this individual’s mouth is inaccurate and purely part of some deranged interest in having his name in the newspaper.”

Cohen said he did not believe Trump was in Russia in 2007, as Millian claimed in April.

Cohen said it was possible that, like other brokers in Florida, Millian might have attempted to sell units at Trump Hollywood. But, he said, Millian never held an exclusive deal at the project or any contract with the Trump Organisation.

Speaking with The Post over the phone from his New York office in a January interview, Cohen also read aloud from a lengthy email he said Millian had sent him shortly before the election that contradicted his earlier public statements.

“I met Mr. Trump once, long time ago, in 2008, pretty much for a photo opportunity and a brief talk as part of my marketing work for Trump Hollywood, after my brokering service was signed. Now, to say that I have substantial ties is total nonsense,” Cohen said, reading from an email he said Millian wrote after media coverage that mentioned him.

In the email, Millian suggested holding a news conference to clear up the matter, Cohen said. Cohen said he rejected the idea, accusing Millian via email of “seeking media attention off of this false narrative of a Trump-Russia alliance” despite having met Trump only one time, “for a 10 second photo op.”

Cohen, who left his job at the Trump Organisation in January to become Trump’s personal attorney, said this month that he could not release a copy of Millian’s email because he no longer has access to the company’s email system.

In South Florida, where Millian claimed to have had a contract to sell units at Trump Hollywood, there is little evidence that he played a major role.

Daniel Lebensohn, whose company BH3 took over for the Related Group in 2010 after Pérez’s company struggled to complete the project, said his company’s records show no sign that Millian sold any units in the building.

Two Florida-based real estate brokers who specialise in the Russian market and have sold units in Trump Hollywood were equally mystified.

“I’ve never heard of him,” said Olga Mirer, who has travelled back and forth to Russia over the past decade brokering deals at Trump Hollywood and other Florida buildings.

Despite the Trump team’s efforts to distance the president from Millian, the dossier source nevertheless attended Trump’s inauguration in January.

He posted photos of himself on Facebook attending VIP events for supporters, including one in which he posed in front of the podium at a reception for Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus at Trump’s Washington hotel. A White House official did not address a question about Millian’s attendance.

The Washington Post’s Alice Crites in Washington and David Filipov in Moscow contributed to this report.

The Washington Post

Dr Shahid Hassan Siddiqui says country loses Rs8,000bn to corruption annually

Owing to corruption in Pakistan, we annually lose Rs8,000 billion and as per Amnesty International’s World Corruption Index, our country ranks 117 out of 168 corrupt countries across the globe, renowned economist Dr Shahid Hassan Siddiqui said on Tuesday.

He was the chief guest speaker at a seminar, which was arranged in the conference room of the Department of International Relations, University of Karachi. During the event, he claimed that not a single penny would be recovered from the Panama case and he termed it a drama.

Dr Siddiqui was of the view that conflicts were fiscal deficit and current account deficit. He said the deficits were mainly because the government revenue was far less than its expenditures, while the imports too were higher than the exports.

“One major cause of these deficits is corruption and unprofessionalism. In the year 2011, major $25 billion exports were seen, whereas the number came down to $21 billion in 2017, but the government bats no eye.”

Dr Siddiqui maintained that billions of dollars come from overseas Pakistanis on account of growth but they are only being spent on consumption. As much as 79 percent of the entire amount sent from overseas is coming from US, UK, UAE and Saudi Arabia.

He mentioned that Pakistan’s GDP rate is 4.7 percent and it is the lowest among all the neighbours. The GDP rate of India is 6.5 percent, while it is five percent in Bangladesh.

He noted that Pakistan had taken about $7.2 billion from the IMF for the war against terrorism. He said Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had falsely showed a lower deficit than it actually was.

“The economy of Pakistan is showing good points at the current era, but this will lead to some serious issues afterwards.”

He also talked about tax amnesty schemes led by the government, saying that Pakistan was the only country where there was a tax on invisible properties as well.

Mentioning that the government of Pakistan along with the government of Switzerland was planning to obtain Pakistan’s money from Switzerland, he advised that the money should be brought to the country and must become a vast national treasure if it was brought back with five percent taxation.

Dr Siddiqui also discussed the education sector in details. He highlighted that in the year 2009 all political parties of Pakistan agreed on giving a seven percent budget to education in Pakistan, but when the Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz came into power, the total given to education was just 2.2 percent, that was not even half of that was decided.

He labelled it as “financial terrorism” against education. The next major issue he discussed was conspiracy in the banking sector. “The government should enhance tax revenues for national savings growth, whereas the current policy shows taking more aid and not enhancing revenues or national savings.”

Dr Siddiqui also discussed that Pakistan was at a prosperous geographical location with Thar coal, Hydel power plants and abundant agriculture and livestock that could help Pakistan climb up the stairs of clearing debts.

The growth of China exports from 2000-2016 went from $250 billion to $2,832 billion, while Indian exports increased from $40 billion to $260 billion during the same period, whereas Pakistan’s exports were just $9 billion in 2000 and in the next six years it went to $20 billion, which was far behind and had no match with the other two countries.

According to Dr Siddiqui, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a great project but it cannot be a game changer for Pakistanis. “It can quite end loadshedding in Pakistan and create a subtle infrastructure, but it can’t end unemployment or poverty though it can bring abundant of opportunities if grabbed on time.”

He believed that the CPEC could only act as a game changer when we enhanced skilled training, research and development. “We need to plan strategies and implement them in order to make the CPEC change our game.”

He pointed out that by the year 2050, China would be the country with the largest population and the largest economy followed by India, USA and Brazil. Meanwhile, he stated, Pakistan would have the sixth spot in terms of population, but 16th in terms of economy followed by Bangladesh that would be the seventh with respect to population but 23rd according to the economy.

While replying to a question, he said all incomes exceeding a limit must pay a certain tax.

“Pakistan’s economy should be documented and the amnesty schemes should be abolished. We should spend seven percent of the GDP on education and the banks must stop financing private companies.”

He urged that the education, food and shelter should be provided by the government, which would minimise the bridge between the rich and the poor. He also called for a permanent ban on IMF loans. “The entire amount coming from overseas Pakistanis should be national treasure. We need to look after all the sectors in order to grow.”

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For years, the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell touted the achievements of its partner Jay Clayton in a lengthy biography displayed on its website. Clayton, one of the most powerful attorneys on Wall Street, had worked on everything from the sale of the Atlanta Hawks to Goldman Sachs’ bailout to mortgage fraud settlements with several major financial institutions.

But then President Donald Trump nominated Clayton to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission, an agency tasked with policing Wall Street misconduct. Clayton’s bio all but disappeared from the Sullivan & Cromwell site ― trimmed from more than 800 words to less than 30.

It’s perfectly legal for a Wall Street lawyer to join the SEC. But Clayton’s relationship with the firm has raised questions about the agency’s ability to crack down on securities fraud. At his confirmation hearing last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) noted that government ethics rules would bar Clayton from participating in any enforcement activity against a company that he previously represented as a lawyer ― or any company that chose to be represented by Sullivan & Cromwell in a future dispute with the SEC. The restrictions would last for the first two years of Clayton’s term as SEC chairman.

When the agency’s career staffers have investigated misconduct, its leaders ― four commissioners and the chairman ― vote on whether to issue fines or penalties. The commissioners are split evenly between Democrats and Republicans and often vote along partisan lines, resulting in a 2-2 tie, which is broken by the chair.

If Clayton is forced to sit out an enforcement decision, the result could be a deadlock that allows fraud to go unpunished. Like Clayton, President Barack Obama’s SEC chair Mary Jo White had previously worked as a prominent corporate attorney before joining the regulator. She recused herself from more than four dozen enforcement cases, according to the New York Times, leading some insiders to complain that her absence was resulting in weaker penalties and delaying agency business.

The Senate banking committee is expected to vote next week on whether to advance Clayton’s nomination to the Senate floor.

Here is the full text of Clayton’s Sullivan & Cromwell bio before it was all but deleted:

Jay Clayton’s practice involves public and private mergers and acquisitions transactions, capital markets offerings, regulatory and enforcement proceedings, and other matters where multidisciplinary advice and experience is valued. Mr. Clayton also advises several high-net-worth families regarding their public and private investments.

Representative Engagements

M&A/Private Equity

  • Castleton Commodities in its acquisition of Morgan Stanley’s global oil merchants business; and a consortium of investors in connection with the acquisition of Castleton from Louis Dreyfus and Highbridge
  • An ownership group for the Atlanta Hawks NBA franchise in connection with the purchase and later sale of the franchise
  • Ally Financial Inc. in the $4.2 billion sale of its operations in Europe and Latin America to General Motors (GM), as well as in the $4.1 billion sale of its Canadian auto finance business to the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and in the sale of its Mexican insurance business (ABA Seguros) to ACE Group
  • TeliaSonera in connection with various transactions involving Turkcell and Megafon, including arrangements with Altimo and various other acquisitions and dispositions of telecom-related assets
  • British Airways in its merger with Iberia and the formation of International Airlines Group and various other transactions
  • Barclays Capital in connection with its purchase of assets of Lehman Brothers out of bankruptcy
  • Goldman Sachs in connection with the investment of $5 billion by Berkshire Hathaway and the U.S. Treasury’s TARP Investment
  • Bear Stearns in connection with the sale of Bear Stearns to JPMorgan Chase and related matters
  • Goldman Sachs and affiliated funds in connection with various acquisitions and investments in companies involved in financial services, banking, telecom and other industries
  • Capital Maritime in connection with the combination of Crude Carriers Corporation and Capital Product Partners L.P. and the formation of a container carrier joint venture with a private equity firm
  • Michael Krasny (founder) in the $7.2 billion sale of CDW
  • Altor Equity Partners in connection with various acquisitions and financing transactions

Capital Markets/Leveraged Finance

  • Initial public offering of $25 billion by Alibaba Group Holding Limited
  • Initial public offering of $190 million by Moelis & Company
  • Initial public offering of $2.375 billion by Ally Financial and private placements of $3 billion and $1.3 billion of common stock in Ally Financial
  • Initial public offering of $230 million by Blackhawk Network Holdings
  • Initial public offering and multiple public and private offerings of equity, preferred and debt securities of Capital Product Partners L.P.
  • Initial public offering of $380 million by Oaktree Capital Group
  • Initial public offering of $150 million by Higher One
  • Initial public offering of $260 million by Crude Carriers Corporation
  • Initial public offering of $1.2 billion by Och-Ziff and follow-on offerings and refinancing
  • $1 billion 144A equity offering by Oaktree Capital (the first issuer to use the GSTrUE/Portal Alliance trading procedures)
  • Public offering of $6.0 billion of common stock and mandatory convertible preferred stock by Lehman Brothers
  • Public and private offerings of $1.5 billion in equity and equity-linked securities of AMBAC

Corporate Governance, Regulatory and Contested Matters

  • A large financial institution in connection with the settlement of mortgage related securities claims with the FHFA
  • A large financial institution in connection with the settlement of mortgage related claims with the DOJ, HUD and FHFA
  • A large financial institution in connection with a regulatory review of transactions in government securities
  • A hedge fund in connection with a regulatory review of various credit market transactions
  • A group of financial institutions in connection with their challenge to MBIA’s restructuring
  • Ally Financial in connection with the $25 billion mortgage origination and servicing settlement with the DOJ, HUD and state attorneys general
  • Eni and subsidiaries in connection with an FCPA investigation by the SEC and DOJ
  • A financial institution in connection with a civil investigation of its ECN currency facility by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
  • The group of 100 general counsels of leading UK companies in connection with establishing audit protocols with the PCAOB
  • A financial institution in connection with various issues arising from its employees’ membership on the boards of public and private companies

Recognitions

  • Chambers Global: The World’s Leading Lawyers for Business (2008-2015)
  • Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business (2006-2015)
  • The Legal 500 United States (2009-2015)
  • IFLR1000 (2008-2017)
  • New York Super Lawyers (2008-2015)
  • The Lawdragon 500: Leading Lawyers in America (2006-2010)
  • The Best Lawyers in America (2014-2017)

Recent Publications

  • Co-Author “We Don’t Need a Crisis to Act Unitedly Against Cyber Threats” Knowledge@Wharton, June 2015
  • Chair of the Drafting Committee for “The FCPA and its Impact on International Business Transactions – Should Anything be Done to Minimize the Consequences of the U.S.’s Unique Position on Combating Offshore Corruption?” International Business Transactions Committee, New York City Bar Association, December 2011
  • Co-Author “USA 10-K: Why America Needs an Annual Report” Knowledge@Wharton, July 2012

Other Professional Activities

  • Lecturer in Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School (”M&A Through the Business Cycle,” 2009-2015)

This article has been updated to provide additional detail on Mary Jo White’s tenure as SEC chair.

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