After Donald Trump’s 2005 tax returns were revealed on a cable TV show Tuesday, the president’s property deal in 2008 with Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev grabbed attention.
Trump sold his Palm Beach, Florida, mansion that he bought for $41 million in a 2004 auction for a whooping $95 million in 2008 when the real estate market in the U.S. was down.
The deal raised eyebrows at the time because the Russian oligarch paid more than double the original price of the mansion and it represented 131 percent increase in the value of the property at a time of dull real estate market in the country, Politico reported last July. Earlier this month, the Palm Beach Post reported that Rybolovlev did not conduct a professional review of the 62,000-square-foot mansion.
“If someone is paying $90-something million, more than anyone else has ever paid for a private residence, one would think they might look around and do a little due diligence, or even have an inspection,” David Newman, a commercial litigator who represented Elena Rybolovleva, the Russian billionaire’s ex-wife, told the Palm Beach Post.
The deal also raised questions as to why Rybolovlev bought the mansion, which he reportedly did not intend to use.
According to a 2009 lawsuit filed by Elena, Rybolovlev “has a history of secreting and transferring assets in order to avoid his obligations” including paying her as part of their divorce, the Palm Beach Post reported. Following this, she sued Rybolovlev in a Palm Beach County Circuit Court to claim her share of the Palm Beach house.
However, according to Rybolovlev’s 2011 court documents related to his divorce, he did not purchase or manage “any real estate in Florida for investment purposes, either directly or indirectly.” And this was a revelation to Trump who told the Palm Beach Post in February 2011: “Somebody paid me $100 million.”
Rybolovlev also made headlines over his contacts with Trump in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Flight records reportedly showed Rybolovlev’s plane flying to Las Vegas and Charlotte in North Carolina the same days Trump did last October and November. Theories circulated on social media whether the two met in months leading up to the election.
On March 10, Rybolovlev’s adviser denied the Russian billionaire of being in touch with Trump ahead of the presidential polls.
“A number of theories have been circulating about the supposed relationship between Dmitry Rybolovlev and President Donald Trump. None of these theories has any foundation in fact,” Rybolovlev’s adviser, Sergey Chernitsyn, said.
This also comes as Trump and his teams’ ties with Russia have come under scrutiny.
On Tuesday, Trump’s 2005 tax returns were revealed on “The Rachel Maddow Show” by Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist David Cay Johnston.
The documents showed Trump earned more than $150 million in 2005 and paid $38 million in taxes that year. Questions over Trump’s taxes remained throughout the presidential campaign as the Republican declined to make his tax history public.