Trump’s Media Company Reportedly Under Federal Investigation For Money Laundering Linked To Russia
A federal criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump’s media company Trump Media has expanded to include potential money laundering violations linked to an $8 million loan with Russian ties, the Guardian reported Wednesday, potentially further threatening the ex-president’s media company and its planned merger with special purpose acquisition company Digital World Acquisition Corp (DWAC).
Citing anonymous sources, the Guardian reports federal prosecutors in New York expanded their criminal probe into Trump Media & Technology Group, which owns Trump’s Truth Social platform, at the end of last year to scrutinize the $8 million in payments.
The payments came from Paxum Bank, which is registered in Dominica, and ES Family Trust, and the Guardian reports Paxum Bank is partly owned by Anton Postolnikov, an apparent relation of Aleksandr Smirnov, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who worked for Putin’s government until 2017 and now runs the Russian-controlled maritime company Rosmorport.
Investigators were reportedly tipped off about the payments in October 2022 by whistleblower Will Wilkerson, a former executive at Trump Media, who told the Guardian the payments initially “caused alarm” at Trump Media and executives considered returning the money but decided not to, in part because they couldn’t afford to lose it.
Trump’s son Donald Trump, Jr., was reportedly aware of at least the first payment coming through, the Guardian reported, quoting an email sent to him about it to “keep [him] in the loop,” but the outlet noted it’s unclear if Trump—Trump Media’s chair—was aware of the payments and their origins, saying he “did not seem to be particularly interested in managing the day-to-day running” of the company.
Trump Media and the Justice Department have not yet responded to requests for comment.
What We Don’t Know
It’s still not clear how much legal exposure Trump Media faces for the $8 million payments, the Guardian notes, and under federal money laundering rules prosecutors would have to show they were the product of “unlawful activity” and Trump Media actively tried to conceal the source of the payments. Prosecutors are also reportedly interested in the payments because Paxum Bank finances businesses related to pornography and sex work, which are also at a higher risk of money laundering. The reported money laundering allegations and the payments’ “potentially unsavory sources” could also hamper Trump’s 2024 campaign even if they don’t result in any criminal charges, the Guardian notes, particularly after his 2016 campaign already faced investigations over its alleged Russian ties.
Trump Media was formed soon after Trump left office in 2021, as the ex-president planned his own social network Truth Social in the wake of being booted off traditional social platforms following the January 6 riots. The company has faced turmoil over its planned merger with DWAC, first announced in October 2021, which would give the media company an influx of capital and allow it to trade on the stock market. While SPACs like DWAC are not allowed to have any mergers planned when they file their IPO, DWAC was allegedly in talks with Trump about acquiring Trump Media months before the merger was formally announced, the New York Times reported in October 2021, potentially violating securities laws. That drew the scrutiny of federal investigators, and both DWAC and Trump Media reported in the summer of 2022 that they had received grand jury subpoenas as part of the probe. The investigations have threatened the merger between the two entities, which faces a deadline of September 2023 to be completed after DWAC shareholders agreed to delay the merger in November.
Social media's new pay-for-play rules – Axios
Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios
Social media is getting pricier for users who want to unlock special features and privileges.
Why it matters: Users who once believed they were contributing their time and creativity are now being asked to pay up by cash-hungry platforms.
Driving the news: Elon Musk on Monday tweeted that beginning April 15, only tweets by verified users will show up in Twitter’s default main feed of “For You” recommendations. Verification, formerly a service Twitter offered public figures, is now available only to $8-a-month subscribers.
- The new strategy “is the only realistic way to address advanced AI bot swarms taking over. It is otherwise a hopeless losing battle,” Musk argued. “Voting in polls will require verification for same reason.”
Between the lines: Musk has tried to shift more of Twitter’s business towards charging for subscriptions amid advertising pullback.
- In addition to charging users to be verified, he also began charging companies for access to Twitter’s API, or backend interface, something many used to be able to access for free.
Be smart: Other social networks have made changes to their feeds to prioritize paid traffic over organic posts, but Musk’s moves are more drastic.
- As The New York Times’ Mike Isaac notes, when Facebook transitioned its algorithm to prioritize posts from friends over Pages, brands and news companies were forced to buy ads if they wanted to be seen.
The big picture: Twitter isn’t alone in its push for more stable, recurring revenues. Other social networks, having reached a point of maturity and a slowdown in the ad market, are also looking to make more money from subscriptions and licensing.
- Meta launched its version of a paid verification subscription service in the U.S. last week. Snapchat introduced a new consumer subscription last year.
- Snapchat also last week launched its first enterprise software business, licensing its augmented reality software and tools to enterprise companies.
- “[T]his opportunity is major, not just for Snap, but for businesses of all sizes,” said Jill Popelka, head of AR enterprise services for Snap Inc. Snap will first focus on licensing out its tech and services to the retail industry before testing other markets.
Yes, but: Musk has announced many new policies and promises from his Twitter account that have fallen by the wayside or remain unfulfilled.
The bottom line: Users may not need all of the new paid perks they’re being offered, but tech firms are desperate to sell them.
- Musk admitted to employees this week that Twitter is worth less than half of what it was when he bought it.
- Stocks for Meta and Snap have both lost all of of their pandemic momentum since the ad market began to crater in 2022.
Myanmar military dissolves Suu Kyi’s NLD party: State media
Party of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi among 40 political parties dissolved after failing to meet registration deadline, according to state television.
Myanmar’s military-controlled election commission has announced that the National League for Democracy Party (NLD) would be dissolved for failing to re-register under a new electoral law, according to state television.
The NLD led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was among 40 political parties dissolved on Tuesday after they failed to meet the ruling military’s registration deadline for an election, according to state television.
In a nightly news bulletin, Myawaddy TV announced the NLD among those who had not signed up to the election and were therefore automatically disbanded. The NLD has said it would not contest what it calls an illegitimate election.
The army carried out a coup in February 2021 after the NLD won the November 2020 parliamentary elections and subsequently jailed its leader Suu Kyi.
Suu Kyi, 77, is serving prison sentences totaling 33 years after being convicted in a series of politically tainted prosecutions brought by the military. Her supporters say the charges were contrived to keep her from actively taking part in politics.
The party won a landslide victory in the 2020 general election, but less than three months later, the army kept Suu Kyi and all the elected lawmakers from taking their seats in parliament.
The army said justified the coup saying there was a massive poll fraud, though independent election observers did not find any major irregularities.
Some critics of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who led the takeover and is now Myanmar’s top leader, believe he acted because the vote thwarted his own political ambitions.
No date has been set for the new polls. They had been expected by the end of July, according to the army’s own plans.
But in February, the military announced an unexpected six-month extension of its state of emergency, delaying the possible legal date for holding an election.
It said security could not be assured. The military does not control large swaths of the country, where it faces widespread armed resistance to its rule.
Gautam Adani acquires 49% in Quintillion Business Media for Rs 48 crore
Billionaire Gautam Adani’s AMG Media Networks has acquired about a 49 per cent stake in Raghav Bahl-curated digital business news platform Quintillion Business Media Pvt Ltd for about Rs 48 crore.
In a stock exchange filing, Adani Enterprises Ltd said its subsidiary AMG Media Networks Ltd has completed the acquisition which was originally announced in May last year.
The transaction was completed on March 27 for “Rs 47.84 crore”, it said.
Quintillion Business Media runs the news platform Bloomberg Quint, now called BQ Prime.
Adani group had set up AMG Media Networks for its foray into businesses of “publishing, advertising, broadcasting, distribution of content over different types of media networks”.
In May last year, it had signed a shareholders’ agreement with Quintillion Media Ltd (QML) and QBML.
In September 2021, it hired veteran journalist Sanjay Pugalia to lead its media company Adani Media Ventures.
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