Donor Controversy: NYC Mayor’s Legal Fund Probed Over Russian Oligarch Connection

NEW YORK NYC Mayor’s Legal Fund Draws Scrutiny as Contribution Filings Reveal $650,000 in Donations, Including Funds from Cryptocurrency Tycoon Brock Pierce and Billionaire Leonard Blavatnik with Ties to Sanctioned Russian Oligarch

According to the documents, which were made public late on Tuesday after being first reported by the New York Daily News, Blavatnik and Pierce each gave the trust the full $5,000 that was permitted by law. Adams established the trust in November to pay for potential legal costs he and his allies may incur as a result of an FBI probe into the financial details of his 2021 campaign and its ties to the Turkish government.

Blavatnik, an investor of Soviet descent with an estimated net worth of $31.3 billion, has been working with Viktor Vekselberg for a considerable amount of time.

The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Vekselberg, a well-known Russian oligarch to was close to President Vladimir Putin, in 2018 and 2022 for “enabling” and providing financial support for the Kremlin’s “worldwide malign” activities, which included its war in Ukraine and meddling in the 2016 US election.

Russian college classmates Blavatnik and Vekselberg co-founded the Renova Group in 1990, a company with ties to the Kremlin’s financial system. Additionally, the two men owned stock in Rusal, the biggest aluminum company in Russia.
Blavatnik’s Financial Times was informed in 2019 by Vekselberg that “all his main money, he made here in Russia, with me.

But according to a spokesman for him on Tuesday, Blavatnik, an American citizen, is not and has never been active in Russian politics or the government.

The spokesperson added that Blavatnik has completely given up all of his Russian business interests as of 2022 and hasn’t spoken to Vekselberg since he was placed under sanctions, except for communications that the US government has approved concerning divestitures.

The spokeswoman stated that Blavatnik, who has no prior history of giving Adams political contributions, gave to his defense trust “because he appreciates the mayor’s strong, consistent support for Israel” during its conflict with Hamas.

Pierce, a former child actor who is now a cryptocurrency industry supporter, has previously contributed to Adams’ political campaigns. Following Adams’ 2021 election, the billionaire cryptocurrency tycoon made headlines again when he traveled to Puerto Rico on his private jet.

Regarding his donation to the defense trust, Pierce’s representatives could not be immediately reached for comment.

The trust has already spent over $430,000, according to the filings.

The lion’s share of that, $397,189, went to WilmerHale, an international law firm that Adams hired to defend him and his campaign against the FBI last year. According to the filing, the trust also gave $6,432 to the software company Haystack for “forensic data collection” and $18,664 to the private investigation company Artus Group, located in Connecticut, for “vetting and investigative services.”

Adams’ defense trust disclosure verifies that three Cayre family members, who manage Midtown Equities, a real estate company that owns the Battery Maritime Building in downtown Manhattan, are among the others who have contributed the maximum amount to it. Casa Cipriani is a posh members-only club located in the Maritime Building that the mayor is known to frequent, even hosting political fundraisers there.

An email requesting comment from Midtown Equities was not answered.

According to the records, Alexander Rovt and David Mack are among the other real estate developers who made the maximum $5,000 contribution to the trust.

According to the filing, six of the mayor’s relatives, including his brother and wife, contributed $5,000 each to the defense fund, along with Frank Carone, the former chief of staff.

Carone, who left City Hall to start a consulting business and is anticipated to assist in leading Adams’ 2025 reelection campaign, verified his family’s contributions in a statement provided to the Daily News on Tuesday afternoon.

Carone, who said last year he intended to assist in raising funds for the trust, said, “We are encouraged by the outpouring of support from such a diverse body, all of whom recognize the mayor’s sincere commitment to NYC and see as well as feel the energy of the city coming back.

According to the documents, state Assemblywoman Jennifer Rajkumar, a major ally of the mayor in Albany, contributed $2,500 to Adams’ legal defense trust, while former mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is rumored to offer informal advice to Adams, also contributed $5,000.

As the trust’s attorney, Vito Pitta is the longtime compliance attorney for the mayor and first confirmed on Monday that over 220 donors have contributed more than $650,000 to the fund since its inception.

Pitta said in a statement on Tuesday that “the trust received support from a diverse cross-section of New Yorkers who believe in the mayor and what he is doing to improve our city.”

Pitta’s sentiment was echoed by Adams earlier in the day during a briefing at City Hall.

Adam, a retired NYPD captain, said, “You sometimes don’t realize how people appreciate your life of service, from wearing that bulletproof vest to being the mayor of the city. I just thank those New Yorkers who responded.”

The federal probe that led to the trust’s formation is examining claims that Adams’ 2021 campaign funds were improperly infused with foreign funds by the Turkish government.

In the investigation, neither the mayor nor anyone associated with his campaign has been formally charged with any wrongdoing. However, the investigation has made direct reference to the mayor.

When FBI agents stopped him in the street in November, they took his electronics—two cell phones among them—and confiscated them. Prior to that, FBI raids were conducted on the residences of City Hall aide Rana Abbasova and top campaign fundraiser for Adams, Brianna Suggs.

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