US firm that paid indicted FBI informant tied to Trump associates, records reveal | FBI

An American company that paid the now indicted FBI informant Alexander Smirnov in 2020 is connected to a UK company owned by Trump business associates in Dubai, according to business filings and court documents.

Smirnov is now accused of lying to the FBI about Hunter Biden and his father, President Joe Biden, alleging that they engaged in a bribery scheme with executives at the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. Smirnov’s accounts to the FBI, beginning in 2020, that federal prosecutors now say are fabrications, served as a major justification of the House impeachment investigation into the Bidens.

Republican lawmakers have repeatedly touted Smirnov as a reliable informant, and the chairman of the House oversight committee, James Comer, even threatened to hold the FBI director, Christopher Wray, in contempt unless he “handed over” a June 2020 FBI form with Smirnov’s claims to the committee.

Back in 2020, Smirnov was paid $600,000 by a company called Economic Transformation Technologies (ETT), prosecutors said. That same year, Smirnov began lying to the FBI about the Bidens, according to the indictment. There is no suggestion the payment was linked to Smirnov’s alleged fabrications.

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ETT’s CEO is the American Christopher Condon, who was also one of three shareholders in ETT Investment Holding Limited in London. Other shareholders in the UK company, now dissolved, included the Pakistani American investor Shahal Khan and Farooq Arjomand, a former chairman and current board member of Damac Properties in Dubai who is also listed as an adviser on ETT’s American website.

Last month, Smirnov was charged with lying to the FBI, and is being held without bail. Prosecutors argued he posed a flight risk because of his contacts with Russian officials in the Middle East and access to millions of dollars.

Smirnov’s indictment alleged that the assertions in a document, known as a 1023, and other statements made to his FBI handler beginning in 2020 and continuing until December 2023, were factually impossible.

The exact business model of Texas-based ETT is murky. Its mission statement reads in part: “ETT set up the chess board to bring in top notch executives from those sectors to help implement its vision of love and social impact to improve the quality of human existence through the application of ‘new age’ technologies.”

The current CEO, Condon, is a California man who has been involved in several civil lawsuits, including a civil Rico case in 2010 that he won on appeal. Condon’s official biography says he is “a former professional tennis player, financial advisor, and currently is an entrepreneur focused on social-impact projects, public-private partnerships, and creating smart communities that benefit both individuals and governments”.

Condon, Arjomand and Khan registered ETT Investment Holding Limited in the UK on 6 March 2020. Khan, an investor who purchased the Plaza hotel in 2018, and Arjomand have ties to Donald Trump through Trump associates and Damac, a major Middle East developer that has partnered with Trump for a decade. Arjomand, Khan and Condon owned 34%, 33% and 33% of ETT Investment Holding Limited respectively, according to UK business filings. No other information on the UK company is readily available.

The former Damac chairman Hussain Sajwani is also close to Trump and has been described as his friend in multiple news reports. Trump has called the billionaire a “friend” and a “great man”, and his family “the most beautiful people”.

Hussain Sajwani, far right, with Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in February 2017. Photograph: AP

Sajwani attended Trump’s 2016 inauguration, and Trump’s sons Donald Jr and Eric Trump attended the 2017 ribbon-cutting of the Trump International golf club in Dubai, licensed by Damac in 2014. Sajwani and his family also attended a party in 2017 at Mar-a-Lago. Trump’s sons would go on to attend Sajwani’s daughter’s wedding in 2018.

In 2017 FEC filings, Trump disclosed making up to $5m from the Damac licensing deal, but said he would no longer do personal business deals when he became president. The two continued at least talking business into his presidency, however, according to multiple reports.

“Hussein, Damac, a friend of mine, a great guy. I was offered $2bn to do a deal in Dubai, a number of deals, and I turned it down,” Trump said in 2017.

Arjomand was the vice-chairman of Damac when the Trump International golf club, along with adjoining Trump-branded luxury homes, opened, and he replaced Sajwani as chair in 2021 when Sajwani stepped down to privatize the company.

Khan, who owns Dubai-based Trinity White City Ventures, is a New York native who partnered with New York City developer Kamran Hakim to buy the Plaza hotel in 2018 for $600m. He was a board member of ETT from 2019 to June 2020, according to his LinkedIn page, appearing in event photographs with Condon in Miami that year.

Khan is involved in a range of business from AI to mining to cybersecurity, according to his official biographies. In 2019, he was one of a dozen Pakistani American business owners invited to meet the then Pakistani prime minister, Imran Khan, the day before Imran met with Trump and Mike Pompeo, then the secretary of state, in Washington DC. The group was there to discuss the expansion of business in Pakistan.

In 2017, Khan reportedly approached Brad Zackson, dubbed Paul Manafort’s “real-estate fixer”, to help him broker a deal to buy the Roosevelt hotel in Manhattan, owned by the Pakistani government via its national airline, for $500m, according to the Real Deal. When the real-estate publication asked Khan about the reports, he denied that Zackson and Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, were involved. Khan purchased the Pakistani embassy building in DC in 2022 for $6.8m.

Khan is also CEO of BurTech Acquisition Group, a “blank check company”, or public shell company. Patrick Orlando, listed as a “special adviser” and shareholder of BurTech in 2021, was the CEO and chair of Digital World, another blank check company, from September 2021 to March 2023. When it began a merger with Trump Media & Technology Group in 2021, it was held up by an SEC investigation until given the green light last month.

The finalization of the merger may garner Trump as much as $4bn in shares, and help bolster his finances after his recent civil litigation losses. Orlando has known Trump since at least 2021, according to news reports.

Arjomand and Khan’s relationship is unclear. Arjomand, a former HSBC banker from the United Arab Emirates, also invests in hospitality businesses, including the celebrity Wahlberg brothers’ restaurant chain Wahlburgers, and owns a coffee company called Reborn Coffee.

ETT Investment Holding Limited was dissolved in 2021. Condon and Arjomand also registered a company called Atlas UK Group Limited the same day they registered the UK ETT, now dissolved.

The American ETT, then called Pandora Venture Capital Corp, was first registered in Florida in 2014 by a Wisconsin resident, Boris Nayflish, according to Florida business filings. Ukrainian American Nayflish is the ex-husband of Smirnov’s current partner, according to a Wall Street Journal report, which also claimed Nayflish stayed close to his ex, Diana Lavrenyuk, and Smirnov after the divorce.

Smirnov, born in Ukraine, lived in Israel before coming to the US in 2006.

Pandora changed its name to Skylab in 2017, then in 2018 Skylab seemed to split from what is now ETT, according to a lawsuit, when Condon first registered ETT websites and appeared on ETT’s Florida filings.

An unnamed former business associate told the Wall Street Journal that the $600,000 payment from ETT to Smirnov was “in exchange for a stake in an Israel-based crypto trading platform, called Bitoftrade, [that] Smirnov was working on launching”.

Calls and emails to Condon, Arjomand, Sajwani and Smirnov’s lawyer, and to Trump’s team, were not returned.

Khan told the Guardian: “I was on the board for a very short period, [and] there was no connection on my part.”

ETT responded after publication saying the company had “no involvement with Alexander Smirnov” and that “his association with ETT was a direct result of a merger with another company, making him a shareholder”.

“His introduction to ETT was strictly professional,” the company said, “and any money sent to a corporation called Avalon Group Inc., a Delaware corporation, related to ETT’s investment in a cryptocurrency platform, Bitoftrade”.

“This investment, like all ETT’s investments, was made following standard due diligence processes” and was “a straightforward business investment in the technology sector and had no connections to any political figures … ETT has never had any ties to President Biden or President Trump or their associates, or any political campaigns,” it said, adding that Christopher Condon has never met Biden or Trump or members of their families.

Smirnov is scheduled for a jury trial in April, according to court filings.

This article was amended on 16 March 2024 to include a response from ETT that was received after publication, and to further emphasise that there is no suggestion the $600,000 payment was linked to Alexander Smirnov’s alleged fabrications.

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