In the days leading up to President Trump’s inauguration, an Indonesian billionaire by the name of Hary Tanoesoedibjo came to New York and Washington to cozy up to the Trumps. Tanoesoedibjo, who is known in China as Chen Mingli 陈明立, posted photos of a meeting and lunch with Eric and Donald Trump Jr., who are ostensibly in charge of the Trump Organization business while their father serves as president. A deal had been struck in 2015 between the parties to use the Trump name in a billion-dollar real estate development and theme park outside Jakarta, called MNC Lido City.
AFP reports that Chinese bank loans worth $500 million were apparently secured for this Lido deal.
- Representatives of Tanoesoedibjo’s company “made several trips to China to negotiate the theme park’s financing with Sinosure and the state-owned Bank of China,” AFP says. Sinosure is “a Chinese SOE specializing in backing overseas investment projects.” Tanoesoedibjo himself “told local media the company would guarantee $500 million in financing from Chinese banks.”
- In addition to the funding, a subsidiary of Chinese Metallurgical Corporation of China — a state-owned construction firm — has “signed a deal” to build the theme park section of the real estate development.
- Since the AFP report, Tanoesoedibjo has denied receiving funding from Chinese banks, but confirmed that the state-owned Chinese construction company had signed a deal to build the theme park, Reuters reports.
- Trump, of course, cannot legally profit from a project funded by Chinese government sources, and he did not divest from or set up a blind trust for his businesses to ensure the avoidance of conflicts of interest.
- “Even if this deal is completely and entirely above board, it simply furthers the perception of impropriety… Critics will be entirely right to demand answers,” Christopher Balding, an economics professor at Shenzhen’s HSBC Business School, told AFP.
- “The answer is yes,” Richard Painter, a chief ethics lawyer for former president George W. Bush, said more bluntly on Twitter, in response to a Vanity Fair headline asking, “Is China straight-up bribing Donald Trump?”
- It wouldn’t be the first time. Last year, the U.S. president became the owner of several trademarks that were approved in China at a speed that can be charitably described as “curious.”