Billionaire Aras Agalarov is a Russian oligarch and real estate developer, known as the “Russian Trump”. Unlike his friend, Donald Trump, Aras does not seek out publicity, instead maintaining a life of luxury away from the public eye in a manner that is expected of oligarchs in Russia. He is not in Putin’s inner circle but, as is the case with all Russian oligarchs, Agalarov is inevitably tied to the Kremlin.
His son, Emin, attended high school in the United States and is Vice President of Crocus Group, active in the day to day operations of the company. Emin has a pop music career on the side and is divorced from the daughter of the Azerbaijan president.
The Agalarovs are central to the Russia Investigation – not only are they long time friends of Donald Trump, but they were directly involved in contacts the Trump team had with Russian nationals.
Trump Tower Meeting
Aras and Emin first appeared in the news to most Americans when emails regarding Donald Trump Jr’s July 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting were released in 2017. The Agalarov’s were crucial in setting up that meeting which was offering incriminating information about Donald Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort attended, along with Natalia Veselnitskaya (Russian lawyer who has since admitted to being a Russian informant), Rinat Akhmetshin (a former Soviet counterintelligence officer), Rob Goldstone (the publicist of Emin Agalarov), Ike Kaveladze (senior vice president at Crocus Group, the real estate development company run by Aras Agalarov), and Anatoli Samochornov (translator for Natalia).
Donald Trump Jr’s recently released Congressional testimony (on page 30) revealed that, through Goldstone, a offer for Emin to arrange meeting with Putin had been made in 2015. The Guardian points out the Agalarovs were situated to be the go-betweens between Putin and Donald Trump.
Aras Agalarov is not a member of Putin’s inner circle, but like all Russian billionaires who want to keep on the good side of the Kremlin, he contributes to government project when asked.
Given that the Russian elite knew of the excellent relations between the Agalarovs and the Trumps, it is highly plausible that they were seen as the best conduit for passing along information.
Miss Universe Pageant
Before the Trump Tower meeting, the Agalarovs played an important role in another event on the Russia Investigation timeline. The Miss Universe pageant (owned by Donald Trump) in 2013 was held in Moscow on November 9, at Agalarov’s concert hall Crocus’ City Hall. Emin was instrumental in bringing the pageant to Moscow and Aras Agalarov paid Donald Trump $20 million to host the event, Moscow beating out 17 other countries to host the event.
Not long before the Miss Universe Pageant, Aras Agalarov was presented with the Order of Honor at the Kremlin, with Putin pinning the medal on Agalarov’s lapel. The Order of honor is one of Russia’s highest civilian awards.
On June 8, 2013 after announcing the pageant would be held in Moscow, Donald Trump tweeted about his desire to meet Vladimir Putin.
Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow – if so, will he become my new best friend?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 19, 2013
Donald Trump was enthusiastic about his trip to Moscow and spoke admiringly of the Agalarovs after his visit. He also spoke about the real estate discussions that occurred while in Moscow, which are of interest in the Russia investigation.
@AgalarovAras I had a great weekend with you and your family. You have done a FANTASTIC job. TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next. EMIN was WOW!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 11, 2013
It was on this trip to Moscow that the Steele dossier alleges that Trump cavorted with prostitutes in his room at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, while Russian intelligence filmed it. Trump denies the allegations and they are difficult to prove without the prostitutes and video.
The day the dossier made headlines, Emin Agalarov announced that he knew what Donald Trump was up to in his hotel room because “he was filming my music video ‘In Another Life’! At 7.00 am!” The music video, with an appearance by Donald Trump, can be viewed here.
Emin talked to Forbes after Donald Trump’s electoral victory in November 2016, describing an on-going friendship with President Trump, claiming he had been in contact with President Trump as recently as January 2017.
President Trump himself sent a handwritten note to the Agalarovs in November after they congratulated him on his victory.
“Now that he ran and was elected, he does not forget his friends,” Agalarov says.
The Agalarovs, a wealthy and powerful family with ties to Putin, have a close connection with Trump that existed prior to the official kick off of his presidential campaign. When Putin backed out of meeting with Trump during the 2013 trip to Moscow, the Agalorovs stood in for him. Aras Agalarov told The Washington Post that the “Agalarovs passed along a friendly note from Mr. Putin and a traditional Russian box as a gift”.
The Agalarovs arranged a meeting, during the campaign, in which sensitive information from the Crown Prosecutor of Russia, Yuri Chaika, was offered to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The Russian lawyer, who attended the Trump Tower meeting, Natalia Veselnitskaya, has since admitted that she is an informant for Chaika. Instead of notifying the FBI that Russian nationals were offering help to defeat Clinton, the Trumps took the meeting.
When one looks at the timeline of events that brought scrutiny into President Trump’s contacts with Russian nationals with close ties to the Kremlin, the Agalarovs are front and center in the most important events known in the Russia investigation.
Donald Trump Jr.
2016 Trump Tower Meeting