The company – Trump Media, which owns Trump’s Truth Social platform – initially came under criminal investigation over its preparations for a potential merger
with a blank check company called Digital World that was also the subject of an earlier probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Towards the end of last year, federal prosecutors started examining two loans totaling $8m wired to Trump Media, through the Caribbean, from two obscure entities that both appear to be controlled in part by the relation of an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, the sources said.
The first $2m payment to Trump Media came in December 2021 when the company was on the brink of collapse after the planned merger with Digital World – that would have unlocked millions for the company – was delayed when the SEC opened an inquiry into whether the arrangement broke regulatory rules.
Trump Media needed a bridge loan to keep the company afloat. But it struggled to get financing until Digital World’s chief executive Patrick Orlando sourced a $2m loan wired from Paxum Bank registered in Dominica
The wire transfer identified Paxum Bank as the beneficial owner, although the promissory note identified an entity called ES Family Trust as the lender. Two months later, an unexpected second $6m payment arrived in Trump Media’s account from ES Family Trust, the transfer receipt showed.
In both instances, Orlando declined to provide details about the true identity of the lenders or the origin of the money to Trump Media executives, Trump Media’s since-ousted co-founder turned whistleblower Will Wilkerson recounted in an interview.
Though the two payments to Trump Media ostensibly came from two separate entities – first Paxum Bank and second ES Family Trust – the trustee of ES Family Trust, a person called Angel Pacheco, appears to have simultaneously been a director of Paxum Bank.
The Russian connection, as being examined by prosecutors in the US attorney’s office for the southern district of New York, centers on a part-owner of Paxum Bank – an individual named Anton Postolnikov, who appears to be a relation of Putin ally Aleksandr Smirnov.
Smirnov, who heads the Russia-controlled maritime company Rosmorport
, worked in the Central Office of the Russian government until 2017. Before that, Smirnov was the First Deputy Minister of Justice of Russia until 2014, and for most of Putin’s first two terms as president, Smirnov served in the executive office of the president.