Why Did a Russian NHL Player Sue Trump’s Lawyer, Michael Cohen?
Vladimir Malakhov is a Russian-born retired professional hockey player. He was active in the NHL 1992 to 2006, playing for the New York Islanders, the Montreal Canadiens, and the New Jersey Devils.
In January of 1999, Malakhov wrote a check for $350,000 to Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer. The check was deposited — and then the money disappeared.
What happened to the money and how this check came to be written to Michael Cohen was the subject of years of litigation in Circuit Court in Miami, Florida. (See Fomina v. Netscheret, 2006-001330-CA-01.)
Malakhov sued Cohen (/a/k/a “Michael D. Hacking”) in 2010 in Miami Circuit Court. (Malakov v. Cohen, 2010-14576-CA-03). I’ve embedded the lawsuit at the bottom of this post.
The story begins in late 1998 or early 1999, when Malakhov was living in Florida, and earning millions as a professional hockey player playing with the Montreal Canadiens.
One day, an acquaintance asked him for a large loan. The acquaintance was a woman named Julia Fomina. According to an affidavit filed by Malakhov’s agent, the money was intended not for Fomina but rather her boyfriend in Russia, Vitaly Buslaev. (For more on Buslaev’s background, see Yuri Felstinsky’s original article at the website Gordonua.com. There’s also a story out in Buzzfeed.)
Malakhov loaned $350,000 to Fomina and, on the advice of his attorney, secured the loan by having Fomina sign over a mortgage for her apartment on the 24th floor of Miami Beach condo tower.
For reasons that aren’t clear, Fomina instructed Malakhov’s wife to send the $350,000 loan to Michael Cohen. The check was issued in January 1999 to Cohen personally, not his law firm or many businesses, and deposited in Cohen’s Citibank trust account.
Sometime later, Fomina defaulted on her loan. When Malakhov moved to foreclose on the condominium, Fomina swore under oath that she never received the $350,000 that had been sent to Cohen.
It took years before Cohen was finally deposed and asked what happened to the money. Cohen’s response: “I don’t recall.” He insisted he didn’t know Malakhov, had no idea why the hockey player would write him such a huge check, had no records relating to the check, and had no clue what happened to the money.
A Miami judge accepted Cohen’s story and dismissed the case.
In deposition, Cohen speculated that one of the reasons why Malakhov might have sent him the check were his ties to Russians, including his business partner, the Ukrainian-born “Taxi King” Simon Garber. I’ve written previously about Cohen’s family ethanol business in Ukraine.
The Malakhov story connects to Trump in another roundabout way.
A few years before he wrote the check to Cohen, Malakhov was shaken down by a Russian mobster, according to testimony at a U.S. Senate hearing on Russian organized crime.
Malakhov, who at the time was playing for the New York Islanders, was approached in the National Restaurant in New York City’s Brighton Beach neighborhood. The man who demanded money from the hockey player worked for Vyacheslav Kirillovich Ivankov, one of the most powerful Russian Mafia bosses in America.
As I noted in an earlier post, Ivankov is one of several Mobsters who turned up in Trump Tower. Invakov also showed up Trump’s New Jersey casino, the Taj Mahal. Ivankov’s phone book included a working number for the Trump Organization’s Trump Tower residence, and a Trump Organization fax machine.
Ivankov was arrested in 1995 and sent to prison for extortion. After his release he returned to Russia where he was assassinated.
As for Malakhov, after he was shaken down, he spent the next months in fear, looking over his shoulder. His worries ended when he was traded to the Canadiens.