Malaysian developer's business deals with Ivanka Trump under FBI scrutiny: Report

US President's daughter and senior White House adviser, Ivanka Trump, watches the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on Feb 25, 2018.
US President's daughter and senior White House adviser, Ivanka Trump, watches the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on Feb 25, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The business dealings between Ivanka Trump and one of Malaysia's richest scions, Tiah Joo Kim, are being investigated by the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), CNN reported.

Quoting a former and a current US official, CNN reported on Thursday (March 1) that the FBI is scrutinising the negotiations and financing surrounding the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver.

The US$360 million (S$476 million) Trump tower was developed by the 37-year-old Tiah, the son of tycoon Datuk Tony Tiah Thee Kian.

The younger Tiah is the CEO of his family-owned property development company TA Global Bhd and its Canadian-based Holborn Group.

The 63-storey Trump International Hotel and Tower, featuring a trademarked Ivanka Trump spa, was jointly developed by TA Global Bhd and Holborn Group, and opened in February 2017, just after Donald Trump took office as US president.

During negotiations, Tiah reportedly bonded with Ivanka's husband Jared Kushner but negotiated directly with her over details of its development.

The FBI's scrutiny into Tiah's development comes as its special counsel Robert Mueller investigates allegations that Kushner conspired in the Russian tampering of the 2016 United States presidential election that led to Donald Trump's win.

Ivanka is also the special adviser to President Trump, while her husband Kushner is his senior adviser.

CNN said it is standard procedure for the FBI to probe foreign contacts and international business deals as part of a background check investigation for security clearances.

Last week, Kushner's security clearance was reportedly demoted from "top secret" to "secret" and his wife Ivanka's full security clearance may also risk demotion as investigations continue.

CNN said the FBI has been looking closely at the international business entanglements of both Ivanka and Kushner, to determine whether any of those deals could leave them vulnerable to pressure from foreign agents, including China, according to a US official.

This comes amid a report from the Washington Post claiming that officials in at least four countries, including China, have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Kushner by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements.

According to the CNN, the Trump Organization does not own the Vancouver building but receives licensing and marketing fees from the developer, Tiah.

It reported that President Trump's June financial disclosure form said the Trump Organization made more than US$5 million in royalties and US$21,500 in management fees from the Vancouver property.

It is not clear why investigators are examining this particular deal involving Tiah, but CNN speculates that the timing of the deal that saw the Trump-branded property launch after he took office, and the flow of foreign money from Tiah or international condo buyers, could be the reason.

In 2016, The Star reported that the Trump mixed-use tower was sold at a record high per square foot for a condominium project in Canada, at an average of US$1,610.

Tiah was quoted saying that they approached the Trump group to manage the serviced residences because it is a young and dynamic company.

"Behind the Trump brand is a family business just like mine, so I can trust their longevity in the business. I've been so impressed by them from our dealings with them.

"Like our family, they have children who are being groomed to take over the business and they are so respectful of their father," Tiah said.

Elsewhere overseas, TA Global also has hotel operations in Movenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach in Phuket, Thailand, Radisson Blu Plaza Sydney and The Westin Melbourne in Australia, The Swissotel Merchant Court Singapore, Swissotel Kunshan, China, and Aava Whistler Hotel in Canada.

TA Global has been contacted for comment but a response has not yet been received.