Former Trump Tower burns in Azerbaijan, injuring at least four

A photo said to be of the burning building posted to social media.
A photo said to be of the burning building posted to social media.PHOTO: TWITTER

MOSCOW (NYTIMES) - A fire broke out on Saturday (April 28) in a high-rise that until recently had been called Trump Tower in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, injuring at least four people.

Footage on social media showed flames shooting out of the windows and smoke billowing from the 33-floor building, which is still under construction and had been labelled "Donald Trump's Worst Deal" by New Yorker magazine.

The blaze, which broke out on the top floor of the building, burned down through about 20 stories before firefighters extinguished the flames by midafternoon, the news agency Interfax reported.

The cause of the fire was not immediately clear. Azerbaijan's Ministry of Emergency Situations did not release further information.

The building was the second property linked to President Donald Trump to catch fire this month, after a blaze broke out on the 50th floor of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York, killing an art collector. That building was built in the 1980s, before sprinklers were required in new residential towers in New York City.

The Trump Organisation withdrew its licensing agreement for the Baku skyscraper shortly after the 2016 election, as it promised to wind down international projects that could pose conflicts of interest to the president.

Trump had partnered in the development with the son of a former minister of transportation in the oil-rich former Soviet state.

The Trump-branded hotel never opened, but it was dogged by controversy. Trump cut the deal despite allegations by US diplomats that the minister had dealings with front companies for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and was corrupt.

After the New Yorker article was published in 2017, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein was among lawmakers who wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin; Attorney-General Jeff Sessions; and James Comey, then director of the FBI, seeking an investigation into the issues raised in the article.

 

The planned hotel had been under construction since 2008 and was nearing completion when Trump announced the licensing agreement six months before joining the presidential race in 2015.

His partner was Anar Mammadov, the billionaire son of the country's former minister of transportation, Ziya Mammadov.

In a diplomatic cable leaked in 2009, US diplomats described the father as "notoriously corrupt, even for Azerbaijan".

The cable also accused the former minister of awarding highway construction projects to a onetime senior Iranian military official in the Revolutionary Guards.

"We assume Mammadov is a silent partner in these contracts," the diplomatic cable said.

A lawyer for the Trump Organisation told The Associated Press for an article published in June 2016 that the organisation had been unaware of the corruption accusations and the Iranian links of the Mammadov family, but that it postponed the project that year for economic reasons.

The Trump Organisation pulled out of the deal that December and dropped a host of other overseas projects after the election.