At some point today, you may have seen video of a solitary hotel staffer stoically removing Donald Trump’s name from a building in Panama City.
Or, perhaps you saw perplexing footage of a wealthy property financier singing a Greek anti-fascist song at a fancy piano in that building’s lobby.
Maybe you even saw footage of dueling security staffs shoving and shouting at one another in the building’s hallways.
If you wondered to yourself, “What the fuck is going on?” you are not alone. It’s a very wild and complicated story.
The building is the Trump Ocean Club hotel, which opened in 2011 and had been managed by Donald Trump’s Trump International subsidiary. The Trump Organization did not actually own the property, however, which became an issue after financier Orestes Fintiklis purchased a majority share in the building.
Almost immediately, Fintiklis began accusing the Trump Organization of mismanaging the property, and blamed them for falling rentals and revenue. Things then escalated rapidly, and a power struggle emerged over physical control of the property itself. At one point last week, people affiliated with Fintiklis physically battled with Trump-employed hotel staff.
On Monday, Fintiklis appeared to have won, after he entered the property with a police escort and a Panamanian judge who reportedly did not speak to assembled members of the press. Fintiklis did make a public statement, telling reporters that, “Today, this dispute has been settled by the judges and the authorities of this country.”
Hence, the removal of the Trump name.
Meanwhile, The Trump Organization—headed by the president’s sons Eric and Don Jr.—has criticized Fintiklis’ maneuvering as a “design to wrongfully seize control over the hotel property.”
Caught in the middle of all this are the ordinary Panamanians working at the hotel. With the Trump Organization seemingly on its way out of the property, many of the staff are unsure if they’ll have a job in the coming days or weeks.
“Many of us came to work at the hotel precisely because of the Trump brand — it meant quality” one employee told CBS News. “Now, we don’t know. We just want to work.”
So what’s so important about this property anyway? Well, there’s serious money at play here—and, perhaps, something slightly more sinister as well.
According to CBS News, President Trump’s June 2017 financial disclosure form showed that the president’s company earned a surprisingly low $810,000 from the hotel in the previous year. However, the Trump Ocean Club has been accused of being a front for a massive money laundering operation, with Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, a Brazilian financial criminal with ties to Russian organized crime, accused of fronting many of the property’s high-end sales. (The Trump Organization’s top attorney told Reuters, “No one at the Trump Organization, including the Trump family, has any recollection of ever meeting or speaking with this individual.”)
Fintiklis has also alleged that Trump employees at the hotel were busy shredding documents behind locked doors during the weeks-long standoff. In a lengthy statement regarding the recent physical altercation between hotel staff and Fintklis’ employees, The Trump Organization did not address any allegations of document shredding, and instead blasted Fintklis’ “thug-like, mob style tactics,” and his “threatening and intimidating any employee of the Hotel that resisted.”
Just another great month in the life of the Trump family!