Two allegedly missing financial reports show roughly $3 million worth of previously undisclosed financial transactions linked to Michael Cohen, the longtime attorney to President Donald Trump who is currently the subject of a federal criminal investigation over his business dealings.
A career law-enforcement official told The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow in a story published on Wednesday night that they were unable to find the two suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed by First Republic Bank that documented those transactions. The person suggested that it could be evidence of a cover-up.
The two SARs in question reportedly show transactions totaling about $1 million in bank transfers over the span of about seven months, and some $2 million in activity during a three-month period ending in September 2017.
The source told Farrow they were puzzled that they couldn’t find those two reports in a financial crimes database operated by the US Treasury Department.
“I have never seen something pulled off the system. … That system is a safeguard for the bank,” the law-enforcement source told the publication.
According to Farrow’s reporting, some of that roughly $3 million could have ended up in Cohen’s personal bank account at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. It noted that Cohen deposited checks from his shell company, Essential Consultants LLC, into two newly opened Morgan Stanley accounts that totaled about $1 million during that three-month period in 2017.
The bank issued its own SAR that flagged the transactions as possible evidence of “bribery or gratuity.”
It is now known that Cohen solicited major corporations for high-dollar “consulting” services via Essential Consultants LLC after Trump’s 2016 election. He originally created the shell company in October that year to facilitate a hush-payment to a porn star who claimed she had an affair with Trump.
Cohen is at the center of an investigation being conducted by the US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York. The FBI raided his properties last month.
It is not entirely clear whether the two SAR documents showing that $3 million in transactions are indeed missing. As Farrow notes, citing experts familiar with the financial crimes database, access to some SARs can be restricted for various reasons.
Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, also weighed in, saying it is unlikely that the suspicious activity reports are missing, and that even if they were, the bank’s transaction record is not — and that’s something the Southern District of New York or special counsel Robert Mueller could subpoena the bank for, if they haven’t already.