Business

Here's the Charlotte connection to payments made to Donald Trump's attorney

Michael Cohen, personal lawyer to President Donald Trump, exits from Federal Court in New York on April 16, 2018.
Michael Cohen, personal lawyer to President Donald Trump, exits from Federal Court in New York on April 16, 2018. Bloomberg

Columbus Nova — the New York investment firm that made payments to Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney and longtime fixer — has an outpost in Charlotte that counts the firm's CEO as a partner.

The investment firm gained attention this week in media reports about $500,000 in payments Columbus Nova made to a shell company that Cohen also had used to pay hush money to an adult film star who has alleged an affair with Trump.

Columbus Nova's main client is a company controlled by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, the New York Times reported and the firm confirmed. Andrew Intrater, Columbus Nova's American CEO, is a cousin of Vekselberg.

Investigators for Robert Mueller, the special counsel examining Russian interference in the 2016 election, have interviewed Vekselberg and Intrater, but there are no indications that either is suspected of wrongdoing, the Times reported.

In a statement on its website, Columbus Nova said the firm hired Cohen "as a business consultant regarding potential sources of capital and potential investments in real estate and other ventures." The firm said reports that Vekselberg used Columbus Nova as a conduit to make payments to Cohen were false.

"Neither Viktor Vekselberg nor anyone else outside of Columbus Nova was involved in the decision to hire Cohen or provided funding for his engagement," the firm said in its statement. Columbus Nova is "solely owned and controlled by Americans," the statement added.

A firm called Columbus Nova MB lists on its website offices at three locations: 200 S. Tryon St. in Charlotte, the same New York address as Columbus Nova and in Dallas. The site lists nine team members, seven of which appear to be in Charlotte.

The Charlotte office manager referred questions to the New York office.

The firm's statement did not mention Charlotte, but said the firm has never been owned by "any foreign entity or person including Viktor Vekselberg," adding: "The same is true with regard to all investment management companies under the Columbus Nova umbrella."

Columbus Nova MB manages portfolios of real estate assets for investors and provides other services to mid-sized businesses, according to its website. The company was founded in 2009 and Intrater was one of the members, according to North Carolina Secretary of State records.

Amos Beason is listed as CEO. He could not be reached for comment.

Columbus Nova made the $500,000 in payments to a company called Essential Consultants. That's the same firm Cohen used to pay adult film actress Stephanie Clifford as part of a nondisclosure agreement that prevented her from discussing an alleged encounter with Trump, according to multiple media reports. Trump has denied any encounter took place.

Other companies such as AT&T also made payments to Essential Consultants. AT&T issued a statement saying it engaged the firm to provide insights into the new administration. Details about the transactions were first disclosed by Clifford attorney Michael Avenatti on Twitter Tuesday.

Rick Rothacker: 704-358-5170, @rickrothacker
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