Chinese billionaire Sam Pa directed conglomerate China Sonangol to buy 23 Wall Street as a favor to Lev Leviev in 2008, according to Jona Rechnitz, the man at the center of a campaign financing scandal that’s rocked Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration and the New York City Police Department.
Rechnitz, the founder of JSR Capital, was head of acquisitions for Leviev’s Africa Israel Investments when it sold the Financial District building for $150 million to the Chinese company. New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo claims Rechnitz told him that Leviev needed the cash from China Sonangol.
In a strange twist to an already odd tale, Cuozzo says Rechnitz maintained that the Chinese company was duped into buying 23 Wall when it thought it was purchasing the 50-story MetLife Clocktower at 5 Madison Avenue (which is now the home of the New York Edition Hotel).
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The tabloid columnist said he was unable to verify any of Rechnitz’s claims, writing that the people who supposedly were able to corroborate the JSR Capital head’s claims refused to speak.
Investment sales brokers told the Post that it would be impossible for China Sonangol to not know which building it purchased.
Since the 2008 sale, the Financial District building has failed to attract a retail tenant and Pa was arrested in China on corruption charges last year.
Meanwhile, Rechnitz is at the center of an investigation by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara into de Blasio’s fundraising. Rechnitz and associate Jeremy Reichberg allegedly traded gifts for favors to 20 New York Police Department officers, and funneled money to the mayor’s campaign coffers.
Reichberg allegedly arranged to have NYPD officers provide Leviev a personal escort through the Lincoln Tunnel, shutting down a lane for the “King of Diamonds.”
Before Rechnitz landed in hot water, he was a mid-level wheeler-dealer in New York real estate. He owns just a handful of properties, with a focus on residential buildings with retail component. [NYP] – E.B. Solomont