Rechnitz, JSTD Madison and 88 Queensway

Sam Pa, 88 Queensway, Manhattan Real Estate and    Jona Rechnitz –

Connecting Dots

A New York Times article from January of 2016 – Developer Reaches Settlements Over Luxury Buildings That Were Left Unfinished states as follows:

“While Africa Israel must complete the work at 23 Wall Street, the settlement does not resolve the future of the landmark building. Africa Israel sold the building in 2008 to a Hong Kong-based company, China Sonangol, along with a stake in the former New York Times headquarters and the clock tower at 5 Madison Avenue.

The company’s directors have ties to government agencies in China, as well as to Mr. Leviev in Angola, according a congressional commission.”

Jona Rechnitz was at one time employed by Africa Israel. The transfers of the properties listed in the Times article were either brokered by Jona Rechnitz and JSR Capital or he remains an integral part of the transactions. We have posted numerous citations on his history below.

China Sonangol is a company owned by Sam Pa and is part of a group of companies referred to as the 88 Queensway Group or the Queensway Group, named for their location at 88 Queensway in Hong Kong’s financial district. Sam Pa is referred to as the head of that group.

Queensway has been investigated for years and while it remains something of a mystery, the US commissioned reports of the group by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Much of that study is cited below.

We are presenting all of this information on the premise that whether by location or by name, timing or geopolitical status Jona Rechnitz is connected to investments, transactions, buildings and illegal activity which in our view should have flagged him years ago. As we see it, Rechnitz should not have been given prominence in Mayor de Blasio’s campaign nor should he have been a trusted confidante of so many of New York’s elite.

The simple fact that in 2016 Rechnitz is the center of a major scandal involving Mayor de Blasio and numerous police officers and high ranking officials is unsettling. It illustrates a certain level of ease with which someone can maneuver our entire legal system and manipulate our government elected officials, giving that person a measure of control over our political system.

Jona Rechnitz’s world is a hidden world of secret relationships, lucrative partnerships, legal and illegal transactions and sketchy bedfellows. While he contributes significant sums of money to political and philanthropic endeavors, we do not view these gifts as charitable donations but rather as barter for a return in services.

We believe that Rechnitz relied on his direct contributions to political campaigns of Mayor di Blasio and de Blasio’s various financial slush funds to gain him unfettered access to New York’s law enforcement personnel and social elite. We feel that he curried favors in exchange for cash or diamonds. Whether or not those diamonds were legal or illegal is something we have not yet been able to determine. We feel, however, that the more nefarious of those possibilities deserves investigation.

JSR Capital is registered at 580 Fifth Avenue, Suite 800, along with numerous other companies either owned or operated directly by Jona Rechnitz or one of his many other entities. We feel that it is no accident that JSR is registered in the World Diamond Center, nor do we believe that all of the other entities registered in the same suite are unrelated, despite how well they have been publicly hidden. Their relationships may remain something of a mystery; but only because it is far too easy to hide the providence of a LLC and enshroud its operations in secrecy.

Jona Rechnitz’s curriculum vitae includes past employment and collaborations with Africa-Israel, a company owned by Lev Leviev. While we will not go into details here regarding Mr. Leviev or his company, what is important for this article is Rechnitz’s corresponding connections with a business associate of Leviev, Sam Pa. It should be noted that Sam Pa is known to have at least 8 aliases with 8 different passports. He owns numerous companies and in New York operates through a company called Sonangol, which has ties to Angolan and Zimbabwean diamonds and illegal diamond trafficking.

In 2014, Sam Pa was sanctioned by the US Treasury, which generously referred to him as an Angolan businessman. We believe that the characterization should have included Chinese national and former spy but we leave that to the US Treasury’s determination. Treasury Sanctions Persons for Role in Undermining Zimbabwean Democracy The text of the sanctions reads:

“OFAC also sanctioned Sam Pa, an Angolan businessman and a well-known supporter of the Mugabe regime. Sam Pa is being designated for undermining democratic processes and institutions in Zimbabwe, facilitating public corruption by Zimbabwean senior officials through illicit diamond deals, and providing financial and logistical support to the Government of Zimbabwe and SDNs. Among other actions, Sam Pa has given more than one million dollars, as well as supplies and equipment, to senior Zimbabwean government officials in support of the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO). The CIO, in its capacity as Zimbabwe’s state intelligence service, is linked with activities meant to undermine democracy. The CIO credits Sam Pa’s financial support with helping the organization survive in a harsh economic climate. This off-budget financing has contributed to CIO programs dedicated to pre-election intimidation in Zimbabwe, among other activities.”

The following is an attempt to connect dots, which we think should be connected and shared. While we have tried to paint a picture of Rechnitz and his financial and political influence and shady dealings, we have also found that the picture contains intricacies of a world of criminal enterprises, diamond smuggling, arms trafficking and even destabilizing governments. We are not at this time making claims that Rechnitz is an arms’ trafficker or a destabilizer of governments, but we are stating forthrightly that his place as an intermediary in many of these deals cannot be ignored.

As we see it, Rechnitz is the link between Africa-Israel and Sam Pa/Sonangol/88 Queesway and the transfer of the 23 Wall Street property. JSTD Madison, one of the companies registered at the same location as JSR Capital (The World Diamond Tower) is the managing member of 5 Madison Avenue. According to at least one source, 49% of that property (the Met Life Building) was sold from Africa-Israel to Sam Pa/Sonangol/88 Queensway, though that has apparently been disputed, as you will see below.  We both feel that if the ownership of that building is not crystal clear, it is intentionally opaque. Nevertheless, in our view it would be foolhardy to ignore Rechnitz’s place in that transaction.  It is also our view that Jtsd Madison is as much a part of Jona Rechnitz (or vice versa) as JSR Capital.

Finally, and perhaps most critical, we do not believe Jona Rechnitz to be uninvolved with either Sam Pa or Queensway. While it is difficult to find a source that refers to them both in the same sentence, except perhaps with regard to 23 Wall, we feel that is simply by virtue of the lack of transparency of the entities and the transactions.

We sincerely hope to be able to effect change, both in our legal system (with regard to the lack of transparency of LLC’s) and in our political system (with regard to the cleanliness of donations). It should not be so easy to hide companies and their assets, nor should it be so simple to donate money in exchange for favors, particularly if the Kashrut of that money is in question.

We leave it to you to try and paint your own picture with the dots we have left for you. 

Jstd MADISON LLC580 FIFTH AVENUE, SUITE 800

Jstd Madison LLC shares a suite in the World Diamond Tower with JSR Capital amongst many other Rechnitz owner or operated companies.

Jstd Madison, LLC
580 Fifth Avenue, Suite 800
New York, New York 10036
NYS Entity Status ACTIVE
NYS Filing Date DECEMBER 26, 2012
NYS DOS ID#4337455
County NEW YORK
Jurisdiction NEW YORK
Registered Agent NONE
NYS Entity Type DOMESTIC LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY
Name History
2012 – JSTD MADISON, LLC

“ALBANY—The New York Senate Democratic Campaign Committee took in $408,300 in donations yesterday, a major infusion of cash for the Democrats less than two weeks before the Nov. 4 election.

The donors included the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which gave $50,000, as well as the AFL-CIO, which gave $12,500.

Some of the largest donors were L.L.C.s. One named JSTD Madison, L.L.C., about which little information is available, gave $102,300.” [POLITICO 2014]

“In its moving papers, Petitioner’s counsel acknowledges that the building was sold prior to the commencement of the proceeding. A deed is annexed to the moving papers that shows that on May 13, 2013, the building was sold from Petitioner to JSTD Madison, LLC .”[285 Madison Realty, LLC,, Petitioners-Landlord v. Michell Moodie 238 Madison Avenue, Apt 4D New York, New York 10016, Respondent-Tenant JOHN DOE and/or JANE DOE Respondents-Undertenants.]

Queensway Group – NEW YORK REAL ESTATE & SAM PA

“The 88 Queensway Group’s origins are imprecise and its power structure and relationship to the Chinese state remain unclear. Its subsidiaries and their operations have not been linked publicly in media reports. Although the Group’s companies often are classified as “private” and based in Hong Kong, there is evidence that several of its key personnel have ties to Chinese state-owned enterprises and government agencies, including China International Trust and Investment Company (CITIC), and China National Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec), and possibly China’s intelligence apparatus. The Group also has gained high-level access to the governments and national oil companies of the countries in which it invests. In the past five years, the 88 Queensway Group has established over thirty different holding companies and subsidiaries for the purpose of investing globally. In addition to Angola, the 88 Queensway Group has operations throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia and the United States.”

“Although the majority of the 88 Queensway Group’s activities are concentrated in Angola, it also was active in Argentina, Congo-Brazzaville, and Venezuela by 2005. The Group steadily has expanded its global operations since 2007 and is now active in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the United States. Some of its recent operations include:

  • the construction of an airport terminal in Tanzania and acquisition of 49 percent of Air Tanzania in 2008;
  • the purchase of the JP Morgan Chase Building in Manhattan, 49 percent of the former New York Times Building, and 49 percent of the Clock Tower in Manhattan for $710 million in August 2008;
  • the procurement of a $200 million stake in an oil and gas field in Indonesia in 2009; and
  • the acquisition of 9.1 percent of a major construction and civil engineering firm in Singapore.

    Evidence also suggests that the Group could be active in Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Nigeria, North Korea, and Russia.” [The Queensway Group, A Case Study in Chinese Investors’ Operations in Angola and Beyond]

The lack of transparency and public accountability surrounding the 88 Queensway Group is a major concern for the United States. By posing as a private firm, the Group creates numerous companies within a complicated organizational structure to invest globally, thereby enabling the Group to acquire assets unnoticed. The 88 Queensway Group’s purchase of high-profile real estate assets in the United States underscores the importance of identifying the extent of the Group’s connections to the Chinese intelligence community, the public security apparatus, and state-owned enterprises. [The Queensway Group, A Case Study in Chinese Investors’ Operations in Angola and Beyond]

In addition to the reference listed above, the Queensway Group has been researched by:

The Africa Center for Strategic Studies – 

The Africa Center is an academic institution established by the U.S. Department of Defense and funded by Congress for the study of security issues relating to Africa. It serves as a forum for bilateral and multilateral research, communication, and the exchange of ideas.

Purchasing New York Real Estate

“China Sonangol began acquiring high-end assets overseas beginning in 2008, including foreign oil concessions, stakes in publicly traded mining companies, and hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate around the world. China Sonangol’s first big U.S. acquisition came on August 31, 2008, when it purchased 15 Broad Street, a landmark skyscraper, in Manhattan, which includes 23 Wall Street, the original J.P. Morgan & Co. headquarters, across the street from the New York Stock Exchange, for $150 million.

Notably, the seller of the “House of Morgan” was AFI USA, a subsidiary of Africa Israel Investments, Ltd., a conglomerate controlled by one of Queensway’s partners in the diamond sector, Lev Leviev. Originally, China Sonangol was slated to acquire three Manhattan skyscrapers from Africa Israel. However, the sale of the other two buildings—The New York Times building at West 43rd Street and the Clock Tower at Madison Avenue Park—fell through.  In 2009, China Sonangol signed an agreement with Africa Israel committing China Sonangol to pay $25 million for upgrades to The New York Times building. But this agreement was never honored. Reflecting the uneasiness that even some of Queensway’s partners have with the Group, one Africa Israel executive lamented, “The letter may as well have been signed on toilet paper.”

Queensway’s relationship with AFI USA, it turned out, sparked controversy within Leviev’s company. Richard Marin joined AFI USA as the company’s CEO in February 2009 to help the company “stop the bleeding” from the real estate investments it had made during the height of the market

……

Despite its iconic status, the House of Morgan remained without a long-term tenant for 6 years after China Sonangol bought the building. In 2011, China Sonangol retained Cushman & Wakefield to help find a tenant for its Wall Street property. In early October 2011, a pop up art exhibit set up shop inside the House of Morgan that sought to document the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests outside.A few weeks later, on October 30, 2011, film director Christopher Nolan briefly transformed 23 Wall Street into the Gotham Stock Exchange for the 2012 blockbuster film “The Dark Knight Rises.”

By and large, however, the building produced no revenue for China Sonangol. In January 2015, real estate developer Latitude 360 announced plans to lease the entirety of 23 Wall Street’s retail space and transform the House of Morgan into an entertainment complex complete with restaurants, movie screens, and “luxury bowling.”

However, even without a tenant, New York real estate is a sound investment for international businessmen or politicians who seek to operate under the radar. A report in New York magazine found that the city’s property market has become a popular place for shadowy investors to park their assets. “While New York real estate has significant drawbacks as an asset—it’s illiquid and costly to manage—it has a major selling point in its relative opacity,” the report said.

“With a little creative corporate structuring, the ownership of a New York property can be made as untraceable as a numbered bank account.”

Although China Sonangol highlights its ownership of 23 Wall Street on its Web site, it purchased the building using a Delaware-registered company called CS Wall Street LLC. This created yet another layer of distance between Sam Pa—who, under sanctions, is forbidden from doing business or owning a majority stake in any U.S. property—and China Sonangol’s Wall Street asset.”

[The entire report:

SOURCES OF INFORMATION ON JONA RECHNITZ

Director of Acquisitions and Dispositions
AFI-USA
Consultant
AFI-USA
Analyst-US Business Development
Africa-Israel Investments Ltd.
Director of Acquisitions and Dispositions
AFRICA-ISRAEL, U.S.A.
Director of Acquisitions and Dispositions
AFI USA Africa Isreal
Web References
Rechnitz,quits Africa …
findarticles.com, 28 Feb 2012 [cached]
Rechnitz,quits Africa Israel

Jona Rechnitz, director of acquisitions and dispositions at AFIUSA, has announced plans to resign his position at Africa Israel to launch his own investment firm.
The 27-year-old investment specialist (sic) will remain as a consultant to AFI-USA, although he will be directing his own new venture focused on development and distressed real estate assets from his new offices at Trump Tower.
“I feel that there are some great opportunities in today’s economy that I don’t want to miss out on,” said Rechnitz of his decision to launch JSR Capital. “I have an excellent relationship with Africa Israel and will remain as a consultant of the company and continue to make sales for them.”
Rechnitz enjoyed a meteric rise at AFI-USA as the company indulged in a pre-recession spending spree bagging trophy assets around the country. He participated in acquisitions and partnerships structuring $1.5 billion worth of properties in Miami, Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach, Los Angels and Texas.
In New York, he was pivotal in deals that included the purchase of the Clock Tower at One Madison Avenue, The Apthorp luxury condominium and the former New York Times building on Eighth Avenue, for which AFI-USA paid $525 million in the overheated environment of 2007
Work to convert the Clock Tower to luxury condos has since stalled and the company reportedly just reached an agreement to give up half its ownership at the old Times building to Five Mile Capital, one of its creditors, as part of a restructuring plan to turn the property into a condo hotel.
Rechnitz, though, was said to have played a key role in a remarkable effort to sell 15% of the Apthorp condominiums within 30 days or risk reverting back to rental.

“Jona is a born leader who rallies all his forces and delivers on a promise –a key indicator, in my experience, of long-term success. He can smell a potential deal and is ultra focused on getting it done. So many good, smart people drop the ball after the first or second round when it starts to get boring and the deal fizzles or dies. He understands the need to follow through and finish.
Rechnitz–a Yeshiva University and NYU graduate who joined AFI-USA in 2006 after a stint at Marcus & Millichap and the joint venture brokerage Broad Properties–said he’d been able to lever-age his experience with the company to quickly amass a pool of investors for his JSR Capital.
Phillip Rosen, a partner at Weil Gothshal and co-chair of the firm’s real estate practice who has worked with Rechnitz on several major transactions, predicts Rechnitz will do well in his new venture.

In an email to REW, Lev Leviev, chairman of Africa Israel Ltd. thanked Rechnitz for his work on behalf of AFI-USA and said, “I wish him a lot of success in his new company.”
Real Estate Weekly – Serving America’s #1 market
http://www.rew-online.com, 16 Dec 2009 [cached]
Rechnitz resigns from Africa Israel

Jona Rechnitz, director of acquisitions and dispositions at AFI-USA, has announced plans to resign his position at Africa Israel to launch his own investment firm. The 27-year-old investment specialist will remain as a consultant to AFI-USA, although he will be directing his own new venture focused on development and distressed real estate assets from his new offices at Trump Tower. “I feel that there are some great opportunities in today’s economy that I don’t want to miss out on,” said Rechnitz of his decision to launch JSR Capital. “I have an excellent relationship with Africa Israel and will remain as a consultant of the company and continue to make sales for them.” Rechnitz enjoyed a meteoric rise at AFI-USA as the company indulged in a pre-recession spending spree bagging trophy assets around the country. He participated in acquisitions and partnerships structuring $1.5 billion worth of properties in Miami, Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach, Los Angels and Texas. In New York, he was pivotal in deals that included the purchase of the Clock Tower at One Madison Avenue, The Apthorp luxury condominium and the former New York Times building on Eighth Avenue, for which AFI-USA paid $525 million in the overheated environment of 2007 Work to convert the Clock Tower to luxury condos has since stalled and the company reportedly just reached an agreement to give up half its ownership at the old Times building to Five Mile Capital, one of its creditors, as part of a restructuring plan to turn the property into a condo hotel. Rechnitz, though, was said to have played a key role in a remarkable effort to sell 15% of the Apthorp condominiums within 30 days or risk reverting back to rental.

“Jona is a born leader who rallies all his forces and delivers on a promise – a key indicator, in my experience, of long-term success. He can smell a potential deal and is ultra focused on getting it done. “So many good, smart people drop the ball after the first or second round when it starts to get boring and the deal fizzles or dies. He understands the need to follow through and finish.
Rechnitz – a Yeshiva University and NYU graduate who joined AFI-USA in 2006 after a stint at Marcus & Millichap and the joint venture brokerage Broad Properties – said he’d been able to leverage his experience with the company to quickly amass a pool of investors for his JSR Capital. Phillip Rosen, a partner at Weil Gothshal and co-chair of the firm’s real estate practice who has worked with Rechnitz on several major transactions, predicts Rechnitz will do well in his new venture.

Richard Marin, CEO of AFI-USA, said the company was pleased that Rechnitz had agreed to act in a consulting capacity.

In an email to REW, Lev Leviev, chairman of Africa Israel Ltd. thanked Rechnitz for his work on behalf of AFI-USA and said, “I wish him a lot of success in his new company.”
Jona Rechnitz, 29, of New York, …
http://www.jta.org, 8 Feb 2012 [cached]
Jona Rechnitz, 29, of New York, had wagered $1,000 on Super Sunday at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas that the New York Giants would score first — on a safety.
With the odds at 50 to 1, Rechnitz earned a $50,000 payout.
Rechnitz, who is Orthodox, told TMZ that he would donate $5,000 to a charity chosen by New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, who was penalized for intentional grounding in the end zone, causing the safety call. Rechnitz also will give $5,000 each to the charities of choice for four Giants’ defensive linemen involved in the play. He also said he wants to take Brady out for a falafel dinner.
Rechnitz, owner of the year-old JSR Capital after having worked for Africa Israel, said he will donate the rest of his after-tax earnings to other charities.
Jona Rechnitz, director of …
http://www.labusinessjournal.com, 28 June 2009 [cached]
Jona Rechnitz, director of acquisitions and dispositions for the U.S. arm of Africa Israel, said in an e-mail interview that the property is being marketed by brokerage Cushman & Wakefield Inc. without an asking price.
Real Estate Weekly – Serving America’s #1 market
http://www.rew-online.com, 8 Feb 2010 [cached]
Feb. 21: Jona Rechnitz, founder and principal JSR Capital, and his wife Rachel will be honored by OHEL, the Children’s Home and Family Service, at its annual dinner in the New York Hilton. For details and ticket information, log onto http://www.oheldinner.org or call 718-972-9338.
Other People with this Name (58)
Other People with the name “Rechnitz”:
Robert Rechnitz
American Friends of Likud
Yael Rechnitz
Taptica
Adam Rechnitz
Triumph Brewing Company
Jona Rechnitz
JSR Capital LLC
Sarah Rechnitz

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