US lobbyists help Yugoslav prince on quest for royal family’s gold

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Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia (Johnny Green – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

Sharing a nearly windowless gray building with a company called Linens & More for Less! in the Ohio farmland north of Youngstown, is the J.J. Cafaro Investment Trust LLC. The trust in rural Ohio is involved in an effort seemingly out of an “Indiana Jones” movie — it hired a lobbying firm to help reunite a European royal family with their personal gold.

A recent lobbying disclosure stated that the LLC hired two high-powered lobbyists to represent them — former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.) and his son Christopher D’Amato, formerly a senior counsel at the SEC, both from Park Strategies lobbying firm which was founded by the elder D’Amato. The goal of the lobbying effort is described as “assistance in identifying the location, value, and status of certain private property entrusted to the U.S. government for safekeeping.” In the fourth quarter of 2018, the LLC paid Christopher D’Amato $20,000 for his efforts.

According to the disclosure, an interested third-party is Alexander Karađorđević, the Crown Prince of Yugoslavia. Alexander is the son of the last King of Yugoslavia, King Peter II, who fled from the Nazis in World War II. After the war, Yugoslavia became a Communist country under Marshal Tito who dissolved the monarchy and banned the royal family from the country. Crown Prince Alexander was allowed to return to what is now Serbia in 1991 and began living in the Royal Palace in 2001, despite Serbia still not recognizing a monarchy.     

That private property to be identified, according to an individual familiar with the effort, is gold and other financial instruments which were the property of King Peter II of Yugoslavia, Alexander’s father. The gold and assets were shipped out of the country as Nazi Germany bore down on Yugoslavia in World War II. The gold and other instruments now belong to Alexander and his heirs.

According to the source, King Peter II and his royal family personally owned two of the most productive gold mines at the time of his reign in the region which produced “a substantial amount of gold,” which was the personal private property of the monarchy.

Yugoslavia had initially signed a nonaggression pact with Germany under Prince Regent Paul, but Paul was displaced in a coup in 1941 which elevated 17-year-old King Peter II to power. Peter II opposed the Nazi regime and Yugoslavia was subsequently invaded by Germany in early April 1941 which caused the royal family to flee into exile in Britain. As the German threat had grown in the late 1930s, the royal family had begun transferring their personal gold and other assets to safer overseas locations. Some of that gold ended up being stored in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the source said.

The source described that the effort now is to assist Peter II’s heirs, Alexander and the royal family, with identifying and locating the assets that were stored in New York. The royal family’s assets were likely mixed with other public funds, like those of the Yugoslav government, the source said. What the source likened to a “detective effort” has begun to figure out what belongs to whom and validate the family’s claims.

Other parts of Alexander’s family’s assets may have been incorrectly used in other payouts, the source said. In 1948, the U.S. government reached a settlement with the then-Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia which settled all claims between U.S. nationals and the Yugoslav government led by Tito. The agreement called for Yugoslavia to pay $17 million to claimants. The source claimed that some portion of the royal family’s gold in the Federal Reserve may have been incorrectly utilized and liquidated to fund the $17 million transfer. The lobbying effort is seeking to make clear if that occurred and what happened to the family’s private property.

The effort to locate the family’s assets only began recently because records regarding their possessions have only become available within the past five years or so, the source said.  

The individual familiar with the situation said that the trust was chosen because J.J. Carfaro, the trust’s president, is a close friend of Alexander and his family. The source also noted that during his time as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Alfonse D’Amato oversaw an investigation of Switzerland’s laundering of Jewish families’ assets to compensate Swiss citizens and the country’s involvement with Nazi financial efforts.    

Cafaro, a real estate developer and one-time president of the now-defunct Avanti Motor Company, has a checkered legal past having twice been punished for money-in-politics violations. In 2002, he was placed on probation and fined $150,000 for bribing former Rep. Jim Traficant (D-Ohio) and in 2010 he received a sentence of three years probation and a $250,000 fine for not disclosing a $10,000 loan to his daughter’s 2004 unsuccessful House campaign. Cafaro also has links to President Donald Trump, having donated $50,000 to a Trump-affiliated veterans’ organization that earned Cafaro a name-drop from the then-candidate at a 2016 Republican primary debate. In February 2017, Cafaro’s wife chaired The Diamond Centennial Red Cross Ball at Mar-a-Lago which the president attended. Cafaro did not respond to a request for comment.

The Royal Family of Serbia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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