Inside the tropical paradise that’s like something out of a James Bond movie, where a Trump associate had a secret meeting with a Russian and the Emirati crown prince

Image
A beach in the Seychelles. Jean-Marie Hullot/Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

A top secret meeting. A far-flung tropical archipelago. International political intrigue involving President Donald Trump.

While it might sound like the tagline for an upcoming spy movie, these are the details of a newly disclosed meeting that took place in the Seychelles Islands between a Trump-linked private security entrepreneur, a Russian CEO, and a representative of the United Arab Emirates, according to The New York Times.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has looked into the meeting in the Russia investigation, and is reportedly working with one of its attendees to learn more about Trump’s foreign contacts.

But the Seychelles Islands where the meeting took place are themselves a fascinating yet little-known location.

Here’s a look at why these beautiful islands off the coast of Africa were chosen to host the clandestine meeting:


Lying east of Kenya and Tanzania and north of Madagascar, the Seychelles are an isolated island group in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Image

The isles are renowned for their natural beauty.

Image
A resort in the Seychelles. Le Domaine de la Réserve/Wikimedia Commons

The islands are chock-full of stunning white sand beaches that are surrounded by beautifully eroded rocks and picturesque palm trees.

Image
A beach in the Seychelles. Alf Altendorf/Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

The Seychelles, which are actually some of the last remnants of a lost continent that sunk into the Indian Ocean millions of years ago, belong to the African Union, and were once colonies of both France and Great Britain.

Image
The Seychelles. Didier Baertschiger/Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

Sources: The Telegraph, CIA World Factbook, ABC.net


88% of the islands are covered in jungles and forests, and are host to some incredible wildlife.

Image
A rainforest on the islands. Alf Altendorf/Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

Source: CIA World Factbook


Giant tortoises are native to the islands …

Image
Giant tortoises in the Seychelles. Charles Luk/Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

… and massive whale sharks visit their shores every year.

Image
A whale shark. Laika ac/Wikimedia Commons

The islands were affected by the huge Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, and some wildlife areas are still recovering.

Image
A sign on a beach affected by the 2004 tsunami. bobcat rock/Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

Fishing and plantation agriculture have long been some of the main industries, and tuna fishing alone has made up a huge portion of the GDP for decades.

Image
A fisherman with his children. So Seychelles/Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

Source: CIA World Factbook


More recently though, the islands have invested heavily in tourism. Although the Seychelles remain a place that is decidedly off-the-beaten-path, 300,000 tourists visit every year and 55% of the country’s annual GDP comes from tourism.

Image

Sources: The Telegraph, CIA World Factbook


This tourism boom has led to the development of numerous seaside luxury resorts, which take advantage of the island’s relatively undisturbed character and unique flora and fauna.

Image
A luxury resort on the main island of the Seychelles So Seychelles/Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

The Seychelles’ growing tourism sector has made it one of a select few African countries that boast a high human development index. But the islands also have one of the highest rates of income inequality on earth, and poverty remains widespread.

Image
A public housing project in the Seychelles So Seychelles/Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

Source: Knoema World Data Atlas


The Seychelles have increasingly become a popular tax haven and hub for offshore “shell companies” — and have attracted lots of dirty money as a result.

Image
Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles Remi Jouan/Wikimedia Commons

Source: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists


A Kazakh banker, an Australian bank, and businessmen from Israel have come under fire in recent years for their under-the-radar operations in the islands.

Image

Source: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists


Perhaps it was for this reason that the secret January 2017 meeting was held in the Seychelles, where a no-questions-asked attitude would have avoided unwanted scrutiny.

Image

Source: The New York Times


The meeting, which took place at a seaside hotel, included businessman Erik Prince, who is the head of the infamous private security firm Academi, better known as Blackwater USA. The meeting’s participants reportedly believed Prince was representing the Trump administration.

Image
Erik Prince, former Navy Seal and founder of private military contractor Blackwater USA Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Source: The New York Times


The second person at the meeting was Kirill Dmitriev, a former Goldman Sachs banker who runs a state-run foreign investment fund on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was reportedly representing Putin at the Seychelles meeting.

Image
Kirill Dmitriev Getty

Source: The New York Times


The final participant, Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, is perhaps the most important one for Trump. Nader was at the meeting as a representative of the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, and has ties to both Erik Prince and some of Trump’s associates.

Image
Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai Francois Nel/Getty Images

Source: The New York Times


Prince was meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed and Emirati officials in Seychelles.

Image
The Four Seasons Resort in Seychelles. Four Seasons Resort Seychelles

Source: The New York Times


They suggested Prince meet Dmitriev at a bar at the Four Seasons resort.

Image
A view from the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles. Four Seasons Resort Seychelles

Source: The New York Times


The Four Seasons has three restaurants and two lounges, all of which offer spectacular views overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Image
The Kannel bar and restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort in Seychelles. Four Seasons Resort Seychelles

Source: Four Seasons


Guests can book villas, residences, and suites, most of which go for thousands of dollars per night. The three-bedroom beach suite is going for almost $US12,000 a night in January 2018. It’s 9,246 square feet and sleeps six adults and four children.

Image
The three-bedroom beach suite at the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles. Four Seasons Resort Seychelles

Source: Four Seasons


Nader is reportedly cooperating with Mueller’s investigation, which has been homing in on Trump’s foreign investments. Mueller had also previously interviewed Prince, who denied representing Trump at the meeting and said it was merely a meeting between friends.

Image
Robert Mueller Alex Wong/ Getty Images.

Source: The New York Times


The nature of the meeting has not yet been determined, as far as we know. But as the political implications of the secret meeting play out thousands of miles away, the tropical paradise is largely unaffected.

Image
Charter fishing boats up in the Inner Harbour of Victoria, Seychelles. David Stanley/Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

With stunning views, warm sand, and profits from tourism and offshore finance to keep them busy, the people of the Seychelles can stay out of the fray.

Image