Paul Manafort CQ-Roll Call/SIPA USA/PA Images
russia probe

Ex-Trump campaign chief hit with more fraud charges

Paul Manafort and his former partner were already indicted for money laundering and tax evasion.

SPECIAL COUNSEL ROBERT Mueller has filed additional criminal charges against US President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman and his business associate.

Paul Manafort and his former partner Richard Gates were hit with fresh charges of tax and bank fraud yesterday.

Already indicted for money laundering and tax evasion, Manafort and Gates were charged in a separate 32-count indictment with defrauding the US Internal Revenue Service and lying to US banks in order to get some $20 million (about €16.3 million) in loans.

As with the indictment of the two released by Mueller on 30 October, the new charges are unrelated to Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign.

Instead, they grew from the work Manafort and Gates performed for Russia-backed former Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych between about 2006 and 2014.

Mueller’s team alleges that the two laundered $75 million (about €61 million) through offshore accounts, many of them in Cyprus, bringing a large portion of the proceeds into the US as loans and purchases to avoid income tax.

“Manafort and Gates generated tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of their Ukraine work. From approximately 2006 through the present, Manafort and Gates engaged in a scheme to hide income from United States authorities, while enjoying the use of the money,” the new indictment said.

‘Innocent of the allegations’ 

A spokesman for Manafort said he “is confident that he will be acquitted”.

“Paul Manafort is innocent of the allegations set out in the newly filed indictments and he is confident that he will be acquitted of all charges,” the spokesman said in a statement.

A long-time Washington and international political consultant, Manafort served as Trump’s election campaign chairman from June to August 2016, with Gates as his deputy.

Mueller’s primary investigative focus is on whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian interference in the election, and whether Trump tried to obstruct his investigation.

But the mandate for Mueller, a former FBI director, is broad, and he has used it to go after Mueller and Gates for earlier behaviour, with some analysts saying Mueller hoped to turn them into witnesses against others in Trump’s circle.

On 3 January Manafort sued Mueller for overstepping his mandate, calling the Russia probe “completely unmoored” from the special counsel’s original jurisdiction.

© AFP 2018 

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