Money

Former Trump Campaign Chair Manafort Pleads Not Guilty to Money Laundering, Other Charges in Russia Probe

Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman of President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to the charges filed against him in connection with the investigation into Russia meddling during the 2016 presidential election.

On Monday, Manafort surrendered to Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He was indicted on 12 counts related to money laundering and one count of conspiracy against the United States.

Manafort’s business partner, Rick Gates, who also served as  aide to Trump’s presidential campaign, was also charged in the indictment. He also surrendered to Special Counsel Mueller and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Credits: AP/Evan Vucci

Details of the indictment against Manafort, Gates

In the 31-page indictment, Special Counsel Mueller alleged that Manafort and Gates have been working as lobbyist, political consultants, acted as unregistered agents of the Ukraine government, political parties, and leaders. They generated millions of dollars from their Ukraine work for years.

Under the law, Manafort and Gates are required to report to their work and fees in Ukraine to the United States. However, they concealed their income from the United States through money laundering. They “laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships, and bank accounts.”

Manafort used his hidden wealth overseas to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States with paying taxes on those incomes. He used the offshore accounts to buy multi-million dollar properties in the United States. He also used his hidden fortune to buy luxury goods for himself and his extended family, according to the indictment.

Special Counsel Mueller also alleged that Gates used the money from the offshore accounts to pay for personal expenses including mortgage, children’s tuition and others.

More than $75 million flowed through the offshore accounts. Manafort laundered over $18 million, which he used purchase goods, services, and property in the United States. On the other hand, Gates transferred more than $3 million from the offshore account to his other accounts.

Special Counsel Mueller alleged that Manafort and Gates repeatedly provided false information to financial bookkeepers, tax accountants, and legal counsel among others,” as part of their money laundering scheme.

A significant development

 

The Department of Justice hired Mueller to investigate the alleged meddling of Russian in the 2016 presidential election and the possible collusion with Trump’s campaign.

Sources familiar with the Russia probe said Mueller is investigating possible connections between foreign government and Trump’s aides. He is also looking into possible money laundering, tax evasion, and other financial crimes. Mueller is also investigating whether the President tried to obstruct justice when he fired James Comey as FBI director in May.

Trump repeatedly denied the allegations that his campaign colluded with Russians. He called the investigation a “witch hunt.”

Political observers suggest that the indictment against Manafort and Gates is a significant development. Take note that Manafort is a longtime strategist for the Republican Party.

Manafort and Trump has connection since the 1980s. His lobbying firm helped the Trump Organization.  In 2006, he bought and still owns an apartment at the Trump Tower. He joined Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016, but he was forced to resign when questions came out regarding his previous work in Ukraine.

Steve Vladeck, a CNN legal contributor and professor at the University of Texas Law School, commented, “These are incredibly serious charges, and suggest a longstanding and pervasive pattern of reckless illegality on the part of someone who was instrumental in the Trump campaign.”

“Taken together, it seems to me that this is a very important interim development in the Mueller investigation, but only as an appetizer,” added Vladeck.

Meanwhile, Pres. Trump tweeted his comment regarding the indictment today. He wrote, “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus???? He added, “Also, there is NO COLLUSION.”