- Special counsel Robert Mueller filed 32 new charges related to bank and tax fraud against former Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.
- Manafort, the former campaign chairman, and Gates, Manafort’s deputy and longtime associate, have so far resisted Mueller’s attempts to flip them in the Russia investigation.
- Thursday’s charges, coupled with a Manafort-linked Russian lawyer’s guilty plea on Tuesday, will likely put further pressure on both Manafort and Gates to become cooperating witnesses.
Special counsel Robert Mueller on Thursday filed 32 new charges against two former officials on President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman, and Rick Gates, Manafort’s deputy and longtime associate, were accused in a superseding indictment of misconduct related to tax and bank fraud. Specifically, the two men were charged with failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts; subscribing to false US individual income tax returns; subscribing to a false amended US individual income tax return; and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
The indictment alleges that more than $US75,000,000 flowed through the defendants’ offshore accounts and that Manafort laundered over $US30,000,000 in undisclosed income with Gates’s assistance. Gates is alleged to have laundered more than $US3 million.
Manafort and Gates were first indicted in October on 12 counts related to money laundering, tax fraud, conspiracy against the US, and failure to register as foreign agents. Thursday’s indictment echoes many of the first indictment’s claims, but additionally charges Manafort and Gates with filing false tax returns, and Manafort with securing over $US20 million in loans by misleading authorities about his income and level of debt.
Gates’ first team of defence lawyers withdrew from representing him in the Russia investigation earlier this month following his decision to bring on attorney Tom Green, who was reportedly working to negotiate a plea deal for his client.
The Daily Beast reported on Thursday that Gates had fired Green and was not leaning toward agreeing to a plea deal, which would likely have required him to testify against Manafort. But Green indicated in a court filing submitted after the new charges were unsealed that he was representing Gates.
He also filed a notice saying Gates did not oppose his first team of defence lawyers’ withdrawal from the case and told BuzzFeed News that The Daily Beast’s report was “ludicrous.”
“I am representing him,” Green added.
Manafort has insisted he is innocent since October’s charges were filed and resisted Mueller’s attempts to flip him in the Russia probe.
“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,” Manafort’s spokesperson said in a statement. “The new allegations against Mr. Manafort, once again, have nothing to do with Russia and 2016 election interference/collusion. Mr. Manafort is confident that he will be acquitted and violations of his constitutional rights will be remedied.”
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Alex van der Zwaan, a Russia-linked lawyer closely associated with Manafort and Gates, pleaded guilty to making false statements to investigators about his work for the law firm Skadden, Arps, Meagher, & Flom LLP and Affiliates in 2012. Manafort asked Skadden at the time to compile a report about the 2011 trial of the former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko – an effort Van der Zwaan was involved in.
Manafort’s request was made at the behest of Viktor Yanukovych, then the Ukrainian president and Tymoshenko’s rival in the country’s 2010 election, according to Kyiv Post.
Tymoshenko was jailed in 2011 after the Ukrainian government convicted her of abuse of power. Her trial and subsequent conviction were criticised by human-rights groups and deemed politically motivated by the US, the UK, German, Italy, Spain, and other European countries.
Skadden was roped into the controversy over the Tymoshenko report when it emerged that the former Ukrainian Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych embezzled over $US1 million to pay the law firm for its work.
After facing mounting pressure from American and Ukrainian prosecutors, Skadden refunded about half the amount it was paid for the Tymoshenko report to the Ukrainian government in June 2017. Three months later, in September, Mueller’s office raised more questions to Skadden about its work for Yanukovych in 2012.
The next month, the special counsel charged both Manafort and Gates with the first 12 counts related to their business dealings and work for the Ukrainian government. Among other things, the indictment accused the two men of using an offshore account to illegally funnel $US4 million to pay for the Tymoshenko report.
Thursday’s charges, coupled with Van der Zwaan’s guilty plea on Tuesday, will likely put further pressure on both Manafort and Gates to become cooperating witnesses.
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