Ex­pen­sive suits caught eye of in­ves­ti­ga­tors

Montreal Gazette - - WORLD -

• At $7,500 apiece, the hand­made cus­tom suits for­mer Don­ald Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort wore were meant to daz­zle and impress. An in­dict­ment un­sealed Mon­day de­tail­ing con­spir­acy and money laun­der­ing charges against him sug­gests they cer­tainly caught the eye of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller.

A lux­ury cloth­ing store in New York is among 19 ven­dors Manafort paid some US$12 mil­lion to be­tween 2008 and 2014 from for­eign bank ac­counts he didn’t dis­close, us­ing off­shore com­pa­nies regis­tered in coun­tries such as Cyprus and the Gre­nadines to make the pur­chases, court pa­pers al­lege.

In the span of just six days in July 2008, the records show, Manafort spent close to $100,000 on $8,500-apiece cus­tom cash­mere and silk sport coats, be­spoke trousers, mul­ti­ple $7,000 suits and other items.

Be­sides the suits, Manafort used the money to buy an­tique rugs and art, make pay­ments on three Range Rovers and in­stall an US$112,825 au­dio-visual sys­tem in his Hamp­tons home — all with­out pay­ing taxes on that in­come, the in­dict­ment charges.

Manafort, who Mueller has charged with work­ing as an undis­closed for­eign agent for Ukrainian in­ter­ests, turned him­self in Mon­day. He hasn’t com­mented but has pre­vi­ously de­nied any wrong­do­ing. He and for­mer deputy Rick Gates pleaded not guilty dur­ing a Mon­day court ap­pear­ance. His lawyer, Kevin Down­ing, called the in­dict­ment’s charges that Manafort used off­shore ac­counts to con­ceal funds from the gov­ern­ment “ridicu­lous.”

Pros­e­cu­tors said Manafort and gates are flight risks be­cause of their for­eign ties, but didn’t seek their de­ten­tion ahead of a trial. Manafort was re­quired to post a US$10 mil­lion bond, while Gates had to put up a US$5 mil­lion bond to be re­leased. They also sur­ren­dered their pass­ports.

For in­ves­ti­ga­tors, get­ting into the pre­cise na­ture of what Manafort did in Ukraine posed plenty of prob­lems, not least be­cause of its distance from the U.S. A sim­pler ap­proach was to demon­strate whether Manafort con­trolled over­seas bank ac­counts that had never been re­ported to the IRS, and that he had spent that money in the United States.

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