Expensive suits caught eye of investigators
• 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.