Ukraine cheers Manafort’s in­dict­ment

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS -

KYIV, Ukraine — The news of Paul Manafort’s in­dict­ment on Mon­day elicited cheers in Ukraine, where ac­tivists and politi­cians seek­ing to root out po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion had seethed at the Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tive’s coun­sel to the coun­try’s ousted leader, Vik­tor Yanukovych.

Re­ports of the mil­lions of dol­lars Manafort had been paid un­der the ta­ble by Ukraine’s for­mer rul­ing party were par­tic­u­larly galling — and Ukraini­ans learned from the in­dict­ment Mon­day that those pay­ments may have been even larger than thought.

But while Wash­ing­ton is won­der­ing where the probe led by Robert Mueller into Rus­sian med­dling in the U.S. elections will lead next, peo­ple here are won­der­ing more about what this means for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mil­lions of dol­lars in oli­garch wealth that have stub­bornly slowed the coun­try’s pro­gram of re­form.

“It’s great news. There should be a prece­dent of pun­ish­ment for the lob­by­ists who served these cor­rupt fig­ures,” said Ser­hiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian mem­ber of par­lia­ment and in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist who pub­lished doc­u­ments show­ing se­cret pay­ments to Manafort by the rul­ing party un­der Yanukovych and then in­voices to Manafort con­sult­ing com­pa­nies on the same day. “Manafort worked for a long time so that Yanukovych could come to power, and use that power for his own cor­rupt schemes, not for re­form.”

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion, as he saw it, is far from fin­ished.

“I want in­ves­ti­ga­tions into all of Manafort’s con­nec­tions and the peo­ple who paid him this money,” he added, nam­ing sev­eral prom­i­nent Ukrainian oli­garchs.

In a decades-long ca­reer, Manafort made tens of mil­lions of dol­lars far be­yond the borders of es­tab­lished democ­ra­cies, work­ing for despotic lead­ers and their al­lies in coun­tries like the Philip­pines and the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo.

But his work in one coun­try, Ukraine, caught up with him on Mon­day in a crim­i­nal in­dict­ment de­scrib­ing il­licit earn­ings, off­shore bank ac­counts and lav­ish ex­pen­di­tures funded in part by nearly a decade of work for Ukraine’s Party of Re­gions and Yanukovych, who fled to Rus­sia af­ter his regime was top­pled by pro­test­ers in 2014.

De­spite nu­mer­ous re­ports of se­cret pay­ments, Mon­day’s 12-count in­dict­ment against Manafort and a for­mer busi­ness part­ner still yielded new ac­cu­sa­tions for Ukrainian pros­e­cu­tors in­ves­ti­gat­ing the for­mer Yanukovych ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Among them: Lob­by­ing mem­bers of Congress for the Ukrainian gov­ern­ment, in one case us­ing an off­shore ac­count to se­cretly fun­nel $4 mil­lion to com­mis­sion a re­port about the trial of for­mer Ukrainian prime min­is­ter Yu­lia Ty­moshenko.

“This was new in­for­ma­tion for us,” Ser­hiy Gor­batyuk, the head of spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tions for the pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice, said in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

It took an un­likely con­flu­ence of events: The 2014 po­lit­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion in Ukraine that ousted Yanukovych, the dis­cov­ery of se­cret cam­paign fi­nance doc­u­ments at the head­quar­ters of Ukraine’s rul­ing Party of Re­gions, and then Manafort’s lead­ing role as cam­paign man­ager for Don­ald Trump, for Mueller to zero in on Manafort’s al­leged schemes to laun­der money, evade U.S. taxes, and en­gage in “con­spir­acy against the United States.”

In Kyiv, where politi­cians have been care­ful not to an­tag­o­nize the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, Manafort re­mains just a wit­ness as pros­e­cu­tors pur­sue cor­rup­tion charges against the Yanukovych ad­min­is­tra­tion. Gor­batyuk said his re­quests to the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice to co­op­er­ate had not yet re­ceived a re­sponse.

“In or­der for the case to move for­ward bet­ter, we need an­swers to our questions. So far, we haven’t re­ceived any. Manafort at this mo­ment is a wit­ness in the case,” he said.

On Mon­day, al­lies and as­so­ciates of Manafort’s in Ukraine, where he re­mains a deeply di­vi­sive fig­ure, brushed off the al­le­ga­tions, call­ing them the re­sult of a po­lit­i­cal mo­ti­vated witch­hunt fol­low­ing Trump’s un­ex­pected as­cen­dency to the pres­i­dency.

JAMES BERGLIE / ZUMA PRESS / TNS FILES

Robert Mueller has been pur­su­ing al­le­ga­tions about Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the U.S. elec­tion.

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