Probe of ex-Trump aide finds its way to Cyprus

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Jack Gillum, Menelaos Hadjicostis and Eric Tucker

In­ves­ti­ga­tors look into Paul Manafort’s work in the is­land na­tion, no­to­ri­ous as a haven for Rus­sian money laun­der­ing.

The U.S. govern­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man, Paul Manafort, crossed the At­lantic ear­lier this year to the Mediter­ranean is­land na­tion of Cyprus, once known as a haven for money laun­der­ing by Rus­sian bil­lion­aires.

Trea­sury agents in re­cent months ob­tained in­for­ma­tion con­nected to Manafort’s trans­ac­tions from Cypriot au­thor­i­ties, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter who was not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly. The re­quest was part of a fed­eral anti-cor­rup­tion probe into Manafort’s work in Eastern Europe. The Cyprus at­tor­ney gen­eral, one of the coun­try’s top law en­force­ment of­fi­cers, was also aware of the Amer­i­can re­quest.

Manafort was Trump’s un­paid cam­paign chair­man from March un­til Au­gust last year, dur­ing the crit­i­cal run-up to the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion. He’s been a lead­ing fo­cus of the U.S. in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether Trump as­so­ciates co­or­di­nated with Moscow to med­dle in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

Manafort, when asked about the Cyprus trans­ac­tions on Thurs­day, char­ac­ter­ized them as a nor­mal prac­tice. “Like many com­pa­nies do­ing busi­ness in­ter­na­tion­ally, my com­pany was paid via wire trans­fer, typ­i­cally us­ing clients’ pre­ferred fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions and in­struc­tions,” he said.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors be­came interested in Manafort’s ac­tiv­i­ties years ago as part of a broad in­ves­ti­ga­tion to re­cover stolen Ukrainian as­sets af­ter the ouster of pro-Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych there in early 2014. No U.S. crim­i­nal charges have been filed in the case.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear what time pe­riod of Manafort’s trans­ac­tions was cov­ered un­der the re­quest from the Trea­sury Depart­ment’s Fi­nan­cial Crimes En­force­ment Net­work. Manafort was known to route fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions through Cyprus, ac­cord­ing to records of in­ter­na­tional wire trans­fers and pub­lic court doc­u­ments filed in a 2014 le­gal dis­pute in the Cay­man Is­lands with Rus­sian bil­lion­aire Oleg Deri­paska.

As part of their in­ves­ti­ga­tion, U.S. of­fi­cials were ex­pected to look into mil­lions of dol­lars’ worth of wire trans­fers to Manafort. In one case, a Manafortlinked com­pany re­ceived a $1 mil­lion pay­ment in Oc­to­ber 2009 from a mysterious firm through the Bank of Cyprus. The $1 mil­lion left the ac­count the same day — split in two, roughly $500,000 dis­burse­ments to ac­counts with no ob­vi­ous owner.

There is noth­ing in­her­ently il­licit about us­ing mul­ti­ple com­pa­nies as Manafort was do­ing.

But it was un­clear why he would have been in­volved with com­pa­nies in Cyprus, known for its his­tory of money laun­der­ing be­fore join­ing the Euro­pean Union, with un­clear sources of the money flow­ing in to them and se­crecy sur­round­ing the firms’ con­nec­tions to him.

The White House said Trump had not been aware of Manafort’s work on be­half of Deri­paska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort, who is 67, even­tu­ally signed a $10 mil­lion an­nual con­tract be­gin­ning in 2006.

“The pres­i­dent was not aware of Paul’s clients from the last decade,” said spokesman Sean Spicer.

“What else don’t we know? I mean, where he went to school, what grades he got, who he played with in the sand­box?”

MATT ROURKE / AP 2016

For­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the Trea­sury Depart­ment’s Fi­nan­cial Crimes En­force­ment Net­work. No charges have been filed in the case.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.