The US Investigation on Russia’s Elections Meddling: the Case of Trump’s Former Campaign Manager, Money Laundering and Putin’s “Relative”

How do Deripaska and Yanukovych come into the picture?
01.11.2017
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In the United States, the investigation about Russia's interference in the presidential elections is continuing. On October 30, Donald Trump's campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was placed under house arrest. Official charges are not connected with the presidential company. However, the case against him can become a lever for obtaining information about Russia's interference. Russiangate briefly tells what is known about this case up to the moment.


WHO IS MANAFORT

Paul Manafort is a political consultant and lobbyist. At various times, he advised several presidential candidates in the US (Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, both Bushs). However, the geography of his activities was not limited to this country alone. Manafort and his firm also advised the leaders of several foreign countries: from Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

In June 2016, Manafort headed the campaign of presidential candidate Donald Trump. In mid-August, it transpired that from 2004 to 2014, Manafort received $ 12.7 million from Yanukovych’s party. The election campaign manager rejected these charges, but resigned four days later.

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Paul Manafort. Photo: Carlo Allegri / Reuters, file

MR DERIPASKA

In addition to Yanukovych, whom the American establishment calls a pro-Russian politician, Manafort allegedly assisted another person connected with the Russian government.

From 2006 to 2009, he provided services to Oleg Deripaska. Manafort’s work was to promote Vladimir Putin’s interests in the United States, wrote the Associated Press. For this, the political consultant’s company was receiving $ 10 million per year from the Russian billionaire. All this transpired in March 2017.

The billionaire rejected all charges. He said that he had never signed contracts to promote the interests of the “Putin government” anywhere. He added that he was ready to speak at a congressional hearing in order to protect his reputation. At that, the very fact that he advised him, Manafort did not deny. The representative of the Russian billionaire stressed that it concerned exclusively Deripaska's interests. Manafort also did not deny having worked with the businessman.

“Let him come to the States, let him speak in Congress. If law enforcement agencies, security services will indeed make some real claims based on something against him, well then at least we will understand what the whole is about,” Putin said, commenting on the situation.

Later, it became known that Deripaska transferred Manafort $ 19 million for investment in the Ukrainian cable network through an offshore company. However, the political consultant did not invest.

WHAT IS MANAFORT ACCUSED OF?

Together with Manafort, his business partner, Rick Gates, who, along with him, was involved in Trump's election campaign, was placed under house arrest. All this is happening within the framework of the ongoing investigation of the special counsel Robert Mueller about the alleged collusion of Trump's electoral headquarters with Russia.

Manafort and Gates are accused of concealing offshore bank accounts and “forgetfulness”: the partners did not register their company as a foreign agent while working for Yanukovych. By law, they had to do this, because they received money for lobbying from a foreign politician.

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Rick Gates (on the left) and US President Donald Trump. Photo: Voice of America

The prosecutor believes that the businessmen have earned tens of millions of dollars for political consultations. In order to avoid taxes, Manafort and Gates laundered money through American and offshore companies that they registered in the Seychelles, Cyprus, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

In total, through the offshore companies, the businessmen siphoned off $ 75 million. In the period from 2012 to 2014, Manafort received $ 17 million from the Ukrainian Party of Regions. The President of Ukraine at that time, Viktor Yanukovych, was the winner from this party. This money they received for lobbying Yanukovych’s and his party’s interests among the members of the US Congress.

Manafort is accused of laundering $ 18 million, and Gates — $ 3 million; giving false testimony, conspiring against the US, failure to notify about foreign accounts. Both businessmen deny these charges. However, if they are found guilty, Manafort may face 12.5 to 15 years of imprisonment, Gates — from 10 to 12.5 years.

In fact, charges brought against Manafort and Gates are not related to the pre-election campaign. But special prosecutor Mueller hopes that the defendants will go for a plea bargain, Bloomberg writes. To avoid punishment, they will tell all they know about Russia's influence on the elections in the United States.

PUTIN’S RELATIVE

On the same day when Manafort and Gates were arrested, the special counsel published the testimony of the former adviser to Trump's headquarters, George Papadopoulos. The statesman was arrested at the end of July and the testimony was given on October 5, 2017.

In his testimony, Papadopoulos admits that he met with an unnamed British professor in London. The latter assured him that he has access to Russian officials who are ready to provide compromising evidence for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The same professor introduced Trump's advisor to a woman whom he introduced as Putin's niece. She promised Papadopoulos help in organizing a meeting between Putin and Trump. In addition, the woman introduced the official to the alleged representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry, with whom Papadopoulos later communicated.

The consultant reported on what was happening to the members of Trump's electoral headquarters. When they rejected the idea of meeting Trump with Putin, Papadopoulos himself planned to meet with someone from Russian officials, but, in the end, that never took place.

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