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Manafort accused of trying to tamper with witnesses


Paul Manafort, former chairman of US President Trump’s election campaign, departs a federal court house after a status hearing in Washington on Feb. 14.

Photo: EPA

Paul Manafort, the former chairman of US President Donald Trump’s election campaign, made several attempts to tamper with witnesses in his ongoing criminal case, prosecutors said as they asked a federal judge to consider jailing him while he awaits trial.

In a court filing on Monday, prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller wrote that Manafort and one of his associates “repeatedly” contacted two witnesses in an effort to influence their testimony.

The contacts occurred earlier this year, shortly after a grand jury returned a new indictment against Manafort and while he was confined to his home.

The filing marks the second time that Mueller’s team has accused Manafort of violating a judge’s order in the case.

Late last year, federal agents discovered that Manafort was attempting to ghostwrite an opinion piece in Ukraine, even though he was under a gag order in the case.

The allegations of attempted witness tampering relate to Manafort’s criminal case in Washington, where he faces charges of money-laundering conspiracy, making false statements and acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests.

He also faces bank fraud and tax evasion charges in Virginia.

The charges — which involve tens of millions of US dollars routed through offshore accounts — do not relate to his work on the Trump campaign nor do they involve allegations of Russian election interference.

In the latest court documents, prosecutors say that while he was under house arrest, Manafort and his associate attempted to get two witnesses to lie about the nature of lobbying and public relations work they carried out at Manafort’s direction on behalf of Ukraine.

The court documents do not name Manafort’s associate, but they refer to him as “Person A” and note that the pseudonym is consistent with previous filings in the case.

In earlier filings, “Person A” referred to Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime Manafort associate who prosecutors have said has ties to Russian intelligence.

Kilimnik, who has denied having connections to Russian intelligence agencies, was also involved in the ghostwritten op-ed matter, which prosecutors also connect to “Person A” in the latest filing.

Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni said his client and his attorneys were reviewing the filing.

The two witnesses were also not named in court filings, but prosecutors say they were principals in a public relations firm that worked with Manafort in organizing a group of former European officials, known as the Hapsburg group, who promoted Ukrainian interests in Europe and the US.

The group’s work factors into an indictment against Manafort that accuses him of acting as an unregistered foreign agent by lobbying in the US on behalf of Ukrainian interests.

Prosecutors say Manafort directed the group’s work and secretly funneled more than US$2 million to it to take positions favorable to Ukraine, including by lobbying in the US without disclosing that they were being paid to favorably represent the nation.

Manafort has denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

Several members of the Hapsburg group have previously denied the allegations.

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