Sat, Feb 24, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Mueller files new charges against Manafort, Gates

FROM ALL SIDES:The fresh charges were part of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties with Russia, but mainly addressed financial crimes

AP, WASHINGTON

Dramatically escalating the pressure and stakes, US Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Thursday filed additional criminal charges against US President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman and his business associate.

The filing adds allegations of tax evasion and bank fraud, and significantly increases the legal jeopardy facing former Trump presidential campaign manager Paul Manafort and longtime associate Rick Gates. Both had already faced the prospect of at least a decade in prison if convicted at trial.

The two men were initially charged in a 12-count indictment in October that accused them of a multimillion-dollar money laundering conspiracy tied to lobbying work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party. Manafort and Gates, who also worked on Trump’s campaign, both pleaded not guilty after that indictment.

The new charges, contained in a 32-count indictment returned by a US federal grand jury in Virginia, allege that Manafort and Gates doctored financial documents, lied to tax preparers and defrauded banks — using money they cycled through offshore accounts to spend lavishly, including on real estate, interior decoration and other luxury goods.

The new criminal case, assigned to US District Judge Thomas Ellis III, comes a week after a separate indictment by Mueller charged 13 Russians and three companies in a conspiracy to undermine the 2016 US presidential election through a hidden social-media propaganda effort.

The charges against Manafort and Gates do not relate to any allegations of misconduct related to Trump’s campaign, although Mueller is continuing to investigate potential ties to the Kremlin.

Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni said in a statement that the former campaign chairman is innocent and stressed that the charges “have nothing to do with Russia and 2016 election interference/collusion.”

Manafort “is confident that he will be acquitted of all charges,” Maloni said.

The charges against Manafort and Gates arise from their foreign lobbying and efforts that prosecutors have said they made to conceal their income by disguising it as loans from offshore companies.

More recently, after their Ukrainian work dwindled, the indictment also accuses them of fraudulently obtaining more than US$20 million in loans from financial institutions.

The new indictment increases the amount of money Manafort, with the assistance of Gates, is accused of laundering to US$30 million. It also charges Manafort and Gates with filing false tax returns from 2010 through 2014 and in most of those years concealing their foreign bank accounts from the US Internal Revenue Service.

The indictment contains references to other conspirators who are accused of helping Manafort and Gates in obtaining fraudulent loans. It does not name the conspirators, but notes that one of them worked at one of the lenders.

The indictment comes amid ongoing turmoil in the Manafort and Gates defense camps. Manafort has been unable to reach an agreement with prosecutors over the terms of his bail and remains under house arrest, while Gates’ lawyers withdrew from the case after acknowledging “irreconcilable differences” with their client.

Mueller was appointed in May to investigate potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. He took over an ongoing FBI investigation into Manafort’s foreign lobbying work.

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