New court documents in Paul Manafort’s criminal case give the fullest picture yet of what prosecutors say was the former Trump campaign chairman’s financial reliance on Ukrainians suspected of corruption and a Russian oligarch, while he allegedly schemed to defraud banks and the US government.
A Virginia federal court unveiled several new details on Tuesday in two search warrants and accompanying affidavits used to search Paul Manafort’s properties.
The search warrant documents, which have been available in court records for months but previously had dozens of pages redacted, reveal for the first time how prosecutors believe former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian’s financial backer Rinat Akhmetov and Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska propped up Manafort’s alleged crimes.
One search warrant allowed federal investigators to remove files from a storage unit in Alexandria last May, while the other let them sweep his Alexandria residence in July 2017.
Prosecutors have previously said Manafort engaged in a money laundering conspiracy after he hid his foreign lobbying activities. But the newly unredacted parts of the search warrants for the first time connect Manafort and his longtime deputy Rick Gates to alleged Ukrainian government corruption.
“Based on reporting from multiple sources, the FBI believes that Yanukovych’s government engages in systemic public corruption. The same sources report that corrupt government officials and their allies in the business community during Yanukovych’s presidency looted Ukraine’s public coffers of millions of dollars and funneled those assets to foreign bank accounts to hide the embezzlement,” an FBI affidavit used to obtain one of the warrants says.
In an interview with FBI investigators in 2014, Gates said “that various oligarchs would chip in to pay them for their consulting work,” according to the search warrant. Earlier this year, Gates pleaded guilty to lying to investigators and engaging in a conspiracy related to the Manafort business and lobbying work. He has since been cooperating with prosecutors and has not yet been sentenced for the crimes.
“Gates said he was directed by Ukrainians to open accounts in Cyprus and Grenadines. Gates was told that it was easier for the Ukrainians to pay Gates and Manafort from one Cypriot account to another Cypriot account. Gates was also told that Ukrainians did not want others to know the identity of their campaign manager,” one search warrant affidavit says.
The affidavit also lists a $10 million loan that Deripaska gave to a Manafort business, citing 2010 tax records. It also mentions another unnamed oligarch that Manafort worked with to discuss an unspecified New York real estate transaction.
Deripaska has said that instead of assisting Manafort’s scheme, he was its victim. The Russian accused Manafort and Gates in a lawsuit earlier this year of “vanishing” $26 million he gave them a decade ago. It’s not clear whether the $10 million loan mentioned in the warrant this week was part of the transfers Deripaska named in the lawsuit, though The Associated Press reported last year that Manafort had a $10 million annual contract with Deripaska that began in 2006 and ran for a few years. The lawsuit, which Deripaska filed in New York state following Manafort and Gates’ indictment by special counsel Robert Mueller, is now paused because of the criminal matter.
The search warrant affidavit says that a shell company Manafort controlled – named John Hannah LLC after Manafort’s and another business partners’ middle names – received the large loan from Deripaska. Manafort used the same shell company to purchase an apartment in Trump Tower years earlier, in 2006, according to public records. That was around the time Deripaska began funding Manafort’s work, according to the court filing.
One warrant also says that Manafort was deeply in debt when he worked for Trump in 2016 and especially at the time he left the campaign that August.
His credit had dropped significantly from two months earlier after he charged $300,000 to an American Express card for New York Yankees season tickets, the search warrant says.
“He is so in debt,” a person whose name was redacted wrote at the time, according to the warrant documents. Another person wrote that Manafort, aside from getting a $3.5 million loan, was “$1 million off!”
The reference remains partially redacted and prosecutors don’t explain it further.
The search warrants describe Manafort as a former campaign chairman of Donald Trump, but do not connect the campaign itself to actions he took to commit alleged financial crimes. The charges Manafort faces in court – to which he’s pleaded not guilty – also don’t touch on his work for Trump and largely relate to lobbying he did before 2016.
The federal court in Virginia unsealed the more complete versions of the search warrants in advance of a hearing Friday where they may be mentioned, the court records said. Virginia federal Judge TS Ellis will consider Manafort’s requests to suppress evidence obtained through the searches.