News President Trump

Saturday 24 August 2019

Manafort has three passports and 'poses a flight risk', says Mueller's office

U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort. Photo: Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort. Photo: Reuters

Spencer Hsu in Washington

US President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort keeps three US passports with different identification numbers, and submitted 10 passport applications in as many years, the office of special counsel Robert Mueller has disclosed in a new court filing.

The submission argued that Mr Manafort poses a significant flight risk.

The 17-page filing came one day after Mr Manafort and long-time business partner Rick Gates pleaded not guilty to an unsealed 12-count indictment alleging conspiracy to launder money, making false statements and other charges in connection with their work advising a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine.

In the first criminal allegations to come from probes into possible Russian influence in US political affairs, prosecutors pressed their case against the two defendants, who face a hearing today to set their bail terms.

A US magistrate on Monday put the men on home confinement pending that hearing, after Mr Manafort (68) pledged to pay a $10m (€8.6m) penalty and Mr Gates a $5m (€4.3m) one if they failed to appear.

Prosecutors argued in the new filing that they "pose a risk of flight" based on a "history of deceptive and misleading conduct", the evidence against them, and their wealth and foreign connections.

The incentive to flee is even stronger "for a defendant such as Mr Manafort, who is in his late 60s", the government observed, noting that he faces a recommended sentence of about 12 to 15 years in prison if convicted, and Mr Gates 10 to 12 years, not counting "related frauds".

In addition to noting Mr Manafort's unusual acquisition of numerous US passports, "indicative of his travel schedule", prosecutors Andrew Weissmann, Greg Andres and Kyle Freeny expanded on their argument on Monday, citing the government's difficulty in ascertaining Mr Manafort's wealth.

"Mr Manafort's financial holdings are substantial, if difficult to quantify precisely because of his varying representations... The full extent of [his assets] is unclear," they said.

Mr Manafort, for instance, reported $42m (€36m) in assets in March 2016; $136m (€117m) that May; and $28m (€24m) and $63m (€54m) that August, in two separate financial applications, the government said.

Mr Gates listed his and his wife's net worth as $30m (€26m) in a February 2016 application for a line of credit, but just $2.6m (€2.2m) in a March 2016 residential loan application.

Mr Manafort's attorney Kevin Downing told the court that his client "definitely disagree[d]" with prosecutors using the "valuation of assets that fluctuate greatly in different countries" to argue against his release.

Separately, outside the courthouse, Mr Downing said: "There is no evidence that Mr Manafort and the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government."

Mr Downing called the charges "ridiculous", saying that they interpreted Mr Manafort's maintaining of offshore accounts as a means to bring his funds into the United States as a scheme to conceal assets.

Mr Gates's temporary attorney, assistant federal defender David Bos, declined to comment, saying Mr Gates is arranging for new private counsel.

The new court filing was disclosed after business hours after prosecutors had asked - and the court had then ordered - that portions of the case should be unsealed.

Irish Independent

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