As speculation mounts that Paul Manafort might be the target of the sealed indictments reportedly approved by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury, Buzzfeed is reporting new details of Mueller’s probe into Manafort, seemingly a hint that he will in fact be one of, if not the only, target taken into custody tomorrow.
The FBI's investigation of Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, includes a keen focus on a series of suspicious wire transfers in which offshore companies linked to Manafort moved more than $3 million all over the globe between 2012 and 2013.Much of the money came into the United States.
These transactions — which have not been previously reported — drew the attention of federal law enforcement officials as far back as 2012, when they began to examine wire transfers to determine if Manafort hid money from tax authorities or helped the Ukrainian regime close to Russian President Vladimir Putin launder some of the millions it plundered through corrupt dealings.
The new revelations come as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is tightening, with reports that an indictment may already have been issued. It is not known if Manafort has been indicted, or if he ever will be. Manafort has been the subject of multiple law enforcement and congressional inquiries. A spokesperson for Manafort would not comment for this story about the investigation or any of the specific transactions, but Manafort has previously denied wrongdoing.
Manafort took charge of Trump’s campaign in May 2016 and was forced to resign just three months later, amid intense media scrutiny of his ties to the notoriously corrupt former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was supported by the Kremlin. A political operative for decades, the 68-year-old Manafort has worked for Republicans such as Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, as well as for foreign leaders such as former Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos.
To be sure, the subject or subjects of the indictment have not been revealed – and leaking any more details from the grand jury room would only serve to further erode Mueller’s credibility.
And it’s important to Manafort is only one of a handful of Trump associates to face scrutiny in the probe – that group also includes President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. But the probe into Manafort has been subject to an unusual number of leaks, including reports that his home had been raided by the FBI over the summer, and that Mueller had been looking into his tax records in search of a ‘check the box’ violation.
Adding to this, Roger Stone reportedly testified that Mueller’s team had informed Manafort that he should expect to be indicted.
As Buzzfeed pointed out, Manafort is reportedly also being investigated for money laundering by federal prosecutors in New York City, but there have been no formal charges from that probe. The FBI searched his home during a pre-dawn raid this summer, reportedly as part of Mueller’s probe. Manafort has consistently maintained his innocence.
Mueller is reportedly examining at least 13 wire transfers that occurred between 2012 and 2013. The transfers were flagged by Treasury officials as suspicious, which triggered an FBI investigation that – tellingly – never led to charges. It’s unknown how that investigation was resolved.
Now, BuzzFeed News has learned that investigators have been scrutinizing at least 13 wire transfers between 2012 and 2013. The transfers were first flagged by American financial institutions, which are required by law to tell an office within the Treasury Department about any transactions they deem suspicious. Such “suspicious activity reports” do not prove wrongdoing. Federal law requires financial institutions to file reports on cash transactions that exceed $10,000 in a single day, even if those transactions seem otherwise legitimate. Banks are also required to file the reports whenever they suspect money laundering or other financial crimes.
Bank officers flagged unusual behavior among five offshore companies that authorities say are associated with Manafort: Global Endeavour Inc., Lucicle Consultants Ltd., and three others that appear to have no current contact information.
Law enforcement sources say the companies sent funds in round-dollar amounts without explanation of what the money was to be used for. The countries where these transactions originated — notably Cyprus and the Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines — are notorious for money laundering. Federal law enforcement officials said they saw evidence of “layering,” the process by which the origin of money is obscured behind many layers of companies. Much of the money ended up in the US, sent to American home improvement contractors, a hedge fund, and even a car dealership.
Manafort’s suspicious financial transactions were first flagged by Treasury officials as far back as 2012 and forwarded to the FBI’s International Corruption Unit and the Department of Justice for further investigation in 2013 and 2014, a former Treasury official who worked on the matter told BuzzFeed News. The extent of Manafort’s suspicious transactions was so vast, said this former official, that law enforcement agents drafted a series of “intelligence reports” about Manafort’s financial dealings. Two law enforcement officials who worked on the case say that they found red flags in his banking records going back as far as 2004, and that the transactions in question totaled many millions of dollars.
Buzzfeed later implies that Manafort helped Viktor Yanukovich – who is suspected to be the ultimate source of the payments, which were presumably made in exchange for Manafort’s consulting work – loot Ukraine’s public Treasury.
BuzzFeed News has learned specific details about 13 of the wire transfers, all of which took place between 2012 and 2013. At least four of the transfers originated with Manafort’s company Global Endeavour, a political consulting firm based in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Global Endeavour was hired by Yanukovych to consult and lobby on his behalf. Ousted after the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution, Yanukovych lives in exile in Russia and is accused of treason by Ukrainian authorities; the country’s general prosecutor said Yanukovych’s embezzlement of state funds was so egregious it resembled a “mafia structure.”
Wire transfers flagged as suspicious show that during the waning months of Yanukovych’s presidency, Global Endeavour sent more than $750,000 out of Ukraine. None of these transactions have been previously reported.
In November and December of 2013, for example, the company transferred almost $53,000 to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Kiev-based political operator. It’s not known what the money was for. A federal law enforcement official described Kilimnik as a linguist trained by the Russian army and about whom the US has gathered intelligence. He reportedly attended a military school some experts believe to be a training ground for Russian spies.
Kilimnik worked with Manafort for more than a decade, and the Washington Post reported that Manafort emailed his old partner in 2016 to offer “private briefings” to a Russian billionaire close to President Vladimir Putin.
Kilimnik declined to comment when reached Saturday by BuzzFeed News.
In September 2013, Global Endeavour transferred $500,000 that would ultimately end up back in Manafort’s control. First it went to a hedge fund in Florida, Aegis Holdings LLC, that is controlled by Marc Baldinger, a broker who in 2014 was suspended for 18 months for engaging in deals his financial institution didn’t know about. Baldinger’s brother, Bruce, is a real estate attorney who has worked with Manafort for about a decade.
While the wire transfers Buzzfeed reported on mostly involved Manafort’s Global Endeavor lobbying company, the FBI is also reportedly examining suspicious wire transfers involving other companies.
In addition to transactions involving Global Endeavour, there were wire transfers, never before reported, flagged as suspicious involving other companies. There were three by the Cyprus-based Lucicle Consultants — which has “strong ties” to Manafort, according to federal law enforcement sources — in March and April 2012. The company transferred a total of about $2.5 million, some of it directly to accounts controlled by Manafort. No contact information for Lucicle or any of its officers could be found.
Given that leaking Manafort as the target would be too damaging, is this leak Mueller’s way of taunting the former Trump campaign executive before indictments are handed down?
Or are these just more trivial details about Manafort receiving payment for his lobbying work?
What do you think?
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