US investigates ex-Trump campaign chief

ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON
Published 24.03.2017 00:00

U.S. Treasury Department agents have recently obtained information about offshore financial transactions involving President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, as part of a federal anti-corruption probe into his work in Eastern Europe, The Associated Press stated.

Information about Manafort's transactions was turned over earlier this year to U.S. agents working in the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network by investigators in Cyprus at the U.S. agency's request, a person familiar with the case said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to publicly discuss a criminal investigation.

The Cyprus attorney general, one of the country's top law enforcement officers, was made aware of the American request.

Manafort, who was Trump's unpaid campaign chairman from March until August last year, has been a leading focus of the U.S. government's investigation into whether Trump associates coordinated with Moscow to meddle in the 2016 campaign. This week, the AP revealed his secret work for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago.

Federal prosecutors became interested in Manafort's activities years ago as part of a broad investigation to recover stolen Ukrainian assets after the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych there in early 2014. No U.S. criminal charges have ever been filed in the case.

It was not immediately clear what time period was covered under the government request for information about Manafort's financial transactions in Cyprus. Manafort was known to route financial transactions through Cyprus, according to records of international wire transfers obtained by the AP and public court documents filed in a 2014 legal dispute in the Cayman Islands.

In the 2014 case, Manafort used Cypriot shell companies as part of a nearly $19 million deal with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska to purchase Ukrainian cable television provider Black Sea Cable. Deripaska said that after taking the money, Manafort and his associates stopped responding to Deripaska's queries about how the funds had been used.

Cypriot officials said further information would have to come to the agency through a formal request to the Cypriot Ministry of Justice and Public Order — under a mutual legal assistance treaty — although no request has been made, according to two officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the case.

The White House said Trump had not been aware of Manafort's work on behalf of Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006. "To suggest that the president knew who his clients were from 10 years ago is a bit insane," Press Secretary Sean Spicer said. "I don't know what he got paid to do," Spicer said, adding, "There's no suggestion he did anything improper."

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