Manafort pleads not guilty in money laundering case

February 28, 2018 GMT

Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman accused of laundering $30 million to support a lavish lifestyle, pleaded not guilty in his first court appearance since Special Counsel Robert Mueller unveiled two new indictments against him last week.

Manafort, 68, entered his plea in federal court in Washington, D.C., where he was initially indicted in October with Rick Gates, his longtime business associate and deputy on the Trump campaign. Manafort previously denied those charges. Now Mueller has intensified the pressure on Manafort by winning a guilty plea and cooperation deal with Gates and filing the new charges against Manafort.

Mueller is investigating Russian collusion with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. He accuses Manafort of conspiring against the U.S., money laundering and acting as an unregistered agent of Ukraine in his work there as a political consultant. In a separate indictment in Virginia, Manafort is charged with tax-related and other crimes.

Prosecutors say Manafort earned tens of millions of dollars over a decade in his Ukrainian work, which he moved to the U.S. through offshore accounts so he could buy real estate, home improvements, luxury cars, expensive suits, landscaping services, artwork and rugs. Manafort moved the money into the U.S. without paying taxes on the income, according to prosecutors.

Manafort will be arraigned Friday in Alexandria, Virginia, on charges of bank fraud, filing false tax returns and hiding offshore accounts from the U.S. Prosecutors say he defrauded lenders of more than $20 million by inflating his company’s income and hiding its debt. Those charges couldn’t be filed in Washington for technical legal reasons.

Parts of Manafort’s alleged fraud took place during and after the several months he spent working on the Trump campaign in 2016. The charges don’t relate to the campaign or to colluding with Russia.

Mueller has charged 19 people, including five who pleaded guilty and 13 Russians accused of using social media, fake rallies and secretive operatives in the U.S. to create “political intensity” among radical groups, opposition social movements and disaffected voters.

The case is U.S. v Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).