A New York Times report revealed that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump‘s presidential campaign manager, was set to receive $12.7 million in illegal cash payments from former president Viktor F. Yanukovych‘s Party of Regions.
Yanukovych had been previously involved in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He was removed from his position as president by the Ukrainian parliament on the argument that he was incapable of sustaining the presidency and was accused of the mass killing of civilians.
Paul Manafort worked as a consultant for Yanukovich’s party from 2007 to 2012, and local government investigations revealed the existence of Manafort’s name on a business ledger. Ukrainian authorities stated that the transaction was an illegal payment that included diverse election officials and business associates.
Manafort’s shady businesses in Ukraine
Manafort was also linked to being in relations with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, president of the world’s largest aluminum company and a man known to keep close relations to Vladimir Putin. When asked for comment, Manafort refused to answer, but his lawyer commented that he did not receive any payment related to what Ukrainian anti-corruption officials have found in the handwritten ledger.
It is known as the “black ledger.” It contains around 400 pages and it was found on the Party of Regions main offices in Kiev. According to the National Anti-corruption Bureau, 22 entries showed Manafort’s name over the course of five years, which added up to the disclosed $12.7 million. There are still doubts about the precedence of the payments and their purpose.
“We emphasize that the presence of P. Manafort’s name in the list does not mean that he actually got the money, because the signatures that appear in the column of recipients could belong to other people,” reads a statement from Ukraine’s National Anti-corruption Bureau.
Serhy V. Gorbatyuk, Ukraine’s main authority when it comes to corruption in the highest public spheres, acknowledged that there are several offshore companies whose owners are hidden away from scrutiny. One of these companies is Milltown Corporate Services Ltd., which was involved in a Ukrainian government purchase of $785 million for two oil derricks, almost double the estimated price of what the cost should have been.
A similar firm, Pericles Emerging Markets, was revealed to be linked to Manafort, who created the fund alongside other partners including Oleg Deripaska. Manafort’s lawyer stated that Manafort did not receive any payment from Pericles Emerging Markets, but he revealed that Rick Gates, another of Trump’s campaign associates, did receive money from the fund.
Trump’s clear relationship with pro-Russian interests
The amount of ties that Trump’s campaign has with Putin’s Russia is concerning. Trump has already publicly suggested that Russia hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails and has expressed sympathy for the Russian leader. He has also stated that, if he were to become president, Russian forces would restrain from further entering into Ukraine and that he would recognize Putin’s holding of Crimea.
“The people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that, also,” he stated in an interview.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook has weighed on the matter by calling for Donald Trump’s disclosure on his relationship with pro-Russian entities, seeing that many of his associates have received payments from them and Trump often refers to Vladimir Putin as an ally.
“The simplest answer is the truth: I am a campaign professional. I have never received a single ‘off-the-books cash payment’ as falsely reported by The New York Times, nor have I ever done work for the governments of Ukraine or Russia,” Manafort stated on Monday. He also referred to the accusation as “unfounded, silly, and nonsensical” and that any payment under his name was diverted towards his “entire political team.”
Ukraine officials are yet to launch an investigation against Manafort, mainly because they cannot confirm that he actually received the money, even if his name appears more than once on the document.
Manafort also worked alongside Trump to “water down” the language used by the Republicans when referring to the annexation of Crimea. Trump acknowledged the fact but distanced himself from the matter, arguing that he did not know anything about it.
Putin’s occupation of Crimea has been referred to as a land grab by the U.S. and its European allies, responding with sanctions to promote pressure, but the occupation remains the same up to this day.
It is a fact that former president Yanukovych hired Manafort’s firm to improve his offshore relationships with the U.S. and to safely steer his stance towards Russia, which in the end resulted in the annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
More ties with tough rulers
It is not the first time that Manafort’s offshore antics have caused suspicion. Manafort has already been linked with Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. At the time, Manafort was a Republican that received $950,000 a year from the Philippine ruler to help him maintain his rule during his third decade in power.
Reportedly, Marcos held a fortune equivalent to $10 billion while also torturing over 34,000 people and killing 3,240. Manafort also helped Reagan earn substantial donations on his both campaigns of about $57 million, and these donations were suspected to have originated from Marcos’ accounts. “We’d have done everything by the book,” he responded to the U.S. Justice Department concerning the claims.
Source: NY Times