Paul Manafort’s business dealings have been the subject of FBI scrutiny for quite some time, at least since 2014 when then-Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the FBI would be looking into international kleptocracy starting with ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, a long time client of Paul Manafort and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Manafort was originally indicted for $18Million in suspicious transfers, now the figure has swollen to $40Million. BuzzFeed News:
Throughout 2014, the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, conducted further investigation into the transactions flagged in the bank’s suspicious activity reports. Treasury officials requested additional information from law enforcement agencies in other countries, and they prepared numerous and extensive reports about Manafort’s financial dealings. Those reports — sent to FBI agents and federal prosecutors, and reviewed by BuzzFeed News — stated that Manafort appeared to be running shell companies and that his transactions often lacked a clear business purpose and showed signs of “layering,” meaning that they seemed designed to obscure the original source of the money.
In the summer of 2014, an FBI special agent questioned Manafort at his attorney’s office in Washington, DC. Manafort denied knowing anything about money reportedly stolen by the Yanukovych government, according to internal FBI emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News, and promised to turn over documents to the Bureau. He never did, according to the two officials.
“We had him in 2014,” one of the former officials said. “In hindsight, we could have nailed him then.”
Eight banks filed suspicious activity reports with the treasury department, between 2008 and 2013, a process banks must go through when they suspect money laundering or other financial misconduct. The reports in and of themselves are not evidence of a crime, but they act as red flags and are used to support investigations and intelligence gathering. All this information was already in the system when Mueller took over in May, 2017. Reportedly Mueller’s team is now pouring over these transactions and pondering leveling new charges against Manafort.
Manafort was even tinkering with a film company based in Puerto Rico, saying that he was a film director, although his partner in that endeavor, tech entrepreneur Hector Hoyos, denies that he was aware of money moving in and out of the company, which he says was formed to take advantage of film tax credits in Puerto Rico.
Even debit cards were used to move money in and out of institutions, and from there to where? Apparently Robert Mueller is going to answer that for us in the near future.
Maybe this will be leverage that Mueller can use to persuade Manafort to cooperate with the investigation. One would certainly think so, unless Manafort wants to spend the rest of his life rotting in prison.