OPINION: Allegations against Manafort ‘stomach-turning”

OPINION: Allegations against Manafort ‘stomach-turning”

“In furtherance of the scheme …”

That’s a phrase that keeps coming up in the indictment issued last Monday against New Britain’s own Paul J. Manafort Jr. on 12 federal counts — including Conspiracy Against the United States, Conspiracy to Launder Money, Failure to File Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, Unregistered Agent of a Foreign Principal, and False and Misleading Statements.

Manafort is entitled to the presumption of innocence, of course — until and unless proved guilty — but if Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller is correct, they are both in deep doo-doo.

As charged in Case 1:17-cr-00201, Manafort and his business partner “acted as unregistered agents of the government of Ukraine” and two political parties there, generating “tens of millions of dollars of income as a result of their Ukraine work.”

Anyway, the revelations in the 31-page indictment do not, in my view, establish anything like collusion between anyone in the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump and sinister forces in the Kremlin — with the important proviso that Manafort was serving the interests of onetime Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was effectively a puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose fondest wish was, and still is, to re-impose Moscow’s writ over major pieces of the former Soviet Union.

What they do establish (if the allegations are proved in a court of law, etc. etc.) is a vast “scheme and artifice to defraud” in order to support Manafort’s luxurious lifestyle with many millions of dollars that were never taxed, because they were laundered through at least 31 corporations, partnerships and bank accounts, many of them overseas.

“In furtherance of the scheme,” says the indictment, those entities made direct wire transfers of money to the U.S. of $7.7 million to pay Manafort’s home improvement and landscaping bills; $1.7 million for rugs, antiques and art; $1.4 million for clothing; and more. Oh, and direct wire transfers of money to purchase real estate that Manafort then mortgaged to supply himself with cash.

“In furtherance of the scheme,” says the indictment, these activities started years before Manafort joined the Trump campaign, but lasted well into 2017. Which seriously calls into question the judgment of Trump, who claims he hires only “the best people.”

“In furtherance of the scheme,” says the indictment, Manafort hid the existence of his foreign companies and accounts (did somebody say “legit front”?) from U.S. authorities with “a series of false and misleading statements,” and “used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States, without paying taxes on that income.” All told, the special counsel says, “more than $75,000,000 flowed through the offshore accounts (and) Manafort laundered more than $18,000,000.”

Of course, these are just allegations. Manafort will have his day in court. But even without the Russian connection, the activities spelled out in the indictment are bound to turn the stomach of any U.S. taxpayer who lives within the law and actually pays his or her taxes.

Reach Glenn Richter at grichter@record-journal.com.


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