Manafort Says Case Against Him Is ‘Embellished’

Updated on
  • Prosecutors say Manafort gave varying estimates on his wealth
  • Manafort, Gates accused of hiding work as agents for Ukraine

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Paul Manafort, the indicted former campaign chairman for Donald Trump, told a judge that the money-laundering and tax case against him is “embellished” while urging that his $10 million bail remain in place.

Manafort shouldn’t be forced to put up property or cash to toughen his bail terms, as prosecutors have asked, because there’s no risk he’ll flee, his attorney Kevin Downing argued Thursday in a court filing. Manafort and Rick Gates, who was indicted with him, are scheduled to appear in federal court in Washington later in the day.

“The majority of Mr. Manafort’s assets -- primarily real estate -- are in the
United States, not overseas, and the government knows this,” Downing wrote.

The government’s argument that Manafort poses a serious flight risk is “imagined” and “completely ignores his strong family ties,” Downing argued. Manafort wouldn’t leave his wife of almost 40 years, his two daughters and his grandchildren in order to live the rest of his life on the run, Downing said.

Manafort and Gates, his former right-hand man, are accused of hiding their work as agents of Ukraine, laundering millions of dollars and concealing foreign accounts. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating links between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign, revealed their indictment on Oct. 30. That same day he said former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty and was cooperating with prosecutors.

Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty, and a judge placed them under house arrest.

In a court filing on Tuesday, prosecutors on Mueller’s team said Manafort had given lenders wildly varying estimates of his wealth, ranging from $19 million to $136 million. Prosecutors also cited Manafort’s international travels, saying he has three current passports with different numbers. 

They said he had traveled to Mexico, China and Ecuador this year with a phone registered to an alias. In the past year, Manafort also went to Dubai, Cancun, Panama City, Havana, Shanghai, Madrid, Tokyo and Grand Cayman Island, the U.S. said.

“Although it might be surprising to some, it is perfectly permissible to have more than one U.S. passport, as individuals who travel abroad extensively no doubt know,” Downing countered in his filing.

Downing said that although Manafort is accused under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of operating as an unregistered agent, the Justice Department has used that statute only rarely to prosecute people. 

“It is far from clear what triggers a requirement to file a report as a foreign agent,” Downing wrote. “To conceal this weakness in the indictment, a facade of money laundering has been put forth using a tenuous legal theory.”

In another filing on Thursday, prosecutors asked the judge to restrain Manafort from drawing money from his life insurance policy held by Northwestern Life Insurance Co. If Manafort is convicted, prosecutors seek to seize that policy and four properties in New York and Virginia.

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