The biggest question about Donald Trump’s former campaign chair and adviser turns out to be: How the holy hell did he get away with it for so long? Because if the dictionary had an entry for “international criminal,” Paul Manafort’s picture would be printed next to the definition.
Not only did Manafort, along with partners that included not just Rick Gates, but Roger Stone, spend decades promoting the world’s biggest collection of murderous, dictatorial, autocrats—which earned Manafort’s firm the nickname The Torturer’s Lobby—he also was the miracle recipient of multiple million dollar loans that seemed to pop up from nowhere. Not only did Manafort himself fail to register as a foreign agent through decades of working for thumb-breakers, he also helped illegally route foreign funds to US lobbying firms.
The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) laws may be toothless. But Manafort didn’t just flout his disdain for registering as a foreign agent, he was money-laundering with a scale and openness that showed he was laughing in the face of every state and federal agency.
Just how big a crook was the man who steered Donald Trump through the primaries, managed his platform actions, and arranged the Republican convention? This big.
- Manafort currently has three US passports, each under a different number. He has submitted 10 passport applications in roughly as many years, prosecutors said.
- This year, Manafort traveled to Mexico, China and Ecuador with a phone and email account registered under a fake name. (The name was not disclosed in the filings.) ...
- In some months, like while he served as Trump's national campaign chairman in August 2016, Manafort's assessment of his total worth fluctuated. In August 2016 he said his assets were worth $28 million, then wrote he had $63 million in assets on a different application.
That’s just a small slice out of the list of “why didn’t someone stop this man” that was Paul Manafort’s life for year, after year, after year.
One more that has to be mentioned …
Gates "frequently changed banks and opened and closed bank accounts," prosecutors said. In all, Gates opened 55 accounts with 13 financial institutions, the prosecutors' court filing said. Some of his bank accounts were in England and Cyprus, where he held more than $10 million from 2010 to 2013.
Included in that was the Federal Savings Bank of Chicago.
Federal Savings Bank made about $6.5 million in loans in January to Manafort and his wife for a Brooklyn property, documents show. That came about a month after Federal Savings lent $9.5 million to Summerbreeze, a limited liability company connected to Manafort, according to 377 Union, a website run by two New York lawyers that is named for the address of the Manafort property in Brooklyn.
The combined $16 million in loans to one borrower represents nearly a quarter of the small bank's loan portfolio and approaches the level at which regulators would start to think about imposing limits on lending to one customer.
Manafort created the LLC Summerbreeze on the day he left the Trump campaign—then sat back and collected $16 million in payments from a bank that maxed out its ability to route money to a single person—with the only apparent collateral being property Manafort secured using another mystery loan.
And the CEO of that bank that gave Manafort that loan?
In August, Calk was named one of 13 economic advisers for the Trump campaign. Manafort left the campaign later that month amid concerns over his role with a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.
The fistful of passports Manafort holds is one reason Mueller’s team insisted on $10 million bail—though the willingness of Manafort’s foreign sources to forward him massive amounts suggests even that may not be enough.
“Manafort’s financial holdings are substantial, if difficult to quantify precisely because of his varying representations. . . . The full extent of [his assets] is unclear,” they said. Manafort, for instance, reported $42 million in assets in March 2016; $136 million that May; and $28 million and $63 million that August, in two separate financial applications, the government said.
Of course, when someone’s major occupation is laundering money for the Russian mob, bank account levels are bound to fluctuate. But what Manafort told people about his personal wealth seemed to be based on little more than the first number to pop into his head.
Gates listed his and his wife’s net worth as $30 million in a February 2016 application for a line of credit, but just $2.6 million in a March 2016 residential loan application.
Paul Manafort acted to launder money from multiple offshore sources, many of them coming through banks in Cyprus and routing money to LLCs in the United States.
He made numerous overseas trips, not just to support his clients, but to conduct what seemed to be transparent efforts to move money by arranging deals, many of them taking advantage of loose US real estate laws.
His estimates of his personal fortune jumped up and down wildly.