Newly unsealed court documents: Manafort and Gates received ‘millions of dollars’ from ‘Russian oligarchs’

    A newly unsealed docket in the criminal case against Paul Manafort and his longtime business associate Rick Gates says both men had received “millions of dollars” from Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs. The money would allow them “to live comfortably abroad” and therefore made them a flight risk, the documents say. Both men are subjects of Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US election.

A newly unsealed docket in the criminal case against Paul Manafort and his longtime business associate Rick Gates says both men had received “millions of dollars” from Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs that would allow them “to live comfortably abroad” and therefore make them a flight risk.

The documents, unsealed on Tuesday, include arrest warrants and the terms of Manafort’s and Gates’ release. They say both men “have connections to Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs, who have provided millions of dollars” to them.

“Foreign connections of this kind indicate that the defendants would have access to funds and an ability ‘to live comfortably’ abroad … a consideration that strongly suggests risk of flight,” the filings said.

A grand jury indicted Manafort and Gates on 12 counts on Monday as part of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US election and whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign team colluded with Moscow to influence the outcome.

Gates and Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman, pleaded not guilty on Monday and were placed on house arrest, though Manafort faces “high-intensity supervision.”

In the filing, the government argued that they “pose a risk of flight based on the serious nature of the charges, their history of deceptive and misleading conduct, the potentially significant sentences the defendants face, the strong evidence of guilt, their significant financial resources, and their foreign connections.”

Manafort and Gates were required to turn over their passports to the FBI and notify the bureau of their movements. A footnote in the filing says Manafort has three passports with different numbers and has “submitted ten United States Passport applications on ten different occasions” over the past decade.

“Manafort and Gates are frequent international travelers, consistent with the nature of their work for foreign entities,” the filing said. “Within the last year, Manafort has traveled to Dubai, Cancun, Panama City, Havana, Shanghai, Madrid, Tokyo, and Grand Cayman Island … The investigation has also revealed that Gates and Manafort traveled to Cyprus, the place where many of their foreign accounts are based.”

Another footnote in the filing says Manafort registered a phone number and email address using an alias and that he traveled with that phone to “Mexico on June 2017; to China on May 23, 2017; and to Ecuador on May 9, 2017.”

Citing financial documents filed in Cyprus, The New York Times reported in July that Manafort was in debt to pro-Russian interests by as much as $17 million by the time he joined Trump’s campaign team in March 2016.

Manafort also has significant business ties to the Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who signed a $10 million annual contract with Manafort in 2006 for a lobbying project in the US that Manafort said would “greatly benefit the Putin Government,” The Associated Press reported in March.

That relationship turned sour in 2014, though, when Deripaska’s representatives filed legal complaints in the Cayman Islands alleging that Manafort all but disappeared with $19 million Deripaska had given him to invest in a Ukrainian TV company called Black Sea Cable.

“Early in the 2016 presidential campaign, Deripaska’s representatives openly accused Manafort of fraud and pledged to recover the money from him,” the AP reported. “After Trump earned the nomination, Deripaska’s representatives said they would no longer discuss the case.”

In a July 2016 email, Manafort asked his longtime employee Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian dual citizen, to offer Deripaska “private briefings” about the campaign.

Though the filing doesn’t name Kilimnik, it says that “Manafort, Gates, and a Russian national – who is a longstanding employee of Davis Manafort Partners, Inc. and DMP International LLC (collectively DMI) – served as the beneficial owners and signatories” on the many offshore accounts they had opened.

“More than $75 million flowed through these overseas accounts,” the filing said, “and the government has substantial documentary evidence to support that allegation.”

Manafort also “represented the value of his assets on loan applications and other financial documents in divergent amounts, ” the court filing says. The values varied wildly in 2016 – $48 million in February, to $136 million in May, to $25 million in November – suggesting “considerable resources, the full extent of which is unclear,” the filing says.

Prosecutors say that Gates, meanwhile, “frequently changed banks and opened and closed bank accounts” and that from late 2004 to early 2017 he opened 55 accounts with 13 different banks, some of which were based in England and Cyprus.