Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort attacks ‘embellished’ Russia accusations

Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort attacks ‘embellished’ Russia accusations
Paul Manafort

US president Donald Trump's former campaign chairman - who is accused of multiple financial crimes - has attacked the strength of the evidence against him, saying the case is "embellished".

Lawyers for Paul Manafort defended him in a court filing after a case was brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

They said he was a "successful, international political consultant" who by nature of his work on behalf of foreign political parties was necessarily involved in international financial transactions.

They said Mr Manafort, who led Mr Trump's campaign for several months last year, has done nothing wrong and does not pose a risk of fleeing the country.

The filing was the first volley from his defence team, which seeks to undermine a 12-count indictment against him and long-term business associate Rick Gates.

Both are scheduled to appear on Thursday afternoon in Washington's federal court.

Mr Mueller announced the indictment on Monday charging the men with money laundering and other financial crimes related to their political consulting work for Ukraine's former ruling party.

They were placed on home confinement during a court appearance earlier this week, and both were released on multimillion-dollar bond amounts.

In addition to the indictment of Mr Manafort and Mr Gates, prosecutors revealed a guilty plea from a campaign adviser named George Papadopoulos, who admitted lying to the FBI about foreign contacts during the campaign.

Prosecutors disclosed additional details about the wealth of Mr Manafort and Mr Gates in a court filing on Tuesday that sought to keep Mr Manafort confined to his house.

In the filing, prosecutors note that he has provided differing accounts of his assets and has three different passports.

In a response on Thursday, Mr Manafort's lawyer, Kevin Downing, countered that the passports are in his client's name and noted that, though "it may be surprising to some, it is perfectly permissible to have more than one US passport".

He also denied that Mr Manafort was involved in any criminal activity related to his Ukrainian work, saying that all funds that went through offshore bank accounts were from "legal sources".

Mr Downing said that Mr Manafort was not trying to conceal his assets, noting that prosecutors say funds that originated in the Ukraine and went through Cyprus ultimately arrived in the United States.

"Obviously, international funds entering the US banking system, or going to US vendors, are traceable and subject to US process," they said.

"It goes without saying that in an international scheme to conceal assets, individuals generally move them offshore, not to the United States."

The defence lawyers also challenged the inclusion in the indictment of allegations that Mr Manafort failed to register as a foreign agent with the Justice Department.

The Justice Department, they said, has brought only six criminal prosecutions under that statute since 1966 and secured only one conviction during that period.

AP


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