Ex-Trump aide embroiled in new corruption claims in Ukraine
Papers allegedly show Paul Manafort tried to hide payments from Viktor Yanukovich
Paul Manafort with adviser to Donald Trump Kellyanne Conway last August, prior to his resignation from the Trump election campaign team. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters
A Ukrainian deputy has released documents which allegedly show that Paul Manafort, an ex-campaign manager for US president Donald Trump, sought to hide secret payments received from Ukraine’s former Russian-backed leader, Viktor Yanukovich.
The claim is linked to broader allegations that Mr Manafort was paid $12.7 million (€11.75 million) from a covert slush fund run by Mr Yanukovich, for whom he worked for several years as an adviser. The accusations – all of which he denies – prompted Mr Manafort to resign from Mr Trump’s campaign last August.
Serhiy Leshchenko, an investigative journalist who became a member of parliament after Ukraine’s 2014 revolution, unveiled the documents just hours after FBI director James Comey said his agency was investigating ties between Russia and the Trump campaign; he declined to identity any individual who was under scrutiny.
The papers purportedly reveal that Mr Manafort’s US-based consulting firm invoiced a company registered in the tax haven of Belize for the sale of $750,000 in computer equipment on October 14th, 2009. The money was allegedly routed through the ex-Soviet central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan.
Mr Leshchenko says the computer deal detailed in the invoice – which bears a signature that appears to match Mr Manafort’s – never occurred, and was rather a way to hide under-the-counter payments from Mr Yanukovich to his US spin doctor.
As corroboration, Mr Leshchenko pointed to a so-called black ledger of allegedly covert dealings between Mr Yanukovich’s party and its associates. The ledger notes that on October 14th, 2009, $750,000 was paid out to “Manafort”.
The ledger was discovered in the headquarters of Mr Yanukovich’s party after he and senior allies fled to Russia in February 2014. Mr Leshchenko says the latest documents were found in Mr Manafort’s former office in Kiev.
Mr Manafort has previously called the black ledger a forgery and accused Mr Leshchenko of trying to blackmail him.
Ukrainian prosecutors want to question Mr Manafort in connection with a corruption investigation and have repeatedly requested assistance from US authorities, CNN reported last week.
Mr Manafort worked to polish Mr Yanukovich’s image after defeat in 2004 elections, and helped him win power from squabbling pro-western leaders in 2010.
In November 2013, Mr Yanukovich unexpectedly abandoned a landmark co-operation deal with the European Union in favour of stronger ties with Moscow, sparking protests that spiralled after riot police severely beat demonstrators on Kiev’s Maidan square. The uprising ended with security forces shooting dead scores of people on Maidan in February 2014, and Mr Yanukovich finding refuge in Russia.
The latest claims about Mr Manafort could be a headache for Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and his government, as they seek to forge a relationship with Mr Trump despite his stated enthusiasm for a rapprochement with Russia.