You've probably seen the news today, since it's all over the web, that the former campaign chairman of the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort, and his business partner Rick Gates were indicted on charges of conspiracy, money laundering, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, lying to the government, and failure to report offshore accounts — all related to work done for a Russian-linked political party in Ukraine. You can read the unsealed indictment here. We've expected charges relating to this since the feds raided Manafort's home awhile back. And yet, the details of the scheme raise an eyebrow even in these interesting political times.
Here's the background: Manafort and Gates received millions of dollars worth of work from that Ukraine political organization. Rather than report the income and pay taxes on it, the indictment alleges that Manafort and Gates created an elaborate money-laundering scheme, routing the funds from offshore bank accounts in places like Cyprus and the Seychelles to the U.S., where it was used to buy luxury goods like cars and real estate, and was also used as collateral to get loans in the U.S. All the while, the government alleges, Manafort and Gates didn't report the income (or the work they did for Ukraine) through the proper channels, and actively tried to cover their tracks.
So what exactly did Manafort buy? According to the indictment, at least four Range Rovers, representing a total of about $210,705, all routed through a vehicle consultant in Cyprus. There was also a Mercedes-Benz, also routed through Cypress, for $62,750. What these vehicles were, specifically, or whether Manafort imported or drove them, is unclear. Vehicles were not the focus of the laundering activity, it seems, as much more of the money (about $18M in total for Manafort and about $3M for Gates) went to real estate, clothing, and other high-end goods — including at least three houses.
What's going to happen to this stuff? Funds and real estate will definitely be seized by the feds, having been purchased with ill-gotten gains. If any of the Range Rovers or Mercedes-Benz vehicles are located within the U.S. and still linked to Manafort or Gates, they'll be seized as well — however, if they were simply purchased with the wired sums and then resold to free up the cash, they might have never left Cypress (or wherever they were physically located when they were purchased through the Cypress-based outfit). We'll keep an eye out for the disposition of any vehicles that Manafort or Gates owned, but at the moment it doesn't seem like either had a classic-car collection or any particular affinity for vehicles save as a method of freeing up Ukrainian money from their offshore accounts. Stay tuned for more.
Paul Manafort indicted, accused of using laundered money to buy luxury cars originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 30 Oct 2017 11:45:00 EDT.