Paul Manafort: a white-collar traitor
Lawyer, consultant and political advisor, Paul Manafort has a long career in US and international politics. His voluntary surrender to the FBI for charges of money laundering and conspiracy has made him a front-page story.
Paul Manafort is known to have been the campaign director of Donald Trump between the months of June and August 2016, but his political career and his involvement in international campaigns are much broader.
After the image of his surrender to the FBI on Monday toured the entire world, the story of this adviser shows that US policy is not entangled overnight.
After graduating from the Georgetown University in Business Administration in 1971 and in Law in 1974, Paul Manafort was part of the Committee of President Ford in 1976 and then of the presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan in 1980, election after which he would form part of the presidential staff in the White House.
In 1981, he was part of the Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, to become an advisor to the presidential campaigns of George H. W. Bush in 1988 and Bob Dole in 1996.
Beginning in the 1980s, Manafort founded a "lobbying" association (an enterprise dedicated to pressure groups and gain influence in the public administration) along with Charles R. Black Jr. and Roger J. Stone, from which he would work to support political leaders such as Jonas Savimbi in Angola, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines and Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire.
Much of the work of Manafort’s firm was used to advise regimes that openly violated human rights, according to the report of the Center for Public Integrity entitled The Torturer's Lobby, receiving multimillion-dollar payments in the process.
Manafort was also known for having participated in the Edouard Balladur campaign in the 1995 French elections, receiving up to $ 200,000 through an account of an arms dealer involved with intermediaries who participated in the Agosta Submarine scandal (better known as the Karachi scandal).
But Manafort's masterpiece was his work as an adviser to the presidential campaign of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine, between December 2004 and February 2010, against the strong US opposition to the candidate for his links with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Despite the so-called Orange Revolution and the social movements in Ukraine, Manafort's work got Yanukovych to beat by a very narrow margin Yulia Tymoshenko, leader of the manifestations.
Between 2007 and 2008, Manafort was involved in projects such as the acquisition of the Ukrainian telecommunications company and the reconstruction of hotels in New York, by the hand of Russian oligarchs (better known as "new Russians", who have amassed large amounts of money thanks to the privatization of the post-1989 Russian economy).
Since then, and as reported by the Associated Press, Manafort has negotiated contracts of up to 10 million dollars per year with oligarchs like Oleg Deripaska to "promote Russian interests in politics, companies and media coverage in Europe and the United States."
In an interview with ABC during the month of April 2016, Manafort declared that all its activities were intended to "bring Ukraine closer to Europe".
But to be able to work in lobbying in foreign countries, the US Department of Justice requires that individuals such as Manafort register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which the adviser never did, and that would cost him his freedom last Monday when he voluntarily surrendered to the FBI.
Since March 2016, Manafort joined the presidential campaign of Donald Trump to lead the "delegate-corralling" efforts and achieve political agreements that would guarantee solid support behind the unexpected candidate.
After Corey Lewandowski was fired as campaign manager, Trump promoted Manafort to the position, from where he controlled the daily activities of the campaign (budget, recruitment, promotion and media strategy).
According to several national media, on June 9, 2016, Manafort - together with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner - participated in a meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at the Trump Tower, trying to obtain information that was detrimental to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
During the month of August 2016, his connections with the former Ukrainian president Yanukovych attracted attention in the United States, and it was discovered that he had illegally received up to 12.7 million dollars from the Party of Regions in Ukraine. By August 19, 2016, Manafort had "resigned" Trump's presidential campaign.
But what was the advisor doing with all his money?
The investigation carried out by the FBI showed that Manafort did not skimp on multiplying its money, at any rate
The accusations of the investigation revealed that Trump's former campaign manager would have "laundered" more than 18 million dollars abroad, spending them unceremoniously in US territory.
"Almost a quarter of a million dollars in luxury cars; landscaping in the Hamptons for more than $ 820,000 and antique rug store expenses of nearly $ 1 million" are part of the finances unveiled by the research in Manafort's private accounts, CNN reported.
The money came from Ukraine through accounts in tax havens and was squandered in the United States or used in irregular property movements.
"In some cases, the allegations indicate that Manafort was lying to banks about how his homes were used to obtain more generous loans," the report continues. The consultant would have spent up to 6.4 million dollars on properties between New York and Virginia.
False tax and banking statements allowed him to obtain millionaire amounts in loans and rents, feeding accounts of up to 75 million dollars that tax havens such as Cyprus, Seychelles, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, allow managing through shell companies, as The Atlantic explained.
Considering the political career of Paul Manafort, anyone involved in government agencies in the United States knew of his professional profile.
The question that remains is: how did such a man come to work for the (now) president?
In his defense, Donald Trump said on Monday that "this was years ago" (referring to the work of Manafort for Ukraine); but, who reviewed the background of the campaign manager before promoting him to the post?
To answer these questions we will have to wait for the next pearl that Robert Mueller's research may release.