New charge filed against Paul Manafort

Special counsel Robert Mueller is accusing President Trump’s former campaign chairman of secretly paying former European politicians to lobby on behalf of Ukraine. The new allegation against Paul Manafort comes in a newly unsealed indictment made public Friday. 

The indictment followed a guilty plea by Manafort’s longtime business associate who also helped on the Trump campaign, Rick Gates.

The indictment accuses Manafort of paying the former politicians, informally known as the “Hapsburg group,” to appear to be “independent” analysts when in fact they were paid lobbyists. Some of the covert lobbying took place in the U.S.

The indictment says the group was managed by a former European chancellor. Court papers accuse Manafort of using offshore accounts to pay the group more than 2 million euros.

Gates’ guilty plea could be concerning for Manafort, as he has agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s probe. Mueller is investigating Russian election meddling and any ties to Trump associates. Last week, Mueller also filed charges against 13 Russians, alleging they interfered in the 2016 presidential election with a massive misinformation campaign. 

Gates pleaded guilty Friday to two counts — the first count, conspiring against the U.S., comes from the original October indictment of Gates and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Gates admitted that while he worked for the firm Davis Manafort Inc. (DMI), he helped Manafort defraud the U.S. by transferring and wiring millions of dollars from accounts overseas. This is income Manafort is accused of not reporting to the Treasury Department. 

Gates also admitted that he helped Manafort mislead Manafort’s tax preparer and did not disclose the accounts overseas, which had more than $10,000. He classified overseas payments as “loans,” so that Manafort didn’t have to pay taxes on them. Gates also did not report their existence on either tax or Foreign Bank and Financial Account Reports (FBAR). Gates admitted that he knew that it was illegal for a U.S. citizen to have an overseas bank account without reporting it to the IRS.

The original charges filed against Gates and Manafort in October alleged conspiracy to launder money and making false statements.

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