Alexandria, United States, Aug 22 – Paul Manafort was riding high, raking in tens of millions of dollars as the strategic adviser to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.
And as fast as the Republican political consultant was making money, he was spending it: millions on luxury homes and cars, $1 million for antique rugs, another $1 million on clothes including top-of-the-line suits and an $18,500 python jacket, and more.
Just when his lavish tastes were squeezing him financially and the Ukrainian pipeline was running dry, Manafort landed a position as chairman of the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.
What should have been his dream job ended up being his undoing, ultimately triggering the process that led to the 69-year-old’s conviction in federal court on Tuesday on eight counts linked to making false tax declarations, bank fraud and failure to report foreign accounts.
Each of the bank fraud counts carries a significant maximum sentence and he could in theory live out the rest of his life in prison, though a legal expert contacted by AFP predicted it would in reality run to under a decade.
Fired by Trump after just three months as his campaign manager, Manafort’s financial misdeeds were uncovered by Special Counsel Robert Mueller during his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
It was a brutal fall for a political insider who, in addition to Trump, worked on the White House bids of Republicans Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole.
– Political family –
Paul John Manafort Jr was born on April 1, 1949 in New Britain, Connecticut. Politics ran in the family — his father once served as mayor of his hometown.
Manafort earned a law degree from Georgetown University, joined a law firm after school and eventually a lobbying shop known as Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly.
The “Stone” was Roger Stone, the Washington political insider who would eventually be among those recruiting Manafort to join Team Trump.
After making a name in domestic politics, Manafort turned his talents to the lucrative practice of lobbying on behalf of questionable foreign leaders such as Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Somalia’s Mohamed Siad Barre and Jonas Savimbi of Angola.
But it was his work for Viktor Yanukovych, who served as president of Ukraine from 2010 to 2014, when he fled to Russia amid corruption allegations, which got him in trouble.
Prosecutors alleged during Manafort’s trial that more than $75 million of Ukrainian money poured into his offshore bank accounts, most of which were based in Cyprus and managed by a Cypriot attorney referred to in court as “Dr. K.”
Manafort was Tuesday convicted of five counts of making false income tax returns, two counts of bank fraud and one of failure to report foreign bank and financial accounts.
But the six-man, six-woman jury was unable to reach a verdict in 10 counts prompting Judge TS Ellis to declare a partial mistrial.
– ‘Very good person’ –
Besides landing him in jail, it was the Ukrainian connection which also led to Manafort’s dismissal from the Trump campaign.
He resigned as Trump’s campaign chairman on August 19, 2016 after investigators for the new Ukraine government released files showing secret cash payments from Yanukovych to Manafort worth $12.7 million.
“Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success,” Trump said at the time.
The US president has since downplayed Manafort’s contribution to the campaign but has continued to come to his defense, describing him as a “very good person” and saying his trial was a “very sad day for our country.”
He expressed regret after the jury’s verdict Tuesday, telling reporters: “It’s a very sad thing that happened, this has nothing to do with Russian collusion.”
While the charges against Manafort were not related to his work for Trump, he was one of several people who attended a June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who was offering the campaign damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
Legal experts believe Manafort, by going to trial and declining to enter into a plea agreement with the Special Counsel’s office, may be hoping for a presidential pardon.