World

Paul Manafort's Ties to Russian Oligarch Run Deeper Than Expected, Investigation Reveals

A search warrant application unsealed on Wednesday revealed that former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort received a $10 million loan from Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with close ties to the Kremlin.

Manafort’s ties to Russia and Ukraine have come under scrutiny over the past year as special counsel Robert Mueller investigates whether members of the Trump campaign collaborated with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. In the course of the investigation, Manafort has been charged with money laundering, bank and tax fraud and failing to register as a foreign agent, among other crimes. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The unsealed search warrant, however, reveals further details about Manafort’s business dealings with Deripaska, whom the U.S. government sanctioned in April. An affidavit also unsealed Wednesday claimed that Deripaska had paid Manafort for his work in Ukraine. It is likely the loan was used to support Manafort’s consulting work for Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovych, who was backed by the Kremlin.

It has long been suspected that Manafort and Deripaska worked closely together. Previous reports claimed that Manafort offered to brief Deripaska on the 2016 presidential race. It is unclear whether the briefings ever took place, but a video shot by a Belorussian escort later showed Deripaska on a yacht discussing the 2016 election with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Eduardovich Prikhodko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The escort, who goes by the nickname Nastya Rybka, was later arrested in Thailand and claimed to have information for Mueller’s team regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election. It is unclear whether Mueller ever spoke with the woman, but reports suggested that the FBI had tried to contact her while she was jailed in Thailand.

Deripaska had also sued Manafort and Rick Gates, his longtime business partner, for $25 million, alleging they stole stole $1.1 million from his company. The Russian oligarch has been repeatedly denied a U.S. visa due to suspected links to organized crime. 

Manafort’s ties to Ukraine run deep. He spent around a decade bolstering the career of Yanukovych, who eventually fled to Russia after being ousted in 2014. Investigators in Ukraine believe that Yanukovych siphoned off state funds to pay Manafort’s consulting fees. U.S. Department of Justice documents claim that Manafort “generated tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of his Ukraine work.”

Mueller’s team also indicted Konstantin Klimnik, Manafort’s longtime aide, who is suspected of having ties to Russian intelligence services. Klimnik ran Manafort’s office in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, and acted as an intermediary for Manafort, Deripaska and others. Manafort, who does not speak Russian, reportedly referred to Klimnik as “my Russian brain.”

Manafort’s trials in Virginia and Washington, D.C., will begin in July and September, respectively.