Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, is accused of laundering over $30 million. Money laundering is charged when an individual takes money from activities which are illegal and redistributes it to legal activities, thereby hiding the true source of the income with the purpose of avoiding taxes or seizure from the government.
This money allegedly was laundered through offshore bank accounts associated with the work that he did internationally in Ukraine. Manafort argued in federal court in Washington last month that the money laundering charge, one of two separate indictments that he is facing, should be dismissed.
He maintains that lobbying for a foreign government is not illegal and not registering as a foreign agent does not make funds that were generated from that activity illegal.
However, in a motion filed on April 4, Robert Mueller’s prosecutors argued that felonies covered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, can initiate charges of money laundering.
FARA states that anyone acting as agents of foreign entities must disclose their relationship and activities with that entity. Mueller’s position is that Manafort controlled funds in his lobbying capacity and he was not properly registered, and that may have been the intent of the engagement with the foreign entity.
“Money laundering charges are complex and they have serious consequences, including up to 35 years of jail time,” said Karin Riley Porter, a federal crimes attorney with Price Benowitz, LLP. “Manafort’s defense must include an understanding of FARA as well as the underlying offenses he may be charged with. Money laundering is commonly associated with criminal organizations as well as illegal wire transfers and other fraud. Tracing the source of the money under investigation will lead to interesting revelations about the nature of Manafort’s work.”
The money laundering trial will begin on September 17.
Manafort’s second indictment, in Alexandria, Virginia, involves bank and tax fraud, and failure to report overseas bank accounts. That trial will begin on July 10.
If convicted, Manafort could possibly spend the rest of his life in jail.