Paul Manafort should be sentenced to up to 24 years in prison, Mueller says

  16 February 2019    Read: 2616
Paul Manafort should be sentenced to up to 24 years in prison, Mueller says

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, should be sentenced to up to 24 years in prison, the special counsel Robert Mueller said on Friday.

Mueller’s team said in a court filing that Manafort should face a prison term of 235 to 292 months, or between 19 and a half and 24 and a half years, for “serious, longstanding, and bold” financial crimes.

Manafort, 69, could also receive financial penalties totaling more than $50m, according to the filing by Mueller’s prosecutors. His sentence will be decided by federal judge TS Ellis.

The new court filing dealt with Manafort’s convictions in Virginia last year for fraud and other crimes that the veteran political consultant began committing before he joined Trump’s campaign in 2016.

“Manafort acted for more than a decade as if he were above the law, and deprived the federal government and various financial institutions of millions of dollars,” Mueller’s team said. “The sentence here should reflect the seriousness of these crimes, and serve to both deter Manafort and others from engaging in such conduct.”

A jury found Manafort guilty in August on eight counts of tax fraud, bank fraud and a foreign bank account. They could not reach a verdict on 10 other charges.

He was found to have hidden more than $16m in income from US authorities, which allowed him to avoid paying $6m in taxes. He also hid tens of millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts secured $25m in loans from banks through fraud.

Manafort had “ample funds” to cover the tax bills he should have paid, the filing said, but “he simply chose not to comply with laws that would reduce his wealth”.

Mueller’s team said Manafort resorted to fraud to maintain a lifestyle of “lavish spending” – spanning multiple homes, luxurious rugs and an ostrich-skin leather jacket – after his lucrative work for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine dried up.

Following his convictions, Manafort admitted other crimes in a plea deal to avoid a second trial on other charges in Washington DC. But the deal was scrapped by Mueller after Manafort continued to lie to investigators.

Friday’s court filing said Manafort’s “concerted criminality”, even while out on bail and under indictment last year, should be a factor in his Virginia sentence. He also faces sentencing next month in Washington for crimes he admitted in that case.

Mueller is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election, which intelligence agencies concluded was aimed at helping Trump. Prosecutors from Mueller’s team have said Manafort’s interactions in 2016 with Konstantin Kilimnik, an alleged Russian intelligence operative, are a central focus of their inquiries.

Manafort has been in jail since June last year, when he and Kilimnik were charged with witness tampering while Manafort awaited his trial in Virginia. Kilimnik denies the allegations and insists he has not worked for Russian intelligence.

Mueller’s team said on Friday that Manafort had resorted to crime despite having had “every opportunity to succeed” – including a good education at Georgetown university and law school. His sentence should punish him for serious wrongdoing and serve as a deterrent to others tempted to commit similar crimes, they said.

The court filing said Manafort was the ringleader of a financial criminal operation that also involved his accountants, Kilimnik and Rick Gates, Manafort’s deputy chairman on the Trump campaign. Gates has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators.

“Manafort solicited numerous professionals and others to reap his ill-gotten gains,” the prosecutors wrote.

Separately on Friday, the transcript of a hearing held in Manafort’s case in Washington DC on Wednesday was unsealed. The transcript showed judge Amy Berman Jackson explaining why she agreed with Mueller that Manafort had breached his plea deal by lying.

Jackson said Manafort had been caught lying repeatedly about his interactions with Kilimnik, which she said went to the “undisputed core” of Mueller’s search for any “links and/or coordination” between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.

“Mr Kilimnik doesn’t have to be in the government or even be an active spy to be a link,” she said.

Jackson said Manafort had forced Mueller’s investigators “to pull teeth” by trying to withhold facts if he thought he could get away with doing so, before learning that Mueller’s team actually already knew the truth.

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