Pressure from Kiev and Washington is mounting on President Trump’s former campaign manager after a Ukrainian lawmaker released documents Tuesday he says prove Paul Manafort tried to hide payments received from Ukraine’s ousted former president through an offshore shell company.
The new allegations come a day after Manafort’s name was raised in a House Intelligence Committee hearing, in which FBI Director James B. Comey was asked about possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Also this month, a Ukrainian human rights lawyer representing victims of a deadly police shooting during Kiev’s 2014 mass protest movement asked prosecutors to investigate text messages from Manafort’s daughters, which the lawyer said could indicate how much influence the former advisor to Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych had on the disgraced leader during his last days in office.
The text messages were part of a large cache released by a hacker group in February that reportedly came from the iPhone of Paul Manafort’s daughter Andrea.
Manafort, who worked as a political strategist for Yanukovych, was Trump’s campaign manager until August. He resigned after Kiev investigators accused him of accepting $12.7 million in secret payments. Manafort’s name appeared in what is known as the “black ledger,” a record of payments from an illegal slush fund Yanukovych’s Kremlin-friendly party, the Party of Regions, operated out of several offshore bank accounts. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, a government law enforcement agency, released the ledger in August as part of an ongoing investigation into corruption charges against Yanukovych.
Manafort has denied the undeclared payments and has not been charged with any crimes. The FBI said in August it was investigating possible U.S. ties to corruption allegations against Yanukovych, including Manafort’s consulting work.
Yanukovych fled to Russia after a mass protest in 2014 erupted after he backtracked on signing a trade and association deal with the European Union. He is now living in exile in Russia and is wanted by Ukrainian authorities on corruption charges.
The new documents released Tuesday by Ukrainian lawmaker Sergei Leshchenko appear to show an invoice for $750,000 from Manafort’s Alexandria, Va.-based consulting firm, Davis Manafort, addressed to Neocom Systems Ltd., a company registered in Belize. The bill was for the purchase of 501 computers. Leshchenko presented the documents in a news conference Tuesday morning in Kiev, saying the invoice contained signatures and stamps from Manafort that matched those available in other documents already made public.
Leshchenko then pointed to a copy of a page in the “black ledger” listing a payment of $750,000 on Oct. 14, 2009, issued to Manafort.
“This is a case of fraud, and it proves that the party and Yanukovych used fake reasons to pay their consultant,” Leshchenko said. “These documents should be investigated.”
When asked whether U.S. law enforcement agencies had contacted him about the documents, which first were reported by the New York Times on Monday, Leshchenko said, “No comment.”
Leshchenko was a journalist and active participant in Ukraine’s 2014 Maidan protests before being elected to parliament in the spring of that year. He said the documents were found in January in Manafort’s former office in central Kiev by the new tenant, an IT company. Leshchenko said he delayed making the documents public until he could verify their authenticity.
Ayers is a special correspondent.