By Matt Apuzzo
WASHINGTON – Paul Manafort and his former business associate were indicted Monday on money laundering, tax and foreign lobbying charges, a significant escalation in a special counsel investigation that has cast a shadow over President Trump’s first year in office.
Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman, and his longtime associate Rick Gates, surrendered to the FBI on Monday. The special counsel, Robert Mueller, said Manafort laundered more than $18 million to buy properties and services.
“Manafort used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States without paying taxes on that income,” the indictment reads.
Gates is accused of transferring more than $3 million from offshore accounts. The two are also charged with making false statements.
“As part of the scheme, Manafort and Gates repeatedly provided false information to financial bookkeepers, tax accountants and legal counsel, among others,” the indictment read.
Gates is a longtime protege and junior partner of Manafort. His name appears on documents linked to companies that Manafort’s firm set up in Cyprus to receive payments from politicians and businesspeople in Eastern Europe, records reviewed by the New York Times show.
Attempts to reach Gates on Monday were not successful. A spokesman for Manafort did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Manafort has expected charges since this summer, when FBI agents raided his home and prosecutors warned him that they planned to indict him. That warning raised speculation that Manafort might try to cut a deal to avoid prosecution.
Trump’s lawyer, Ty Cobb, said there were no concerns that Manafort would offer damaging information about the president in exchange for a deal.
Some close to Manafort, including his former business partner Roger J. Stone Jr., have said he had nothing to offer that would help prosecutors build a case against Trump.
“He’s not going to lie,” Stone said in September.
Manafort, a veteran Republican strategist, joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 to help keep delegates from breaking with Trump in favor of establishment Republican candidates. Trump soon promoted him to chairman and chief strategist, a job that gave him control over day-to-day operations of the campaign.
But Trump fired Manafort just months later, after reports that he received more than $12 million in undisclosed payments from Viktor F. Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president and a pro-Russia politician. Manafort spent years as a political consultant for Yanukovych.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that President Vladimir Putin of Russia launched a stealth campaign of hacking and propaganda to try to damage Hillary Clinton and help Trump win the election. The Justice Department appointed Mueller as special counsel in May to lead the investigation into the Russian operations and to determine whether anyone around Trump was involved.
Trump has denied any such collusion, and no evidence has surfaced publicly to contradict him. At the same time, Trump and his advisers this year repeatedly denied any contacts with Russians during the campaign, only to have journalists uncover one undisclosed meeting after another.
The New York Times revealed in July that Manafort and others close to Trump met with Russians last year, on the promise of receiving damaging political information about Clinton.