16 Feb 2019

Call for tough sentence for ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort

8:25 pm on 16 February 2019

Prosecutors have called for a strict prison sentence for President Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, after a jury convicted him on eight counts of bank and tax fraud.

Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at US District Court on June 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

Paul Manafort arrives at court to face fraud charges. Photo: AFP

In a sentencing memo filed in US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, prosecutors said Manafort, who is 69, deserves between 19.6 and 24.4 years in prison and a fine of between $50,000 and $24 million.

"While some of these offences are commonly prosecuted, there was nothing ordinary about the millions of dollars involved in the defendant's crimes, the duration of his criminal conduct, or the sophistication of his schemes," prosecutors said in the memo.

"Manafort did not commit these crimes out of necessity or hardship," they said. "He was well-educated, professionally successful and financially well off. He nonetheless cheated the United States Treasury and the public out of more than $6 million in taxes at a time when he had substantial resources."

A federal judge in Washington, DC, had earlier ruled that Manafort had breached his plea agreement in a parallel case, by lying to investigators despite a pledge to cooperate.

That finding earlier this week by Judge Amy Berman Jackson in US District Court for the District of Columbia could have a direct impact on how Manafort is sentenced in the Virginia case.

Judge T.S. Ellis in Alexandria, Virginia, had planned to sentence Manafort on 8 February, but he later postponed that until after Judge Jackson's ruling, saying it "may have some effect on the sentencing decision in this case."

Manafort was one of the first people in Mr Trump's orbit to face criminal charges as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into whether Mr Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to tilt the 2016 presidential election in his favor.

Mr Trump has denied colluding and called the probe a witch hunt, while Russia has denied meddling in the election.

None of the charges Manafort faced related directly to Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.

In the Virginia case, prosecutors accused Manafort of hiding from US tax authorities $16m he earned as a political consultant for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, money he used to fund an opulent lifestyle.

Later, when his lobbying work started to dry up following the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, prosecutors said Manafort began lying to banks to secure $20m in loans to keep his lifestyle afloat.

After almost four days of deliberations, a 12-member jury found Manafort guilty on two counts of bank fraud, five counts of tax fraud and one charge of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.

In September, Manafort pleaded guilty in a parallel case in Washington to attempted witness tapering and conspiring against the United States, a charge that covers conduct including money laundering and unregistered lobbying.

As part of that deal, he pledged to cooperate with the Justice Department. However, prosecutors later said they had caught Manafort in several lies and wanted to tear up the agreement in a move that could cause him to face a much stiffer prison sentence.

Earlier this week, Judge Jackson ruled there was a "preponderance" of evidence that Manafort lied on three different topics, including his communications with his former business partner Konstantin Kilimnik, who prosecutors say has ties to Russian intelligence and helped Manafort try to obstruct justice. Mr Kilimnik has denied such ties.

Judge Jackson found that Manafort lied about his interactions with Mr Kilimnik, including about the sharing of polling data on Mr Trump's campaign and their discussions over a "Ukrainian peace plan," a proposal that envisioned ending US sanctions on Russia - long an important objective of Russian President Vladimir Putin's government.

Prosecutors have said these lies are "at the heart" of their investigation into potential collusion, according to a transcript released last week.

- Reuters

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