Mueller Ties Manafort and Gates to Russian Intelligence During the Campaign and Transition
During a court hearing on sentencing for Alex van der Zwaan, Mueller’s prosecutors filed a report in which Mueller ties Manafort and Gates to Russian intelligence during the 2016 campaign and transition. Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch attorney who is married to the daughter of a Russian Oligarch, worked with Manafort and Gates, and pleaded guilty last month to lying to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators about his interactions with Gates and Person A.
The report identifies a Person A as an associate of Paul Manafort, who has ties to the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service. It goes on to say that Gates and Person A, who had lived in Kiev and Moscow and worked for one of Paul Manafort’s companies, were in touch in September and October 2016. The filing also shows that Gates and Manafort knew who they were dealing with. During his interview, van der Zwaan stated that Gates told him Person A was a former Russian Intelligence Officer with the GRU. It also shows that Gates was in communication with Person A while he was part of the Trump transition team.
Person A is most likely Konstantin Kilimnik.
Manafort, Kilimnik and Deripaska
When The Atlantic published the emails between Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, sent just weeks after Trump hired Manafort to lead his campaign for president, they led to more questions than answers. Subsequent reporting, though, has cleared up some of those questions. The emails made it clear that Manafort was offering something to Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska, a Russian oligarch and close adviser of Vladimir Putin. The confusion, though, was when Manafort asked: ” ‘How do we use this to get whole?” This question suggested that Manafort was owed money, but all other previous reporting, including a lawsuit by Deripaska, indicated that Manafort was indebted to Deripaska. So how does Trump’s guy get whole when he owes Putin’s guy millions?
While we do not know exactly what Manafort meant by getting whole, other emails made it clear that Manafort was desperate to leverage his position in the Trump campaign to gain favor with Deripaska (OVD), and repeatedly referred to the Cayman Islands dispute in which Deripaska claimed Manafort owed him $19 million.
“I assume you have shown our friends my media coverage, right?” Manafort wrote.
“Absolutely,” Kilimnik responded a few hours later from Kiev. “Every article.”
“How do we use to get whole,” Manafort asks. “Has OVD operation seen?”
The emails are among the documents turned over by lawyers for Trump’s presidential campaign to investigators probing Russian interference in the 2016 election. In one email from July 7, two weeks before Trump accepted the Republican nomination, Kilimnik suggested that Manafort’s efforts to please Deripaska were succeeding.
“I am carefully optimistic on the issue of our biggest interest,” Kilimnik went on. “Our friend V said there is lately significantly more attention to the campaign in his boss’s mind, and he will be most likely looking for ways to reach out to you pretty soon, understanding all the time sensitivity. I am more than sure that it will be resolved and we will get back to the original relationship with V.’s boss.”
Subsequent emails became more cryptic. On July 29, Manafort received another email from Kilimnik, this one with the subject line “Black Caviar,” in which Kilimnik said: “I met today with the guy who gave you your biggest black caviar jar several years ago.” Kilimnik went on the say: “We spent about 5 hours talking about his story, and I have several important messages from him to you. He asked me to go and brief you on our conversation. I said I have to run it by you first, but in principle I am prepared to do it, provided that he buys me a ticket. It has to do about the future of his country, and is quite interesting. So, if you are not absolutely against the concept, please let me know which dates/places will work, even next week, and I could come and see you.”
According to The Washington Post, Manafort and Kilimnik then met on August 2 at the Grand Havana Club, a Manhattan cigar club. Although we don’t yet know what the two spoke about at that meeting, we can assume that “Black Caviar” probably referred to the millions Manafort had received from Deripaska through shell corporations in Cyprus.
An NBC News investigation revealed on Friday that Oleg Deripaska moved $26 million to Manafort. The payments were made in the form of loans from Oguster Management Ltd in Russia, owned by Putin’s close advisor, to a shell company called Yiakora Ventures Ltd in Cyprus, owned by Manafort. The $26 million from Manafort’s shell companies in Cyprus was then transferred to an LLC registered in Mayland named after Manafort’s two daughters, Jessica and Andrea. Jesand LLC. These loan were unsecured and had no repayment terms other than payable on demand. Lawyers specializing in money laundering told NBC that money launderers frequently disguise payments as loans when laundering money as it makes the money harder to trace.
The New York Times also reported in July, an addition $7 million loan from Oguster to LOAV Advisers Ltd., another Manafort company.
In Virginia in 2015 Oleg V. Deripaska claimed Mr. Manafort and his partners owed him $19 million related to a failed investment in a Ukrainian cable television business. There is no record of Manafort repoying the debt, yet Deripaska suddenly stopped pursuing his court action in late 2015. Deripaska also claimed that he paid Manafort $7.3 million in management fees, which matches the total of $26 million in loans just uncovered by NBC.
The legal filing states Deripaska transferred the money through yet another Cypriot company, and claims that Manafort wanted the investments structured as loans to avoid Cyprus taxation. According to NBC, highly placed government sources in Cyprus said that the island’s police are gathering evidence in this case following an official request by U.S. authorities this past summer.
While NBC are reporting that the transactions total $60 million, it seems odd that the amounts involved in the two supposedly separate transactions are identical. The loans NBC just reported are for $26 million and $7 million previously reported by the New York Times. The amounts Deripaska claimed he invested in a Ukrainian cable television through loans to Manafort in the Virginia court case was $19 million plus $7 million in management fees. NBC get to $60 million by assuming the two $26 million transactions are separate, but the two $7 million totals are the same transaction. It seems too much of a coincidence and opens the possibility that $26 million is the same money in a convoluted laundering cycle.
So why would Deripaska “invest” $26 million through Manafort, then “loan” him another $26 million?
Why would Deripaska sue for the millions invested, but not the “loaned” 26 million?
Why did Deripaska suddenly drop the lawsuit shortly before Manafort joined the Trump campaign?
What did Manafort promise Deripaska to “make him whole?”
Why did Manafort need $16 million in cash as soon as he left the Trump campaign, and why did a small bank, owned by a Trump supporter, use 25% of its capital to provide it?
Of course Manafort and Deripaska are not the only Trump-Russia connection that goes through the Bank of Cyprus. As I wrote in March, the bank also connects Putin, Rybolovlev, Trump, Wilbur Ross and money laundering through Deutsche Bank.