Ukraine Investigators Release Files on Trump Campaign Chairman Who Resigned
Manafort's name appears in records linked to Ukraine corruption investigation.
KIEV, Ukraine— -- Ukraine’s state anti-corruption agency has published what it says are scans of every mention of Paul Manafort’s name in so-called “black accounts” linked to the country's toppled president Viktor Yanukovych.
The accounts prompted questions about Manafort's previous work in Ukraine and his links to the former president, who fled the country in disgrace in 2014 and is now being investigated for corruption. The controversy may have played a role in Manafort's resignation today as Trump's campaign chairman.
The so-called “black accounts” are handwritten ledgers that Ukrainian investigators say appear to be a record of illegal off-the-books payments linked to Yanukovych’s political party. They are at the center of a corruption investigation there. The presence of Manafort’s name in the ledgers was first reported by The New York Times earlier this week.
Late Thursday, Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau released scans of 22 entries from the ledgers where Manafort’s name appears. In the scans published on the bureau’s website, the words “Paul Manafort” can be seen written in Cyrillic lettering alongside records of payments. The bureau says the payments associated with Manafort add up to over $12.7 million between 2007 and 2012.
The payments listed range from a small amount of $4,632 for purchasing “7 personal computers,” to $3.4 million for what is recorded as a “Paul Manafort contract.” A statement from the Anti-Corruption Bureau stressed that the presence of Manafort’s name in the ledgers did not mean he had necessarily received the cash amounts listed “because the signatures that appear in the column of recipients could belong to other people.”
Following the Times' publication, Manafort said "there is no evidence of ‘cash payments’ made to me by any official in Ukraine.”
"The simplest answer is the truth: I am a campaign professional," Manafort said in a written response to the Times article. "It is well known that I do work in the United States and have done work on overseas campaigns as well. I have never received a single 'off-the-books cash payment' as falsely 'reported' by The New York Times."
Manafort has yet to comment on the publication of the ledger entries.
Manafort worked as a political consultant for Yanukovych and his political party, the Party of Regions, starting in 2006 and continuing till at least 2010, according to a senior party official who worked with Manafort. The party official, who spoke to ABC News on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, said Manafort had acted as Yanukovych's "personal trainer" in political campaigning and credited Manafort with Yanukovych's winning Ukraine's presidency in 2010. That had been a remarkable comeback for the politician whose attempt to win the presidency six years earlier was marked by allegations of election fraud, helping to spark the country's peaceful Orange Revolution. The party official said Manafort was particularly valued as a strategist and also for his expertise in modern polling techniques.
The official declined to say how Manafort was paid for this work, though he insisted it could not have been in cash.
Manafort has said that any payments he received for his consulting work "were for my entire political team: campaign staff (local and international), polling and research, election integrity and television advertising." He called the suggestion he accepted cash payments "unfounded, silly and nonsensical."
The release of the documents by the Anti-Corruption Bureau was accompanied by the publication of a new investigation by a Ukrainian journalist and member of the country's parliament that claims Manafort received cash linked to "Ukrainian political corruption.”
Sergey Leshchenko, a reporter for the investigative newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda, released what he said are additional mentions of Manafort's name in documents he claims are records of payments made to Manafort by politicians in Ukraine. Leshchenko said these payments may be illegal because they were undisclosed and added that the source of the funds is also under investigation by the corruption bureau.
“The whole basis of this so-called 'book' of money is corruption. This cash was without any taxation and this cash was taken from Ukrainian state entities,” Leshchenko told ABC News. "I believe Mr. Manafort also needs to be under investigation at least in the United States as a guy who didn’t pay taxes."
Leshchenko said he believes that the signatures in the ledgers alongside Manafort’s name did not belong to him, but rather to Party of Regions politicians who were withdrawing cash from the secret fund to pay Manafort for the purposes listed. He said the ledgers recorded the party’s “black cash box.” The entries appeared to show names next to the signatures that resembled those belonging to prominent party members, with Manafort’s name listed in the column that appeared to refer to the reason for the payments.
ABC News reached out to Manafort for comment but has not received a response.
The ledgers initially turned up during the chaos following Ukraine's 2014 revolution, as protesters ransacked the Party of Region’s offices. The books were eventually turned over to the Anti-Corruption Bureau, which opened an investigation.
Ukrainian authorities have said they have not opened a criminal investigation against Manafort in connection with the accounts. The Anti-Corruption Bureau does not have the authority to bring charges and can only refer cases to Ukraine's justice system to be prosecuted.
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