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US expands laundering, fraud charges against ex-Trump campaign chief
[WASHINGTON] Ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and his former partner Richard Gates were hit on Thursday with fresh charges of tax and bank fraud, as Russia election meddling special prosecutor Robert Mueller stepped up pressure on the president's former aides.
Already indicted for money laundering and tax evasion, Manafort and Gates were charged in a separate 32-count indictment with defrauding the US Internal Revenue Service and lying to US banks in order to get some US$20 million in loans.
As with the indictment of the two released by Mueller on October 30, the new charges were unrelated to the 2016 election campaign of President Donald Trump.
Instead, they grew from the work Manafort and Gates performed for Russia-backed former Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych between about 2006 and 2014.
Mr Mueller's team alleges that the two laundered US$75 million through offshore accounts, many of them in Cyprus, bringing a large portion of the proceeds into the United States as loans and purchases to avoid income tax.
"Manafort and Gates generated tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of their Ukraine work. From approximately 2006 through the present, Manafort and Gates engaged in a scheme to hide income from United States authorities, while enjoying the use of the money," the new indictment said.
A spokesman for Manafort said he "is confident that he will be acquitted." "Paul Manafort is innocent of the allegations set out in the newly filed indictments and he is confident that he will be acquitted of all charges," the spokesman said in a statement.
A long-time Washington and international political consultant, Manafort served as Trump's election campaign chairman from June to August 2016, with Gates his deputy.
Mr Mueller's primary investigative focus is on whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian interference in the election, and whether Mr Trump tried to obstruct his investigation.
But the mandate for Mr Mueller, a former FBI director, is broad, and he has used it to go after Manafort and Gates for earlier behaviour, with some analysts saying Mr Mueller hoped to turn them into witnesses against others in Mr Trump's circle.
On January 3, Manafort sued Mr Mueller for overstepping his mandate, calling the Russia probe "completely unmoored" from the special counsel's original jurisdiction.