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Ex-Trump Campaign Chief Manafort Poses 'Risk Of Flight,' Court Documents Say


A composite photo of Rick Gates (left) and Paul Manafort

WASHINGTON -- U.S. court documents state that Paul Manafort, U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, poses a "serious risk of flight" based on a history of deceptive conduct, his wealth, connections to "Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs," and "strong evidence of guilt."

Manafort was being held on November 1 under house arrest after being indicted along with associate Rick Gates for conspiring to defraud the United States in over a decade of dealings with political forces in Ukraine.

It was the first publicly announced indictment since former FBI chief Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to head the U.S. Justice Department probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and whether there were any links to the Trump campaign.

Both men surrendered to the authorities on October 30, pleading not guilty to the federal charges before being allowed to return home. Prosecutors said Manafort faces 12-15 years in prison if convicted, while Gates faces 10-12 years, although other charges could still be filed.

Prosecutors are seeking to have bail set at $10 million for Manafort and $5 million for Gates. A bail hearing is scheduled for November 2 at 2 p.m. local time.

The men have also been ordered hand over their passports.

Prosecutors said in their filing that Manafort had at least three U.S. passports with differing numbers and had filed 10 passport applications over the past decade.

In their filing, prosecutors said that "both Manafort and Gates have connections to Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs, who have provided millions of dollars" to the two.

"Foreign connections of this kind indicate that the defendants would have access to funds and an ability 'to live comfortably' abroad," they said in arguing that the men were at risk of fleeing.

Millions In Assets

In attempting to set bail, prosecutors Andrew Weissmann, Greg D. Andres, and Kyle R. Freeny said the men's financial holdings were "difficult to quantify."

They pointed out that Manafort reported $42 million in assets in March 2016; $136 million in May 2016; and in August 2016, he put his assets at $28 million and $63 million in separate filings.

Gates, meanwhile, in loan-related applications set his and his wife's net worth as $30 million in a February 2016, but said it was $2.6 million in a March 2016 application, prosecutors said.

They also cited Manafort's extensive foreign travel and the use of phone numbers and e-mail accounts under aliases.

Manafort's attorney, Kevin Downing, has denied all allegations against his client, calling the charges "ridiculous."

Gates did not immediately comment on the charges, but he has in the past denied any wrongdoing. Prosecutors said he was in the process of retaining counsel.

In the 12-count indictment against Manafort and Gates, charges included conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, making false statements, and charges related to failing to report foreign bank and financial accounts.

The indictment said they "generated tens of millions of dollars in income" from work they did for Viktor Yanukovych, the Moscow-friendly politician who was president of Ukraine from 2010-2014, the Ukrainian government, Yanukovych's Party of Regions, and the Opposition Bloc, a successor party formed after Yanukovych was driven from power by pro-European protests and fled to Russia.

The indictment alleged that "in order to hide Ukraine payments" from U.S. authorities, Manafort and Gates "laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships, and bank accounts" from about 2006 through 2016 at the earliest. It said that they also hid their work and revenue as agents of Ukrainian political parties.

Along with the Justice Department probe, at least two congressional committees are investigating possible Russian interference.

Trump has vehemently denied any collusion with the Russian government.

The Kremlin has denied meddling in the U.S. election despite conclusions by U.S. intelligence agencies that Moscow directly interfered in the campaign.

With reporting by The Washington Post and Reuters
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