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New indictment accuses Manafort of paying European politicians

Posted at 2:20 PM, Feb 23, 2018

New charges were filed late Friday against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in the special counsel investigation.

Prosecutors allege that Manafort, with the assistance of longtime business partner Rick Gates, "secretly retained a group of former senior European politicians to take positions favorable to Ukraine, including by lobbying in the United States."

The new indictment came less than two hours after Gates pleaded guilty to two criminal charges in federal court and pledged to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russia and the 2016 presidential election.

Prosecutors say Manafort orchestrated a group of former European politicians, called the "Hapsburg group," to pose as independent voices. Yet they covertly pushed positions favorable to Ukraine as paid lobbyists. Manafort used offshore accounts to pay the former politicians 2 million euros.

Manafort also allegedly used $4 million from an offshore account to fund a report on the trial of a political opponent jailed by his clients. A lawyer involved in the report -- Alex van der Zwaan -- pleaded guilty to lying to investigators earlier this week.

The new charges, which sweep up some information Gates has conceded to investigators and other information in charges filed Thursday in Virginia federal court, include money laundering, foreign lobbying violations and making false statements.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty and maintains his innocence.

Gates admitted in a guilty plea Friday that he and Manafort had sent letters to the Justice Department in November 2016 and last February that falsely asserted they hadn't lobbied on behalf of Ukraine in the United States. The federal investigation into their lobbying work began in September 2016, about a month after Manafort left Trump's campaign.

The new indictment also removes Gates from the charges, and also removes several counts from the original October indictment.

In total, Manafort now faces five federal criminal charges in Washington, including money laundering and foreign lobbying violations, and 18 federal charges in Virginia, largely related to alleged bank fraud.

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