Speed Reads

sounds shady

Report: Before joining Trump campaign, Manafort owed millions to pro-Russia interests

Financial records filed in Cyprus last year show that Paul Manafort, President Trump's one-time campaign chairman, was in debt to pro-Russia interests by as much as $17 million prior to joining Trump's campaign in March 2016, The New York Times reports.

The Times says the money looks to have been owed to entities tied to Russian oligarch Oleg V. Deripaska and Ukraine's pro-Russia Party of Regions by shell companies linked to Manafort's work in Ukrainian politics. The newspaper obtained financial statements from 2012 and 2013 that showed the companies were part of a group of more than 12 entities that transferred millions of dollars to each other through loans, payments, and fees. Manafort's spokesman did not deny the existence of the debts, but said the records were "stale and did not purport to reflect any current financial arrangements."

Investigators are looking at Manafort and his business activities in Cypress as part of the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, the Times reports. The transactions are tangled and it's unclear why the money went from entity to entity, and the Times says it's possible they "were characterized as loans for another purpose, like avoiding taxes that would otherwise be owed on income or equity investments."

Manafort has said that all of the payments he received for the business he conducted in Ukraine were legitimate and made via wire transfers to an American bank, but the Times says the documents show some of the transactions originated with shell companies in the British Virgin Islands and the Seychelles, both tax havens, and went through banking institutions on Cyprus. For more on the Manafort-related debts found on Cyprus, visit The New York Times.