US probe of ex-Trump aide extends to Cyprus

The U.S. government investigation of President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, crossed the Atlantic earlier this year to the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus, once known as a haven for money laundering by Russian billionaires.

Manafort confirmed that he worked for Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire with close ties to Putin, but rejected an Associated Press report alleging that work was aimed at furthering the political interests of Putin's government.

'We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success, ' Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska.

Over the last three decades, Manafort advised Republicans presidents like Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

The AP report alleged that Manafort maintained a business relationship with Deripaska, a Russian aluminum magnate, until 2009 and signed a $10 million contract with his company Rusal (the largest aluminum company in the world) in 2006.

AP that included strategy memoranda and records showing global wire transfers for millions of dollars.

Manafort, in a statement to the AP Thursday when asked about the Cyprus transactions, characterized them as a normal practice.

"If you look at the questions that exist about coordination with Russian intelligence, Paul Manafort is likely to be at the center of those questions", he said.

Manafort's plans were laid out in documents obtained by the AP that included strategy memoranda and records showing global wire transfers for millions of dollars. Manafort did not dispute working for Oleg Deripaska but said he had represented him only in personal and business matters. How much work Manafort performed under the contract is unclear.

The disclosure comes as Trump campaign advisers are the subject of an FBI probe and two congressional investigations. According to those records and people with direct knowledge of Manafort's work for Deripaska, Manafort made plans to open an office in Moscow and at least some of Manafort's work in Ukraine was directed by Deripaska, not local political interests there.

Senator Martin Heinrich, who is a member of the Senate intelligence committee, said revelations about Mr Manafort's work were "serious and disturbing".

A 2005 memo from Manafort obtained by the AP directly mentions the Putin government. Manafort worked on the campaign from March until August 2016. The new allegations arise months after Manafort resigned from the campaign amid concerns over his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

In a statement on Monday, Manafort denied any ties to or contact with the Russian government after the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed it is investigating Trump allies' alleged links to Moscow.

A United States treasury department spokesman, Stephen Hudak, declined to answer questions about Mr Manafort's records.

The Trump administration has already started distancing itself from Manafort.

FBI director James Comey, in confirming to Congress the federal intelligence investigation this week, declined to say whether Mr Manafort was a target. House beefs up cellphone security MORE (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, have called for Manafort to come before their respective committees.

White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said on Monday that Manafort "played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time" in the campaign, even though as Trump's presidential campaign chair he led it during the crucial run-up to the Republican National Convention.

Manafort has been a leading focus of the USA intelligence investigation of Trump's associates and Russian Federation, according to a U.S. official. Manafort told a colleague this year that he continues to speak to Trump by telephone. Gates has since helped plan Trump's inauguration and now runs a non-profit organisation, America First Policies, to back the White House agenda.

  • Joey Payne