Judge denies Manafort attempt to dismiss money laundering charge

Judge denies Manafort attempt to dismiss money laundering charge
© Greg Nash

A federal judge on Friday rejected former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDOJ investigating one-time Trump campaign adviser over alleged ties to Qatar: report Foreign lobbyists donated over M during 2020 election: report Former Mueller prosecutor representing Donoghue in congressional probes: report MORE's motion to dismiss a money laundering charge against him.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson denied the motion in a court filing.


Manafort, who is facing numerous charges related to financial crimes, was sent to jail earlier this month after special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE accused him of witness tampering.

One of the charges against Manafort is that he violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in connection to his work for the government of Ukraine. Anyone advocating on behalf — or to the benefit of — a foreign government or official must register with the Justice Department. Manafort did not register at the time, but did so retroactively last year. 

Federal prosecutors have also charged Manafort with money laundering linked to his work for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled Ukraine in 2014 following protests against him. 

Lawyers for Manafort countered in legal filings that the money laundering allegations are moot because the FARA violations pertain to a failure to register as a foreign agent, not his lobbying work. 

“The charged personal financial transactions could not ‘promote’ the alleged failure to file a FARA registration form, the charged personal financial transactions ending in 2014 could not promote the alleged false statements that occurred two years later, and the alleged failure to file a FARA registration form could not produce ‘proceeds’ as required by the relevant statute,” Manafort’s lawyers wrote in a March court filing.

His lawyers also attempted to dismiss a forfeiture claim linked to those charges, a penalty that could cost Manafort upwards of $30 million if he is convicted. The government’s indictment against him moves to forfeit “any property, real or personal, which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to the offense(s) of conviction” upon conviction.

Jackson slapped down that motion on Friday, saying Manafort’s lawyers have misinterpreted the foreign lobbying law, and that there is a clear connection to the charges. 

“These laws are not just about paperwork; their object is to ensure that no person acts to advance the interests of a foreign government or principal within the United States unless the public has been properly notified of his or her allegiance,” Jackson wrote.

Federal laws, she said, “expressly prohibit ‘acting’ as a representative of a foreign entity without submitting the required notification to the Attorney General. For these reasons, the alleged international banking transactions could ‘promote,’ and Manafort could realize ‘proceeds’ from, a FARA violation.”

“Moreover, it is difficult to square defendant’s argument that a violation of FARA is an act of omission that cannot be ‘promoted’ or generate ‘proceeds’ with the meaning of the money laundering statute when Congress specifically amended the money laundering statute to add FARA violations to the list of predicate offenses,” she added.

A person doing work in the United States for a foreign government, politician or government-run entity must register with the Justice Department within 10 days of signing a contract. Manafort is accused of failing to comply with those rules and later lying to the government about the work he did.