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Paul Manafort’s shady dealings go way back — well beyond current ‘Russia Gate’

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Well before Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign advisor, was indicted on money laundering as well as accused of misleading investigators about his Russian ties, he’d been known to take cash from some of the world’s worst authoritarians in exchange for lobbying and consultation services — as far back as 1985, when Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos paid his firm $1 million to promote his regime. But his list of clients is far more varied than the headlines let on, stretching to virtually every corner of the world. Here’s a highlight reel of Manafort’s dealings — some far more shady than others:

Karachigate: In 2013, Manafort admitted to French investigators that he had helped Édouard Balladur, a Turkish-born businessman with his eye on the French presidency. Balladur was being investigated for a sketchy 1994 attack submarine deal with Pakistan, and, according to France 24, confirmed that he was paid to help the businessman with strategy. The payments came via Lebanese-born Abdul Rahman el-Assir, one of the middlemen in the deal. French investigators alleged that kickbacks from the deal were funding Balladur’s campaign (Balladur, incidentally, had also been named by the government of Rwanda as one of 33 high-ranking French officials complicit in the genocide there).

The Other Ukrainian: Viktor Yanukovych might be the biggest Ukranian name on Manafort’s client list, but he’s not the only one. Manafort was also paid to consult for billionaire Dmitry Firtash and Russian associate Oleg Deripaska (the latter signed a $10 million deal with Manafort in 2006). A now-dismissed 2011 lawsuit looked at whether Manafort had helped Firtash and Deripaska launder their fortunes, hiding them in U.S. real estate investments.

The lawsuit was dismissed in September 2015, reported the Daily Beast, not because it was seen as lacking merit but because, ostensibly, the evidence was hard to nail down: “In her dismissal, [New York Federal Judge Kimba] Wood did not dispute the authenticity of the memos or other facts of the relationships between Manafort, Firtash, and other foreign partners, but considered them ultimately legally irrelevant to [former prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia] Tymoshenko’s misfortunes.” Tymoshenko, who had filed the suit, claimed that among the many reasons she was jailed was that she tried to end the role of Firtash’s firm as a “middlman” in gas deals between Ukraine and Russia.

Firtash, by the way, was among those indicted in 2014 by the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) for arranging $18.5 million in bribes paid to Indian officials in exchange for mining permits there.

The Kashmir Rap: In the 1990s, Manafort’s firm worked a lobbyist for the Kashmiri American Council (KAC) — a group the DOJ said is a “front for Pakistani intelligence” according to Yahoo News:

Court records show that Manafort’s Kashmiri lobbying contract came on the FBI’s radar screen during a lengthy counterterrorism investigation that culminated in 2011 with the arrest of the Kashmiri council’s director, Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, on charges that he ran the group on behalf of Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, as part of a scheme to secretly influence U.S. policy toward the disputed territory of Kashmir.

In prosecuting the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon D. Kromberg called the Kashmiri American Council a “false flag” “operating on behalf of the ISI [Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence]” in order to direct public attention “away from the involvement of Pakistan in sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir and elsewhere.” Fai ended up pleading guilty to conspiracy and tax violations, and related tax violations, but the upshot according to The Intercept was this: “…it was possible to circumvent the rules by hiding behind donors seemingly sympathetic to the organization’s mission. The money could be used to make campaign contributions to lawmakers who, in return, would make public statements about Pakistan’s rightful claim to Kashmir. And who better to help the KAC make inroads with members of Congress than Manafort, a longtime lobbyist and darling of the Republican Party.”

Saudi’s man on the Hill: According to the Daily Beast, going back to 1984, the government of Saudi Arabia paid Manafort to lobby against moving the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He was also paid to advise them on arms purchases from the United States through 1986, at a times when Saudi arms deals were linked to a role in the “Iran Contra Affair”, the secret U.S. sale of arms to Iran intended to fund Nicaraguan Contras and negotiate the release of American hostages there.

Kurdish referendum – bad for everyone except Manifort: The Kurdish Regional Government hired Manafort to lobby for what will no doubt be known as one of the worst political gambles in the region in recent history. The government of Masoud Barzani paid Manafort to promote the referendum (according to the New York Times) even though the U.S. government and its allies in region (excluding Israel) were against the split. The September 25 referendum has resulted in two weeks of fighting in Iraq, with Baghdad taking back swaths of territory from Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and taking control of a key oil pipeline. Seeing no future for himself, Barzani announced over the weekend that he will be stepping down as president rather than seeking reelection in November.

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