By Stelios Orphanides
US authorities have informally told Cyprus they are interested in sending officials to the island to conduct investigations into Paul Manafort’s case as part of a third request for legal assistance, two sources familiar with the matter said.
The authorities have signalled their interest in sending officials to Cyprus to interview implicated persons, including lawyers and bankers, a police source said on condition of anonymity in a telephone interview.
So far, the source said, the US has not officially declared its interest in participating with observers in the investigation in Cyprus, which would be the third request for legal assistance.
“They don’t have the authority to interrogate,” the source said.
A separate source at the Ministry of Justice and Public Order corroborated the police source’s account.
Manafort, the former chairman of US President Donald Trump’s campaign, stepped down in August last year after it emerged that he had lobbied on behalf of Russian oligarchs in the past. He was charged with money laundering, tax evasion and operating as an unregistered foreign agent on Monday, together with his aide Richard Gates. They both deny any wrongdoing.
According to the indictment published on Monday, Manafort and Gates owned and controlled a number of companies in Cyprus through which they laundered revenues from work they did for Ukraine’s ousted ruler Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.
Manafort had his home raided by officers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the night hours of July 26, a day before the FBI arrested George Papadopoulos at an airport as part of an investigation into probable ties of the Trump campaign with Russia.
On Monday, it emerged that on October 5, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty after he was charged with lying to authorities about the time he had established contact with Russian agents.
The former Trump advisor, who according to press reports was in possession of three US passports, maintained bank accounts at Cyprus Popular Bank, as the defunct Laiki was also known until 2013. Laiki closed most of them the year before.
A bank of Cyprus source said in August that remaining accounts at Bank of Cyprus were shut as part of the bank’s anti-money laundering procedures.
According to a list of bank wires included in the indictment, the last time Manafort had funds transferred from an account in Cyprus was March 12, 2013, four days before the prolonged bank holiday of the banking crisis of that month. The wire in question involved the transfer of $375,000 (€322,000) to a home improvement company in the US from an account held by Lucicle Consultants Ltd.
On Friday, Bank of Cyprus declined to confirm or deny whether Manafort was among the Laiki depositors who lost all their uninsured deposits, i.e. in excess of €100,000, when the bank was declared insolvent days later and had its operations absorbed by Bank of Cyprus.
According to the indictment, Manafort had $18 million wired from accounts in Cyprus to various vendors in the US.