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Manafort indicted on conspiracy, money laundering charges: special counsel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Paul Manafort, a former campaign manager for U.S. President Donald Trump, and an associate were indicted by a federal grand jury on 12 counts including conspiracy against the United States and money laundering, the federal special counsel’s office said on Monday.

The charges were the first arising from the investigation by Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed to look into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election campaign aimed at swaying the vote in favor of Trump.

Manafort and Rick Gates, a business partner who served as his deputy in the Trump campaign, were charged on Friday in the District of Columbia in an indictment unsealed Monday after the two men surrendered to the FBI, the special counsel said in a statement.

“The indictment contains 12 counts: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts,” the statement said.

FARA is an acronym for Foreign Agents Registration Act.

The indictment said Manafort and Gates generated tens of millions of dollars of income from work for Ukrainian political parties and leaders and laundered money through U.S. and foreign entities to hide payments between 2006 and at least 2016.

The two concealed their work and revenue as agents of Ukrainian political parties, it said.

Paul Manafort, a former campaign manager for U.S. President Donald Trump, surrendered to federal authorities on Monday in the first charges stemming from a special counsel investigation of possible Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to media reports.

Manafort arrived at the Federal Bureau of Investigation Washington field office, television video showed. He was to surrender to federal authorities, the New York Times and CNN reported, citing sources.

The charges against Manafort would be the first arising from the investigation by Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed to look into alleged Russian meddling to sway the election in favor of Trump.

The charges against Manafort would include tax fraud, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A federal grand jury issued the indictment on Friday and a federal judge ordered it sealed, a source briefed on the matter told Reuters, adding it could be unsealed as soon as Monday.

Manafort associate Rick Gates would also surrender, the Times reported.

Lawyers for Gates and Manafort would not immediately return calls for comment.

Manafort, 68, served the Trump campaign from June to August of 2016 before resigning amid reports he may have received millions in illegal payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

Mueller has been investigating Manafort’s financial and real estate dealings and his prior work for that political group, the Party of Regions, which backed former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovich, sources have told Reuters.

Investigators also examined potential money laundering by Manafort and other possible financial crimes, according to the sources.

Gates was a long-time business partner of Manafort and has ties to many of the same Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs. He also served as deputy to Manafort during his brief tenure as Trump’s campaign chairman.

Trump has denied any allegations of collusion with the Russians and called the probe “a witch hunt.” The Kremlin also has denied the allegations.

Just before the Manafort report came out, Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway insisted any charges would not necessarily implicate Trump or his campaign.

“Whatever happens today with the Mueller investigation, we don’t even know that it has anything to do with the campaign …,” Conway said on Fox.

The Russia investigation has cast a shadow over Trump’s 9-month-old presidency and widened the partisan rift between Republicans and Democrats.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in January that Russia interfered in the election to try to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton by hacking and releasing embarrassing emails and disseminating propaganda via social media to discredit her.

Mueller is also investigating whether Trump campaign officials colluded with the Russian efforts.

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