Paul Manafort, the former Donald Trump campaign chairman who was convicted of financial crimes then pardoned by his old boss, was sued Thursday by the Justice Department, which is seeking $3 million over undeclared foreign bank accounts.
The lawsuit is the latest twist in Manafort’s legal woes. Investigated and indicted in 2017, Manafort was convicted by a Virginia jury a year later and pleaded guilty to separate charges in federal court in Washington, D.C. He was sentenced to more than seven years in prison but was released early in 2020 due to health concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump pardoned him on Dec, 23, 2020, shortly before leaving office.
Manafort briefly ran Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 before being ousted from that role amid questions about his consulting work for Ukrainian political figures, which earned him millions. After Trump was elected president, the Justice Department continued to investigate Manafort, indicting him as part of the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into the Trump campaign.
The lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in West Palm Beach, Florida, seeks a court order forcing Manafort to pay millions of dollars in fines and interest “for his willful failure to timely report his financial interest in foreign bank accounts” — specifically, for failing to report his foreign accounts in 2013 and 2014.
At the time, Manafort was a veteran U.S. political consultant.
While Trump ultimately pardoned Manafort for financial crimes from that time period, the lawsuit argues that he still owes the Treasury Department for violating laws requiring U.S. citizens to report any foreign bank accounts they control.
Treasury officials told Manafort in July 2020 that he owed significant financial penalties for not declaring those accounts. But Manafort has not paid, according to the suit, which seeks $2,976,350.15, plus the government’s costs in pursuing the matter.
Manafort’s lawyer, Jeff Neiman, said in a statement that his client has been trying for months to resolve the tax issue, to no avail.
“Today’s civil lawsuit seeks a money judgment against Mr. Manafort for simply failing to file a tax form,” Neiman said. “Mr. Manafort was aware the Government was going to file the suit because he has tried for months to resolve this civil matter. Nonetheless, the Government insisted on filing this suit simply to embarrass Mr. Manafort.”
After being convicted by a jury of using foreign accounts to hide the proceeds of his Ukrainian consulting, Manafort pleaded guilty to money laundering and obstruction.
He’d been a successful GOP consultant for decades, working on the presidential campaigns of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush — the epitome of a party insider. When his standing in Republican circles faded, he made millions advising political candidates in other countries, particularly Ukraine.
In 2019, amid concerns that Trump might pardon his former adviser, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office obtained a grand jury indictment against Manafort on fraud charges that echoed the federal case. A New York state judge threw out that case, saying it violated state laws against double jeopardy.