Paul Manafort pressured by Russians to pay back debt while Trump's campaign chair, Time says

Posted at 11:39 AM, Dec 30, 2018

Paul Manafort was pressured by a former Russian associate to pay back millions he owed during the time he was running Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, according to a new report from Time magazine.

Former Russian intelligence officer Victor Boyarkin was in touch with Manafort during the 2016 US presidential campaign on behalf of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who has close ties to the Kremlin, the magazine reported Saturday.

Boyarkin told Time magazine that he contacted Manafort to collect the debt he owed to Deripaska.

"He owed us a lot of money," Boyarkin told Time this past fall. "And he was offering ways to pay it back."

"I came down on him hard," Boyarkin added.

Less than two weeks before Trump accepted the Republican nomination, Manafort offered in emails to a middleman, his former business associate Konstantin Kilimnik, to brief Deripaska on the 2016 presidential race, The Washington Post and The Atlantic reported last year. In the emails, Kilimnik wrote to Manafort about an associate "our friend V" with ties to Deripaska, The Atlantic reported. According to Time, Boyarkin was the "friend."

A spokesman for Manafort declined to comment to CNN on Time's report.

The alleged connection shows the leverage that powerful Russians had over Manafort at the time he was Trump's campaign chair between May and August of 2016, Time noted. Boyarkin also told Time that he has been approached by special counsel Robert Mueller's office, which is investigating ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia, but he told investigators "to go dig a ditch."

Special counsel spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment to Time.

Both Boyarkin and Deripaska, meanwhile, have been sanctioned by the US Treasury Department.

In its December 19 announcement of new Russia sanctions, the Treasury Department referred to Boyarkin as "a former GRU officer who reports directly to Deripaska and has led business negotiations on Deripaska's behalf." The GRU is Russia's military intelligence agency.

Deripaska was sanctioned earlier this year as part of a wider effort by the Trump administration to punish the Kremlin over interference in the 2016 election.

Deripaska connection

Manafort worked for Deripaska about a decade ago, providing investment and consulting services to the Russian billionaire, according to both men.

But in 2014, lawyers for Deripaska filed a petition in a Cayman Islands court accusing Manafort of having "simply disappeared" with about $19 million of his money, Time reported. In a lawsuit earlier this year, Deripaska also accused Manafort and others of "vanishing" $26 million he gave them a decade ago. The lawsuit, which Deripaska filed in New York state following Manafort's indictment by special counsel Robert Mueller, is now paused because of the criminal matter.

Boyarkin told Time that his connection to Manafort dates back to 2006. Manafort had a $10 million annual contract with Deripaska that began in 2006, the Associated Press reported last year , citing several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP. The contract came after Manafort pitched a confidential proposal to Deripaska "that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit (Russian) President Vladimir Putin's government," the AP reported.

Manafort told AP at the time that the contract was not pro-Russian in nature, and a representative of Deripaska told the news organization that the contract was for "investment consulting services related to business interests of Mr. Deripaska."

Manafort was found guilty in August of eight counts of financial crimes, including tax fraud, bank fraud, and hiding foreign bank accounts. He pleaded guilty in September to one count of conspiracy against the US and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department.

But earlier this month, Mueller accused Manafort of lying about several issues after agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors, including his "contact with administration officials" --- violating his plea agreement.

Manafort is scheduled to receive his first sentence, for the eight financial convictions decided by a Virginia jury, in early February.

His second sentencing date, before the judge who's handling the breach of his plea agreement, is tentatively set for early March.