Russian oligarch sues Trump’s former aide Manafort for fraud

A Russian oligarch and Putin ally is suing Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort for misappropriating almost $19 million invested in Ukrainian telecoms companies.

A company connected to Oleg Deripaska is taking Mr Manafor to court after their long-running business relationship surfaced amid the Russia collusion investigation.

The lawsuit was filed in a New York court on Wednesday by Surf Horizon Limited, a Cyprus firm linked in corporate filings to Mr Deripaska, a metals and energy tycoon who is close to president Vladimir Putin.   

It stems from a deal a decade ago when Surf Horizon gave Manafort and his former partner Rick Gates $18.9 million to invest in a Ukrainian TV and Internet company called Black Sea Cable. It also paid the men $7.35 million in management fees. 

But rather than investing the full sum in Black Sea Cable, the pair treated the money as their “personal piggy banks” and siphoned off millions of dollars, according to the suit.

Vladimir Putin meets with Donald Trump at the G-20 summit in Hamburg in JulyCredit:
Evan Vucci/AP

A 2014 lawsuit brought by Surf Horizon in the Cayman Islands to trace the funds, which had flowed through a web of offshore companies, showed that some of the $18.9 million went to firms controlled by Manafort and Gates, the complaint said. 

Surf Horizon is seeking more than $26 million in damages for the alleged fraud.

The new lawsuit refers several times to an indictment brought against Manafort and Mr Gates in October by Robert Mueller, the head of an investigation of the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russian officials during the 2016 election. The men are accused of laundering millions of dollars and failing to register as foreign agents in the United States. 

Manafort masterminded a campaign for Viktor Yanukovych, the president of Ukraine who was ousted by protests in 2014 after he shunned an association agreement with the European Union in favour of a $15 billion bailout from Mr Putin.

Manafort reportedly offered Mr Deripaska private briefings during Trump’s campaign. 

He had previously signed a $10 million annual contract with the oligarch in 2006 to lobby Russian interests in Washington, including the interests of Mr Putin’s government, according to an Associated Press report in March. 

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Mr Deripaska filed a defamation suit against the Associated Press that was thrown out by a judge in October.

“We are surprised by this filing,” said Jason Maloni, president of public relations firm JadeRoq and a spokesman for Manafort. “This is a commercial matter which we thought had been addressed and resolved years ago. We will respond, if we must do so, in the appropriate manner.”