DOJ prosecutor with experience in money laundering cases joins Mueller

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robert mueller
Robert
Mueller.

Thomson
Reuters


Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is spearheading the
FBI’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s
campaign colluded with Moscow during the 2016 election, has
added yet another prosecutor to his team who specializes in
money laundering cases, Politico reported
on Friday.

Before joining Mueller’s team, attorney Kyle Freeny was leading
the Department of Justice’s charge to seize profits
from the movie, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” amidst allegations
that Riza Aziz, a co-founder of the film’s production
company, Red Granite Pictures, used $64 million worth of
stolen funds from the Malaysian government to bankroll the
movie. Aziz is the stepson of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib
Razak, according to
Law360

In July, the DOJ filed several motions in court seeking the
return of $1 billion in assets that it alleges was laundered
through the US and used to buy big-ticket items, and lawyers
representing Red Granite Pictures said in a court filing Friday
that they’d reached a settlement with prosecutors.

The dispute is currently the DOJ’s most high-profile
money-laundering case, and Freeny was one of four attorneys
representing the US government before she left the case in
June. 

Politico noted in its report that there appear to be some
similarities between Freeny’s work on the Malaysian
money-laundering case and certain aspects of Mueller’s
investigation.

The “Wolf of Wall Street” case is being investigated as part
of the DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, a
program created in 2010 to address public corruption. The
initiative is led by seasoned DOJ prosecutors as well as members
of the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies. 

In addition to the Malaysian money-laundering case, the program
is also looking into overseas asset transfers made by
Ukrainian officials, including former President Viktor
Yanukovych. 

Yanukovych is a prominent member of Ukraine’s pro-Russia
Party of Regions and is closely tied to the Kremlin. Yanukovych
also used to be allied with former Trump campaign chairman, Paul
Manafort, when Manafort served as his consultant. Manafort is
widely credited with helping Yanukovych win the presidency in
2010. After being ousted in 2014 following widespread protests
against his Russia-friendly positions, Yanukovych fled to
Russia and is now living under the protection of the
Kremlin. 


Paul Manafort
Paul Manafort
Chip
Somodevilla/Getty Images


Mueller’s investigation into Manafort’s work focuses primarily on
his ties to the Party of Regions, which
reportedly designated
Manafort $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments
.
Manafort’s firm belatedly disclosed in a June filing that it had
received about $17 million from the Party of Regions between 2012
and 2014. 

Manafort has consistently denied any
wrongdoing. 

Mueller has so far given several signs that he’s homing in on
Manafort as part of the Russia investigation. In addition to
probing the former Trump campaign chairman’s relationship with
the Party of Regions, Mueller has also teamed up with New
York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as he examines Manafort’s
business dealings in the state of New York. 

Freeny’s expertise in prosecuting money-laundering cases could
prove handy for the Mueller-Schneiderman investigation into
Manafort’s murky finances.

He has previously used shell companies to make cash purchases of
real estate, then taken out loans against them. Though the
practice is not illegal in itself, it represents a pattern that
the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (Fincen)
believes indicates possible money laundering. 

It is apparent in our data that essentially criminals are
parking dirty money, criminal proceeds, in luxury real estate, as
a place to hide it, as well as place to invest it, as well as a
place to enjoy it,” Jennifer Shasky Calvery, the former director
of Fincen, told
Quartz

Manafort bought four properties in New York City
between 2006 and 2013 using shell companies and paid the full
amount due for each property. Later, between 2012 and
2017, NBC News
reported
 that Manafort borrowed $13 million against
those properties. $6.5 million out of that amount came this year
from a bank run by a Trump campaign economic
adviser. 

 

Though the purchases were initially made by shell
companies, a WNYC
investigation
 found that they were later transferred
into Manafort’s name without any payment.

Given that the majority of Manafort’s real estate
transactions reported thus far took place in New York, they could
fall within Schneiderman’s jurisdiction and may constitute the
basis for criminal proceedings against Manafort in the
state. 

Although Trump could theoretically pardon close
associates indicted on federal charges, his executive authority
does not extend to state crimes, and legal analysts have
speculated that Mueller is turning up the heat on Manafort to
coerce his cooperation in the Russia investigation.



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