Prosecutors in Ukraine Investigate Ex-Manafort AssociatesMOSCOW — Paul Manafort’s consulting clients before he joined the Trump campaign in 2016 — the leaders of Ukraine’s pro-Russian government — were overthrown in a popular uprising in 2014.
Their problems continued this week. Mr. Manafort’s conviction on tax and bank fraud charges has reverberated in Ukraine, where the source of more than $60 million in political consulting fees he received from there had been shrouded in deep secrecy.
His trial was “like a fairy tale where all the secrets are revealed,” Mustafa Nayyem, a former investigative journalist and member of Parliament, said in an interview on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, shortly before a jury convicted Mr. Manafort, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Yuri Lutsenko, opened a criminal investigation into Mr. Manafort’s former sponsors in Ukraine. By paying Mr. Manafort while simultaneously serving in government jobs, Mr. Lutsenko said, they are suspected of having violated Ukrainian laws against civil servants managing private businesses.
“Therefore, we registered criminal proceedings for alleged violations,” Mr. Lutsenko told journalists in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital. Possible targets of the investigation, he said, include the country’s most prominent businessman, Rinat Akhmetov, a coal and steel magnate who served in Parliament at the time of the payments.
Court documents and testimony during Mr. Manafort’s trial in Alexandria, Va., indicated that a former presidential chief of staff, Serhiy Lyovochkin; a former minister of infrastructure, Borys Kolesnikov; a former security council director, Andriy Klyuyev; and a former lawmaker, Serhiy Tihipko; were involved in the elaborate payment schemes that became a focus of the American trial.
In Ukraine, investigations into Mr. Manafort after the revolution four years ago have a fraught history.
Working with the F.B.I., Ukrainian law enforcement began looking into Mr. Manafort’s generous remuneration soon after the overthrow of the previous government. Ukrainian officials first revealed evidence of secret payments made to Mr. Manafort in August 2016, while he was chairman of the Trump campaign.
At least three criminal cases related to Mr. Manafort’s work had been opened, but none have identified him as a suspect, a distinction in Ukrainian law that is close to a formal indictment.
Late last year, the Ukrainian government effectively suspended the investigations as it negotiated with the Trump administration for the supply of anti-tank missiles sought by the Ukrainian military as a deterrent against a Russian attack.
Mr. Lutsenko, the prosecutor general, has denied any relation between the investigation’s suspension and potential concerns about antagonizing President Trump by appearing to aid Mr. Manafort’s prosecution in the United States.
On Tuesday, Mr. Lutsenko cited documents presented as evidence during the American trial as a reason to open the investigation into Mr. Manafort’s sponsors in Ukraine. He also said, however, that no evidence had come out showing that Mr. Manafort committed a crime in Ukraine.
“As you can see, Manafort’s main accusation is that he did not pay U.S. taxes when receiving funds from Ukrainian politicians, so obviously there is no jurisdiction of Ukraine in this offense,” Mr. Lutsenko said.
Mr. Manafort has contended that the collapse in 2014 of Ukraine’s government and the governing party at the time, the Party of Regions, occurred because they did not heed his advice to sign a trade treaty with the European Union.
Mr. Nayyem, the former investigative journalist who wrote one of the first exposes of Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine, said that, at minimum, payments to an American political consultant showed hypocrisy by the Party of Regions, which at times was virulently anti-Western. The extent of the relationship was kept secret for years, he said.
“They denied it for a long time and systematically,” Mr. Nayyem said of the arrangement between Mr. Manafort and party leaders. “Now all the secrets are revealed. It’s one thing when it’s told by journalists, another when it’s told in court, and in a court we can trust.”
Mr. Manafort’s conviction “is like a balsam for my soul,” Mr. Nayyem said.