The U.S. Department of Justice sued Paul Manafort, who served as former President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign chairman, for just under $3 million for not reporting his financial interest in foreign accounts in a timely fashion.
A jury convicted Manafort of tax evasion and bank fraud charges in Aug. 2018, but President Trump pardoned him in 2020, shortly before leaving office.
"The United States of America brings this action to collect outstanding civil penalties assessed against Defendant Paul J. Manafort for his willful failure to timely report his financial interest in foreign bank accounts," the Justice Department said Thursday in a filing with the U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach, Florida, Reuters reported.
The DOJ says it is seeking $2,976,350.15.
Manafort's lawyer, Jeffrey Neiman, characterized the lawsuit as an attempt to embarrass his client. He said the government is seeking a penalty against Manafort "for simply failing to file a tax form."
"Mr. Manafort was aware the Government was going to file the suit because he has tried for months to resolve this civil matter," Neiman said. "Nonetheless, the Government insisted on filing this suit simply to embarrass Mr. Manafort."
In the 2018 criminal fraud case resulting in conviction, prosecutors had accused Manafort of hiding from U.S. tax authorities the $16 million he earned as a political consultant working for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine to fund an opulent lifestyle. They also accused him of having lied to banks to secure $20 million in loans after his Ukrainian income dried up. He did not register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) until 2017, years after his Ukraine work.
A Republican-led U.S. Senate committee concluded in 2020 that Manafort's involvement in the Trump campaign posed a counterintelligence threat, making the U.S. vulnerable to Russia.
"Taken as a whole, Manafort's high-level access and willingness to share information with individuals closely affiliated with the Russian intelligence services, particularly [Konstantin] Kilimnik and associates of [Oleg] Deripaska, represented a grave counterintelligence threat," the committee wrote in a 966-page report.
The case against Manafort came amidst Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Trump's ties with Russia – an investigation currently at the heart of Special Counsel John Durham's own investigation. Trump has repeatedly claimed that Mueller's probe was a "witch hunt," and critics have faulted the Trump-Russia investigation for relying on the salacious and unverified dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, paid for by the Clinton campaign.
"It was a weaponization of the law enforcement and national security operations," Manafort told Fox News in January. "It was targeted. In my wildest dreams, I couldn't have imagined this type of targeting, to undermine his presidency and to try and remove him from office. And there was no way I was going to ever be a participant in that."
Manafort claimed that law enforcement officers induced him to lie while he served time in jail from June 2018 to May 2020.