In the opening statement of the trial against Paul Manafort, Assistant US Attorney Uzo Asonye — one of the prosecutors trying the case — informed the jury of six men and six women that the defendant owned a $15,000 jacket made from an ostrich. It is not illegal to own attire made from an oversized Ornithurae — Björk could not be reached for comment — unless said article was purchased with dirty money, and therein lies the rub.
Paul Manafort is a long-time Republican political operative who first made a name for himself by helping to salvage Gerald Ford’s nomination in 1976, only to jump ship soon after and join up with Ronald Reagan, the guy who threatened Ford’s nomination in the first place. He is currently on trial in a federal court in Alexandria. Manafort is charged with some 18 counts of bank and tax fraud after allegedly failing to account for some $60 million he accumulated working for various pro-Russian interests in Ukraine.
Specifically, Manafort has been accused of dodging taxes on the many millions he made working for the likes of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych and Russian aluminum baron Oleg Deripaska. Between 2006 and 2016, he moved this money between offshore bank accounts and shell corporations, paying out “loans” to himself as he went. After Yanukovych was defeated in 2014, prosecutors allege Manafort lied to a variety of banks about his massive debt and withered income to secure millions more in loans. Along the way, according to The Washington Post, Manafort spent profligately on “expensive properties, fancy clothing and antique rugs.”
Ah, yes … expensive properties, fancy clothing, antique rugs and giant bird coats. It’s the oldest story in the world, if the allegations are true: Manafort stands accused of hiding his money to avoid paying taxes, and when his income began to flag, of robbing Peter to pay Paul in order to keep up appearances.