LONDON — Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, has much stronger financial ties to a Russian oligarch than have been previously reported.
An NBC News investigation reveals that $26 million changed hands in the form of loan between a company linked to Manafort and the oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire with close ties to the Kremlin.
The loan brings the total of their known business dealings to around $60 million over the past decade, according to financial documents filed in Cyprus and the Cayman Islands.
Manafort was forced to resign from the Trump campaign in August 2016, following allegations of improper financial dealings, charges he has strenuously denied. He is now a central figure in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Investigators have previously said they were looking into Manafort's financial ties to prominent figures in Russia.
Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska
Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska
Russian tycoon and President of RUSAL Oleg Deripaska listens during the Regions in Transformation: Eurasia
event in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 22, 2015. More than 1,500 business leaders and 40 heads of state or government attend the Jan. 21-24 meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) to network and discuss big themes, from the price of oil to the future of the Internet. This year they are meeting in the midst of upheaval, with security forces on heightened alert after attacks in Paris, the European Central Bank considering a radical government bond-buying programme and the safe-haven Swiss franc rocketing. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich (SWITZERLAND - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska attend a signing ceremony after talks with the Chinese delegation at the Kremlin in Moscow March 22, 2013. En+ Group, parent of the world's top aluminium producer UC RUSAL, said on Friday it had reached an agreement with Shenhua Group and China Development Bank to develop coal resources in Eastern Russia. En+ Group, an energy group controlled by Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska, said China Development Bank will provide funding of up to $2 billion to En+ Group and Shenhua Group, the world's largest coal producer, for the project in Eastern Siberia and the Far East region of Russia. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (RUSSIA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS ENERGY)
Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska, president of En+ Group, attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 23, 2013. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse (SWITZERLAND - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS HEADSHOT)
Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska (L) attends next to Xu Jinghong, Chairman of Tsinghua Holdings the session "The Future of "Made China"" during the Annual Meeting 2016 of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich
Oleg Deripaska, chief executive officer of United Co. Rusal, reacts during a conference session on day one of the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum 2012 (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on Thursday, June 21, 2012. Russia's showcase investment conference, a three-day event, features foreign executives from global companies, including Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Siemens AG. Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images
ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA JUNE 1, 2017: Oleg Deripaska (L), Rusal President and Management Board Member, and Russia's Finance Minister Anton Siluanov talking during Bloomberg TV Debates titled 'Reconciling Growth and Security Strategies for the Global Economy' as part of the 2017 St Petersburg International Economic Forum [SPIEF 2017] at the ExpoForum Convention and Exhibition Centre. Vladimir Smirnov/TASS Host Photo Agency (Photo by Vladimir Smirnov\TASS via Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 17: Russian billionaire and businessman Oleg Deripaska attends the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on June 17, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Global business leaders have gathered in Russia for the three-day conference. Photo by Konstantin Zavrazhin/Getty Images
KRASNOYARSK, RUSSIA - MARCH 1, 2017: Siberian Federal University (SibFU) Rector Eugene Vaganov (L) listens to Rusal President and Basic Element Supervisory Board Chairman Oleg Deripaska at a meeting held at the SibFU Congress Hall to discuss measures to prepare for the 29th Winter Universiade scheduled to start on March 2, 2019 in Krasnoyarsk. Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS (Photo by Alexei Nikolsky\TASS via Getty Images)
Oleg Deripaska, billionaire and president of United Co. Rusal, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. World leaders, influential executives, bankers and policy makers attend the 46th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos from Jan. 20 - 23. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
YAROSLAVL, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 12, 2016: Rusal president Oleg Deripaska, GAZ Group general director Vadim Sorokin, Russia's president Vladimir Putin, and Russia's industry and trade minister Denis Manturov (L-R front) visit YMZ Avtodizel Yaroslavl Engine Plant of the GAZ Group, part of the Basel (Basic Element) Group. GAZ Group is Russia's major manufacturer of commercial motor vehicles. Mikhail Metzel/TASS (Photo by Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images)
KRASNOYARSK, RUSSIA. FEBRUARY 19, 2016. Rusal CEO Vladislav Solovyev (L) and Rusal President Oleg Deripaska at a plenary session titled 'Strategy- 2030. Russias Future Vision' as part of the 2016 Krasnoyarsk Economic Forum. Artyom Korotayev/TASS (Photo by Artyom Korotayev\TASS via Getty Images)
KSTOVO, RUSSIA - SEPTMEBER 19: Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and billionare, businessman Oleg Deripaska (L) are seen visiting the RusVinyl Russian-Belgian joint polymer plant, near Nizhny Novgorod, 430 km. East of Moscow. Putin is having a one-day trip to Nizhny Novgorod region (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
Oleg Deripaska, chief executive officer of United Co. Rusal, speaks during an interview at the Bloomberg office in London, U.K., on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009. United Co. Rusal, the world?s largest aluminum producer, said billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov agreed to exchange $1.82 billion of the company?s debt for a 6 percent stake as part of a $16.8 debt restructuring. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
KRASNODAR, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 17: Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) followed by businessman Oleg Deripaska (L) observes an agricultural exhibition September 17, 2013 near Ust Labinsk, Krasnodar region, Russia. Putin and ministers visited an agricultural company in the Krasnodar region. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska (L), Chairman of Supervisory Board of Basic Element company, and Alisher Burkhanovich Usmanov, a Soviet-born Russian business magnate, attend a session of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2013 on January 23, 2013 at the Swiss resort of Davos. The World Economic Forum (WEF) will take place from January 23 to 27. AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
Oleg Deripaska, chief executive officer of United Co. Rusal Ltd., right, shakes hands with Ronald Arculli, chairman of the Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd., during the company's listing ceremony in Hong Kong, China, on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010. United Co. Rusal Ltd., the world's largest aluminum producer, fell in its Hong Kong trading debut as demand for new equity waned after the city's benchmark index dropped from a November high. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg via Getty Images
MOSCOW - OCTOPBER 21: Russian businessmen and billionaires Vladimir Yevtushenkov and Oleg Deripaska (R) attend a meeting with other business leaders and President Dmitry Medvedev at the Kremlin on October 21, 2009 in Moscow, Russia. During his meeting with Russia's top business leaders, members of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Medvedev discussed Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization and the future role of state corporations within the recovering Russian economy. (Photo by Konstantin Zavrazhin/Getty Images)
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According to company documents obtained by NBC News in Cyprus, funds were sent from a company owned by Deripaska to entities linked to Manafort, registered in Cyprus.
Deripaska’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Manafort’s spokesman, Jason Maloni, declined to give specific answers about the loans, but released a statement to NBC News saying, in part: "Mr. Manafort is not indebted to former clients today, nor was he at the time he began working for the Trump campaign.”
He later revised the statement, removing that sentence entirely. It now reads: “Recent news reports indicate Mr. Manafort was under surveillance before he joined the campaign and after he left the campaign. He has called for the U.S. Government to release any intercepts involving him and non-Americans in hopes of finally putting an end to these wild conspiracy theories. Mr. Manafort did not collude with the Russian government.”
Deripaska was described in a 2006 U.S. diplomatic cable as “among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis.”
Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort through the years
Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort through the years
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign chair and convention manager Paul Manafort speaks at a press conference at the Republican Convention in Cleveland, U.S., July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as his campaign manager Paul Manafort (C) and daughter Ivanka (R) look on during Trump's walk through at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, U.S., July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign chair and convention manager Paul Manafort appears at a press conference at the Republican Convention in Cleveland, U.S., July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort talks to the media from the Trump family box on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Paul Manafort, senior advisor to Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, smiles as he talks with other Trump campaign staff after Trump spoke to supporters following the results of the Indiana state primary, at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., May 3, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump's senior campaign adviser Paul Manafort (L) walks into a reception with former Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, at the Republican National Committee Spring Meeting at the Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, Florida, April 21, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort listens to Ivanka Trump speak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 21, 2016. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 20: A man with a security credential takes a selfie at the podium as Donald Trump, flanked by campaign manager Paul Manafort and daughter Ivanka, checks the podium early Thursday afternoon in preparation for accepting the GOP nomination to be President at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on Wednesday July 20, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 19: Paul Manafort, advisor to Donald Trump, is seen on the floor of the Quicken Loans Arena at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 19, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Paul Manafort., Convention Manager, Trump Campaign, appears on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday April 10, 2016. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
NA.R.DoleMicCk1.081596.RG.Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole looks up from podium at balloons and television cameras as convention center manager Paul Manafort, at right, points out preparations for tonight's acceptance speech in San Diego, 08/15/96. (Photo by Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 21: Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Lee Atwater, young Republicans political operatives who have set up lobbying firms. (Photo by Harry Naltchayan/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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NBC News reported in June that the business relationship between Deripaska and Manafort began in 2007. According to The Wall Street Journal, they worked together to further Russian interests in Georgia.
Manafort then went on to spend nearly a decade working as a consultant for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.
The NBC News investigation shows that $26 million was transferred from Oguster Management Ltd. — which is wholly owned by Deripaska, according to a disclosure filed at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange — to Yiakora Ventures Ltd. Yiakora, according to Cyprus financial documents, is a "related party" to Manafort's many interests on the island, a financial term meaning that Manafort's interests have significant influence over Yiakora.
The investigation also confirms a smaller loan of just $7 million from Oguster to another Manafort-linked company, LOAV Advisers Ltd., a figure first reported by The New York Times. Company documents reviewed by NBC News reveal the entire amount was unsecured, not backed by any collateral.
The $7 million loan to LOAV had no specified repayment date, while the $26 million loan to Yiakora was repayable on demand. It’s not known if either sum has ever been repaid.
Lawyers specializing in money laundering said the loans appeared unusual and merited further investigation.
“Money launderers frequently will disguise payments as loans,” said Stefan Cassella, a former federal prosecutor. “You can call it a loan, you can call it Mary Jane. If there's no intent to repay it, then it's not really a loan. It's just a payment.”
The documents go on to reveal loans of more than $27 million from the two Cyprus entities to a third company connected to Manafort, a limited-liability corporation registered in Delaware.
Jesand was used to buy a $2.5 million condo in New York in 2007, according to a New York City public document. In August 2017, according to another document, Jesand then obtained a loan of more than $1 million dollars against that property.
Using LLCs to purchase real estate is not necessarily illegal but is considered by money-laundering experts to be a potential red flag.
The $33 million uncovered by NBC News wasn't the only set of transactions between the two men to pass through Cyprus. According to a related court case, Deripaska invested another $26 million in a private equity fund earmarked for a Ukrainian telecommunications company.
The legal filing states Deripaska transferred the money through yet another Cypriot company, and claims that Manafort wanted the investments structured as loans "so as to avoid the unnecessary occasioning of Cyprus taxation.”
Highly placed government sources in Cyprus said that the island's police — following an official request by U.S. authorities this past summer — are still gathering evidence in this case and have yet to hand it over to American investigators.