Great Britain

Judge throws out New York fraud case against Trump campaign chair

A mortgage fraud case involving a disgraced former chair on Donald Trump‘s presidential campaign hsa been dismissed by a New York judge, who argued local charges stacked against Paul Manafort would amount to double jeopardy.

Manafort, who recently began a seven and a half year prison sentence following charges stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller‘s probe into foreign interference in US elections, was already convicted on similar federal charges.

New York Justice Maxwell Wiley said the laws of double jeopardy in the state “provide very narrow exceptions for prosecution” before dismissing the 16-count indictment.

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The judge ruled the state “failed to establish that the harm or evil each statute is designed to prevent is different in kind from the federal statutes for which defendant was previously prosecuted”.

With Manafort’s state-level case dismissed, the president could pardon his former campaign chair and undermine charges levelled against Manafort as well as the 34 people — including six of the president’s former advisers — who were charged following the Mueller investigation.

The president can intervene with cases involving federal convictions but not state-level ones.

Along with Rick Gates, the investigation revealed Manafort acted as an unregistered agent acting on behalf of Ukraine in the US, making tens of millions of dollars that were laundered through various US and foreign accounts and businesses and hidden in foreign bank accounts that were not disclosed in tax documents.

Gates recently was sentenced to 45 days in prison and three years of probation.

New York prosecutors argued Manafort had falsified records to illegally obtain millions of dollars in loans for properties in the state through Citizen Bank and Federal Savings bank.

Manafort’s defence — insisting the indictments were ”politically motivated” — argued he already had been charged and convicted for a tax and bank fraud case that was tried in Virginia.

He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice in September 2018.

A spokesperson for Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance said the office intends to appeal the decision and “continue working to ensure that Mr Manafort is held accountable for the criminal conduct against the people of New York that is alleged in the indictment”.

This week, Manafort was hospitalised following a cardiac event while in prison.