Paul Manafort, former chair of the Donald Trump presidential campaign, faced new legal trouble on Monday when Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller accused him of witness-tampering — in addition to the long list of fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy charges that Manafort already faces as a result of the Russia investigation. According to the Washington Post, Manafort could be "a crucial linchpin between Trump's campaign and Russia."
But there is another linchpin that appears to provide a common thread among Manafort, Trump, and even the staged assassination of an anti-Putin Russian journalist last week. As the Inquisitr reported, 41-year-old dissident reporter Arkady Babchenko was reportedly gunned down in his Kiev, Ukraine, home on Tuesday — only to appear at a police press conference alive and well the following day, explaining that the faked killing was part of a sting operation to expose a Russian plot to murder the journalist.
According to a report Tuesday by The Daily Beast, the man accused in court of arranging Babchenko's planned assassination, Borys Herman, is deeply connected to a top Russia mobster who now lives in Moscow and in 2009 was on the FBI's iconic "10 Most Wanted List." That mobster's name is Semion Mogilevich.
The exact nature of Herman's links to Mogilevich — who is known by the nickname "The Brainy Don" for his high intelligence and economics degree from Ukraine's prestigious Lviv University, according to the New Republic — is unclear. But The Daily Beast reported that his father, Lev Herman, had "deep-rooted connections" to Mogilevich, while former United States Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst also confirmed Borys Herman's Mogilevich connections.
Mogilevich, according to statements by former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, has "a good relationship" with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Britain's Telegraph newspaper reported in 2015. One year after making the recorded statement, Litvinenko was murdered in the United Kingdom by Russian assassins who poisoned him with the rare, radioactive isotope polonium, The Guardian reported.
On Sunday, in a pair of messages to his Twitter account, Trump complained that the Federal Bureau of Investigation never warned him that it was investigating Manafort. Had Trump known, he claimed, he would not have hired Manafort to run his campaign.
But what Trump did not say is that Manafort was named in a 2011 lawsuit, filed by former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in a United States federal court, as part of a "racketeering enterprise" alongside several other alleged co-conspirators — including Mogilevich. Also named as part of the racketeering conspiracy was New York real estate developer Brad Zackson, who once managed 45,000 residential units for The Trump Organization and was a top business associate of Trump's father, Fred Trump.
As for Tymoshenko, she was jailed in 2011 by her political rival — and Manafort's political consulting client — Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich, who was later ousted in 2014 and is now believed to be living in Russia. Manafort was behind a smear campaign designed to discredit Tymoshenko, according to a Guardian newspaper investigation, and it was Manafort who hired lawyer Alex van der Zwaan to write a controversial report supposedly providing a legal rationale for Tymoshenko's imprisonment.
Van der Zwaan recently completed a 30-day jail term after pleading guilty to lying to Mueller's investigators about his communications with Manafort business partner Rick Gates, after Gates became a top Trump campaign aide, according to the Washington Post.
Mueller's indictment of Manafort accuses the former Trump campaign boss of using a Cyprus-based company to launder millions of dollars from a close associate of Mogilevich, according to a report by The Daily Beast. "This indictment strongly indicates the existence of a previously unknown relationship between an alleged Russian organized crime leader and Mr. Manafort," Martin Sheil, a former criminal investigator for the Internal Revenue Service, told the Beast.
Trump's own connections to Mogilevich appear less direct, but as the Inquisitr reported last year, Mogilevich's top underboss for his United States operations, Vyachelsav Ivankov, ran the American arm of the Brainy Don's "Red Mafia" from his condominium in Trump Tower.
Another Trump associate, Felix Sater, is also reported to have close connections to the Mogilevich Red Mafia, as the Inquisitr reported in April. Sater worked for the firm that operated out of Trump Tower in New York and partnered with Trump on the scandal-plagued Trump Tower Soho project. Sater also worked in tandem with Trump's personal lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen on a planned Trump Tower Moscow secretly throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, during which Trump repeatedly claimed to have no financial ties to Russia, BuzzFeed reported last month.