The curious case of Paul Manafort’s three passports

The former Trump campaign chairman had also submitted 10 U.S. passport applications in a span of 10 years.

Paul Manafort arrives at his home in Alexandria, Virginia, Monday, October 30, 2017. (CREDIT: AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Paul Manafort arrives at his home in Alexandria, Virginia, Monday, October 30, 2017. (CREDIT: AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

A court filing on Tuesday showed that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates were not only well-traveled and considerably wealthy, the former also had three U.S. passports to his name.

“In a little more than the last ten years, Manafort has submitted ten United States Passport applications on ten different occasions, indicative of his travel schedule,” a footnote in the court filing indicated. “He currently has three United States passports, with different numbers.”

Both Manafort and Gates were “frequent international travelers” according to the filing, and within the last year alone, Manafort had traveled to Dubai, Cancun, Panama City, Havana, Shanghai, Madrid, Tokyo, Grand Cayman Island, and Cyprus, where many of his foreign bank accounts and shell companies were based. In May and June this year, he also traveled to Mexico, China, and Ecuador while using a phone and email account he had registered under a fake name back in March.

Gates’ record showed that he had not visited any foreign countries in the past year, but had “traveled extensively” to Paris, London, Frankfurt, and more prior to 2015. Like Manafort, Gates had also traveled to Cyprus. Both men also visited Ukraine on several occasions, due to their connections with Russian oligarchs and pro-Russian Ukrainian figures.

CREDIT: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, screengrab of Manafort's, Gates' conditions of release
CREDIT: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, screengrab of Manafort's, Gates' conditions of release

Because of their travel records, the two men were considered to be flight risks and were asked to turn over their passports. A judge on Monday placed both Manafort and Gates on house arrest, and set their bond at $10 million and $5 million respectively.

It’s not exactly clear why Manafort had several passports in his possession, nor why he had applied for one 10 times in a span of 10 years. According to a State Department official, while there are certain cases in which an individual may need more than one passport, it’s highly unusual.

“While we are not able to discuss any individual’s passport records, the Department of State’s general policy, as stated in 22 CFR 51.2(b), is that no person shall bear or be in possession of more than one valid or potentially valid passport of the same type (regular, official, diplomatic, no-fee regular, or passport card) at any time, unless authorized by the Department of State,” the official told ThinkProgress.

They added that the department “may authorize the issuance of more than one valid passport under… limited circumstances, and only with limited validity.” Such circumstances include:

  • When a foreign country will deny a visa or entry to the bearer of a passport containing markings or visas showing travel to certain other countries.
  • When a passport needed for immediate travel is unavailable due to prolonged delays in processing a foreign visa application, or some other foreign governmental process for which the passport was required.

“Requests for more than one valid passport, including multiple limited validity passports under the circumstances listed above, are reviewed on a case-by-case basis,” the official added.

Tuesday’s court filing did not specify whether Manafort was eligible for multiple passports under any of those criteria.

Manafort and Gates were indicted in court on 12 counts Monday morning, including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, and making false statements to authorities. The indictment also revealed that Manafort specifically had set up a number of shell companies and bank accounts meant to hide payments for lobbying work on behalf of former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions.

Court documents specified that Manafort had used those shell companies and shady accounts to purchase property in the United States, more than $800,000 in clothing, and millions more on renovations, interior decorations like antique rugs, housekeeping, and several vehicles, among other things. The indictment noted that Gates had also used several offshore accounts to “pay for his personal expenses, including his mortgage, children’s tuition, and interior decorating of his Virginia residence.”

In total, the indictment stated, the two had funneled at least $75 million from pro-Russian agents and entities through offshore accounts over the years.

“Both defendants have substantial ties abroad, including in Ukraine, where both have spent time and have served as agents of its government,” special counsel Robert Mueller wrote in Tuesday’s conditions of release, citing another case  which bore similar aspects. “Foreign connections of this kind indicate that the defendants would have access to funds and an ability ‘to live comfortably’ abroad, a consideration that strongly suggests risk of flight… Although the defendants will surely argue that this risk is minimal given that they did not flee despite being under grand jury investigation, ‘a pre indictment investigation and a post-indictment trial are two very different things.'”