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Huge Manafort Payment Reflects Murky Ukraine Politics

Mr. Yanukovych was driven from office in the Maidan Revolution of 2014, after having stolen, according to the current Ukrainian government, at least $1 billion. In the years before his fall, Mr. Manafort took lavish payments to burnish the image of Mr. Yanukovych and the Party of Regions in Washington, even as the party acknowledged only very modest spending.

In 2012, for example, the party reported annual expenses of about $11.1 million, based on the exchange rate at the time, excluding overhead. For the same year, Mr. Manafort reported income of $12.1 million from the party, the Justice Department filing shows.

In 2013, the Party of Regions reported expenses of $3.7 million, while Mr. Manafort reported receiving payments of $4.5 million.

Handwritten ledgers that surfaced last year indicated that the party had actually spent about $2 billion over the past decade or so, much or most of it illegally. Some outlays like payments to an election official possibly amounted to criminal bribery.

Mr. Manafort has not been charged with breaking any laws regarding the reporting of income derived from his efforts on behalf of the party. The disclosures cap lengthy negotiations between Mr. Manafort and officials at the Justice Department, which monitors the activities of Americans who work on behalf of foreign political parties and governments.

In a statement, Mr. Manafort’s spokesman, Jason Maloni, suggested that the Party of Regions was accountable for the contradiction between the two disclosures.

“Any questions about the reporting obligations of the Party of Regions should be directed to those within the party responsible for such reporting,” he said in a statement. Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine “was widely known and the firm was paid only for the work it performed. In fact, just last month Ukraine officials indicated that there is no proof of illicit payments.”

Though documents discovered after the 2014 revolution show the party’s coffers were padded with donations from Ukraine’s ultrawealthy steel and natural gas tycoons, it tried to keep up a populist image and declared only a modest, even minuscule, annual budget.

“It means either Manafort is lying, or the Party of Regions was lying,” Serhiy Leshchenko, an investigative journalist and a member of Parliament who has been critical of Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine, said in an interview.

A Ukrainian investigation of this discrepancy is not likely. The Party of Regions is now disbanded, and prosecutors are looking into far more serious crimes than campaign finance filing errors.

Moreover, at the time the party made its declarations, filing a false campaign finance report was considered an administrative offense akin to a parking ticket and punishable by no more than a fine of a few hundred dollars, said Ostap Kuchma, a party finance analyst at the anticorruption group Chesno.

Mr. Manafort’s reports to the Justice Department do not cover the entire period he worked in Ukraine. Last summer, The New York Times reported that the party’s handwritten ledgers showed $12.7 million in undisclosed payments designated for Mr. Manafort’s firm from 2007 to 2012.

Anticorruption officials in Ukraine assert that the payments were part of an illegal off-the-books system. Mr. Manafort, who resigned from his campaign post shortly after the article appeared, has denied receiving any cash, and state prosecutors in Ukraine have not accused him of wrongdoing.

Ukraine’s chief anticorruption prosecutor, Nazar Kholodnytsky, reiterated that assessment last month, telling Ukrainian television that ledger entries provided no proof of Mr. Manafort’s having receiving illegal payments.

But the investigation into the accounting book, including the entries mentioning Mr. Manafort, is still open, and recently shifted from one branch of the prosecutor’s office to another, Serhiy Gorbatyuk, the prosecutor in charge of the case, said in an interview.

“The Party of Regions was spending a lot of cash, to bribe voters and for illegal advertising,” Daria M. Kaleniuk, the executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, said in an interview. “Manafort took the money to whitewash its reputation in the West.”

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