As a journalist and writer, I have spent a great deal of time in Kiev, Ukraine. Last fall, I was introduced to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) and its head, Artem Sytnyk, former chief investigator of the Kiev Oblast.
I spent an hour visiting with his team as the office was being organized, as well as with the first 70 detectives hired. I found the group to be very professional, dedicated, brave, and somewhat idealistic. I also met with the new detective training team in Kiev that is responsible for working with NABU to prosecute corrupt government officials.
It is with this background that I read this week’s New York Times bombshell story about Paul Manafort, Republican nominee Donald Trump’s campaign manager/chairman, being “named” in a corruption probe in Kiev by NABU. Being familiar with the history of the unit and how it works, I contacted press secretary Svitlana Olivera and others the day after the NYT article was printed.
What I found out was shocking, to say the least.
Officials in Kiev did confirm they are investigating documents provided to them in May concerning illegal cash payments made by the regime of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych — a Manafort client. These documents were provided to detectives of NABU from a Ukrainian member of parliament who acquired them from “a source.”
Shockingly, the document published by the newspaper, supposedly showing the page of a ledger detailing covert payments, was not part of these original documents provided to NABU. The Times’ article insists that the document was released by NABU, but that appears to be untrue. NABU by law has not been able to release any documents to the public.
It seems the incriminating document was downloaded off the internet, according to NABU. The document used by The New York Times to validate the story was apparently provided to NABU at the same time it was “provided” to the American newspaper. NABU confirmed absolutely they cannot verify the authenticity of the document cited in the story. In other words, it is possible this document was manufactured to support the story. NABU is nonetheless investigating this document as well.
The incident is not trivial — the questions surrounding Mr. Manafort’s dealings with Mr. Yanukovych and other Ukrainian figures were cited by many as one reason Mr. Trump initiated a campaign staff shakeup this week, a shakeup that many say was designed to clip the authority of Mr. Manafort.
The timing and the circumstances of this document release are highly suspect, coming just months before the U.S. election. With the history of The New York Times publishing unsubstantiated hit stories against Mr. Trump, this document should be held in suspicion. The agenda of the liberal Times and its feud with the Trump campaign are well documented. I am not saying corruption is not rampant in Ukraine, I am saying the evidence supposedly implicating Mr. Manafort is extremely suspect and to date nonexistent.
• L. Todd Wood is a former special operations helicopter pilot and Wall Street debt trader, and has contributed to Fox Business, The Moscow Times, National Review, the New York Post and many other publications. He can be reached through his website, LToddWood.com.
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