The billionaire Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska filed suit in New York State Court Wednesday against President Trump's former campaign manager Paul J. Manafort and his partner Rick Gates, claiming the two had defrauded him of $18.9 million.
The case was filed by Surf Horizon, a firm controlled by Deripaska. It alleged that Manafort and Gates had used as "their personal piggy banks" a web of partnerships financed with funds invested by Deripaska in 2007 and 2008.
The lawsuit refers often to the indictment brought against Manafort and Gates by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. The lawsuit said that "the dealings of Manafort and Gates with Surf mirror the pattern of corporate dealings alleged in the Indictment" and that the special counsel's case "provided further support" for the allegations.
Deripaska also says that bank records obtained May 2017 in a Cyprus lawsuit showed that Manafort and Gates moved funds in and out of accounts "without any apparent business reason, but ultimately making payments of millions of dollars to them individually or to their personal vendors or creditors."
Surf Horizon also alleges that Manafort and Gates gave false testimony in the Cyprus case.
The lawsuit asks for legal fees, $1.1 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages.
A similar case was filed in the Cayman Islands in 2014.
"We are surprised by this filing," said Jason Maloni, president of public relations firm JadeRoq and a spokesman for Manafort. "This is a commercial matter which we thought had been addressed and resolved years ago. We will respond, if we must do so, in the appropriate manner."
Gates could not be reached for comment.
Manafort and Gates in 2006 had wooed Deripaska to invest in a $200 million fund to make private equity deals, primarily in Russia and Ukraine. Manafort and Gates formed a Cayman Islands partnership called Pericles Emerging Market Partners. Deripaska knew Gates, who had helped arrange meetings for him with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He invested $18.9 million through Surf Horizon and paid $7.35 million in management fees.
However, the lawsuit says, there were no other investors and the fund's sole investment was a Ukrainian cable TV station called Black Sea Cable. It adds that Manafort and Gates overstated the cost of the station. The suit says that Manafort and Gates "had siphoned for themselves millions of dollars."
During the 2008 credit crunch, Deripaska had asked for his money back but never received any of it.
The suit adds that Manafort and Gates "grossly" mismanaged the investment, "resulting in a total loss of the amount invested."
Surf Horizon said that it wasn't until one of its affiliates, Adoptol, filed a proceeding in Cyprus that it obtained the partnership records it sought from Manafort and Gates. Those records, it said, "provided proof for the first time that Manafort and Gates had defrauded Surf."