The first Manafort sentencing

Paul Manafort was sentenced on eight counts including tax and bank fraud in the US yesterday. He received a much lighter sentence than prosecutors had asked for, which was seen by some as some sort of victory, or a defeat for the Mueller inquiry, but it was still substantial. It included:

  • 47 months imprisonment
  • $50,000 fine
  • Must pay $25 million in restitution
  • 3 years of supervised release after his prison term

The Monetary penalties may not be a big deal if Manafort can afford to pay them, but I think the prison sentence is actually substantial and onerous. Especially for someone who has never been in trouble with the law before, nearly four years in prison is a very big deal.

Prison sentence numbers get thrown around these days as if years don’t matter. For someone who has never been there before months in prison would be a big deal, let alone years.

CBS News: Manafort sentenced to under 4 years in prison, far less than prosecutors sought

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis handed down the sentence in federal court in Virginia Thursday afternoon. He said Manafort committed “undeniably serious” crimes and expressed surprise that he did not “express regret for engaging in wrongful conduct.”

But Ellis also said the government’s recommendation of 19.5 to 24 years behind bars was “unwarranted” and “excessive,” adding that Manafort has “lived an otherwise blameless life.”

Perhaps ‘an otherwise uncaught life’ would be closer to the mark.

An attorney from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office told the court Manafort “failed to accept responsibility and is not remorseful.” In recent weeks Manafort’s legal team had requested a “significantly” lower sentence than the length recommended by prosecutors.

Before learning his fate, Manafort addressed the court, telling Ellis his life is in “shambles” and asking for leniency.

“The last two years have been the most difficult of my lif. To say I am humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement.”

After his conviction in Virginia, Manafort struck a plea deal to avoid a second trial on conspiracy charges in Washington, D.C. A federal judge determined in Februaryhe had breached his plea agreement by lying to the government.

Judge T.S. Ellis said Manafort committed “undeniably serious” crimes and expressed surprise that Manafort did not “express regret for engaging in wrongful conduct.”

“You should have remorse for that,” Ellis said.

Some seem to think that celebrations are in order for a relatively light sentence, but while I think Manafort may be relieved, he won’t have much to celebrate about for quite a while. Time already in custody will come off the time left to serve, but it will still be a tough time ahead for him.

Ardern and benefit fraud versus tax fraud

3 News report on a crack down on benefit fraud:

Five-hundred-twenty-five people have had their benefits cancelled after being caught cheating the system to the tune of $5.6 million a year.

In the past two months, WINZ officials have been calling beneficiaries after matching their data with the IRD. They’ve calculated that many paying high taxes are doing so for one reason: they also have a job.Almost half those called, 525, have been taken off their benefits and could face prosecution.

“But it is an issue,” says Ms Bennett. “It’s still fraud. You’re still ripping the taxpayer off and I think you should be held to account for it.”

But the 3 News item was headlined Focus should be tax fraud – Labour and quotes Jacinda Ardern…

“The Government is certainly putting more emphasis on welfare fraud than tax fraud,” says Labour MP Jacinda Ardern.

Labour says the $5.6 million saved is a drop in the bucket when compared with tax evasion.

Ardern provides no certainty that Government is “putting more emphasis on welfare fraud than tax fraud”. And Inland Revenue certainly seems serious about addressing tax fraud – see Report tax evasion or fraud anonymously

We are committed to targeting tax evasion and fraud. If you have information about tax evasion and fraud, you can report it to us anonymously by using this form. You will be helping keep our tax system fair for everyone.

The IRD website lists a number of fraud cases:

That’s about one and a half million dollars worth of tax fraud in four prosecutions.

It’s very odd for Ardern and Labour to defend one type of fraud. IRD are capable of investigating tax fraud at the same time that WINZ investigates welfare fraud.

Would Labour stop any investigations into welfare fraud?

UPDATE: Chester Borrows has just said on Firstline that over the past three budgets National has allocated $200 million to address tax fraud.