[FinCEN Files] ⑤Leaked file confirms a link between Tongsun Park and Paul Manafort

2020년 09월 25일 18시 00분

A leaked suspicious activity report (SAR) from the U.S.Treasury Department confirms that obscure funds worth tens of millions of dollars were exchanged between two notorious lobbyists in South Korea and the U.S. in late 2016. 
One is Tongsun Park of the so-called 'Koreagate' scandal, which rattled political communities in Seoul and Washington in 1976. The other is Paul Manafort, one of the key figures behind alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election in the U.S.
The life graphs of Park and Manafort cross at multiple points.
● Both of them are alumni of prestigious Georgetown University in Washington DC.
● Both of them have lived as career lobbyists active on the central stage of U.S. politics.
 Both of them have played a major role in massive political scandals, albeit being 40 years apart.
● Both of them have served a prison sentence after being accused of illegal lobbying.
In the 1970s, during the Yushin regime of Park Chung Hee, Tongsun Park acted on the frontline as a leading lobbyist.
He passed out substantial sums of bribes to dozens of members of Congress in the U.S. Parks’ influence-buying scandal decorated the front page of the Washington Post with the headline ‘Koreagate’ on October 15, 1976. Since the Carter administration took office, Korea-U.S. relations -- which had already been cooling off -- reached the freezing point.
A decade later in 1990, Tongsun Park’s activities again became visible to the world.
In March 1990, the Wall Street Journal reported that Park had resumed lobbying activities in Washington. Under Park’s arrangement, the president of the African Republic of Zaire signed a contract with a Washington lobby firm called Manafort, Stone & Kelly. As its name suggests, Manafort was the one who founded it. 
▲ Non-fiction 'The Man Standing Next' devotes one chapter to tell behind-the-scenes stories on Tongsun Park’s Koreagate scandal. The movie with the same title, which was released earlier this year, also highlights the incident at the beginning. (Source: 'The Man Standing Next' by Kim Choongseek) 
In 2006, once again, Park was arrested for illegal lobbying. In the U.S., each lobbyist has to be registered with the U.S. Justice Department as demanded by the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) and disclose their activities done on behalf of a foreign principals. Once registered, the information becomes public. Park, however, violated FARA. 
He was caught while serving as an unregistered foreign agent for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq without proper registration. He was sentenced to 37 months in prison and finally released in September 2009, five months earlier than the original termination. He returned to Korea.
Apparently, Park is still involved in lobbying business even if he rarely comes forward. FARA records show Parkington International Inc. is a consulting firm run by Tongsun Park. The document states the purpose of its business as providing consultation on government relations and administrative consultation. The information reveals lobbying constitutes their main business. 
According to its FARA registration form, in January 2019, Parkington hired Prime Policy Group, a lobbying firm in the U.S. “on behalf of the Democratic Party of Korea.” It states the nature of the business as to provide services such as “strategic advice on policy issues” and “congressional advocacy.”
The document also shows that a man with the surname Kim is the owner of Parkington. Kim is believed to be a close acquaintance of Park. The Vice President who signed the document is a man with the surname Park, who turns out to be Tongsun Park’s nephew.
However, whether they hold actual power to run the company is unclear. Tongsun Park was the only name on the list of directors in the firm’s corporate registry around the time of its FARA registration. His nephew had resigned in 2016. There is no record at all on Kim although there was a contract paper that showed Kim as the owner of Parkington.
While Park was holding onto his Washington connections, Manafort suddenly fell from the epitome of his career. 
Manafort was Donald Trump’s campaign chairman in the 2016 presidential election. But he had to leave the Trump camp after his monetary relationship with Ukrainian former President Viktor Yanukovych and other pro-Moscow politicians in Ukraine had been exposed. He was identified as a key player of the so-called Russian scandal that alleged Russia’s meddling in the US presidential election. Manafort was, in fact, the first one to be handed over to trial by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. 
Manafort’s extensive money laundering network has been revealed in the Muller investigation. He laundered consulting fees that he had received from the pro-Moscow political circle in Ukraine. Convicted of money laundering and tax fraud, he was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison.
In the wake of COVID-19 outbreak, however, he has been released from prison to serve the remainder of his sentence at home. The decision sparked a controversy as it was viewed as preferential treatment.
▲ The former campaign chairman of President Trump, Paul Manafort, was picked by ICIJ as one of ‘20 notorious names found in the FinCEN Files.’ (Source: ICIJ website)
The leaked FinCEN files, which have been analyzed by ICIJ, KCIJ-Newstapa along with other media partners are fraught with records on Manafort’s fishy financial transactions. They show how he used shell companies for money laundering.
On March 7, 2017, PNC Bank filed a suspicious report on a single money transfer transaction into Manafort’s DMP International LLC. The report got its 14-digit number ‘31XXXXXXXXXX96.’ On the pages 5 to 6 of the 7-page document, it states “$25,000 [was] received via wire transfer [...] on December 29 2016” sent from the Korea Exchange Bank. The fund’s sender was Parkington. PNC Bank highlighted the funds “were associated with Tongsun Park.”
▲In the SAR filed by PNC Bank regarding Paul Manafort, Tongsun Park’s name and the amount of the fund and the date of wire transfer from Parkington to DMP are stated. (Source: FinCEN data shared by BuzzFeed, ICIJ)
Manafort made an interesting move after receiving the fund from Park.
The next day that the USD 25,000 was wired, Manafort came to visit Seoul on December 30, 2016. It was when the impeachment crisis of former President Park Geun-hye had been reaching its climax. Anticipation for a new presidential election had also been building up. 
Korean news outlets overreacted as they imbued lots of meaning to his visit with headlines such as ‘Trump’s right-hand man was in Korea.’ The fact that his fame had already suffered a heavy blow being named a ‘Russian spy’ did not seem to matter in Korea.
Manafort stayed at a luxury hotel in Seoul and met with political big names such as Kim Jong-in and Sohn Hak-kyu, who had been viewed as potential presidential dark horses. Lee Byung-ho, then-chief of the national intelligence agency, also ran to see Manafort. 
Korean newspapers were busy figuring out Manafort’s intention for visiting Seoul. One daily newspaper understood Manafort’s visit as to sort out Korea-China-Japan issues as the Trump administration took office. 
Manafort’s ulterior motive was elsewhere. His interest was in money while using geopolitics surrounding Korea, China and Japan as a pretext. In fact, the Mueller report summarized it well based on Manafort’s own words.   
Trump was elected President on November 8, 2016. Manafort told the Office that, in the wake of Trump’s victory, he was not interested in an Administration job. Manafort instead preferred to stay on the ‘outside,’ and monetize his campaign position to generate business given his familiarity and relationship with Trump and the incoming Administration. Manafort appeared to follow that plan, as he traveled to the Middle East, Cuba, South Korea, Japan, and China and was paid to explain what a Trump presidency would entail.

Report on The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election (The Mueller Report) Vol 1. p141
There was a person who was assisting Manafort’s agenda.
Their connection became quite obvious in Seoul and Tokyo. When Manafort made the surprise visit to South Korea in December 2016, it was not known who brought him to the country.
But three years later in November 2019, the mystery was solved through a contribution written by the president of a social circle where Tongun Park had maintained a close relationship for the past 20 years.
“Tongsun Park has pursued civilian-level diplomacy to deal with delicate international issues which could be too sensitive for the government to appear on the front. After Trump’s election victory, he endeavored to help national interest by inviting Manafort,” he wrote.
Tongsun Park also worked to bridge Manafort with Japanese politicians. After making headlines in Korea, he went over to Japan. A photo of Park and Manafort was published in a Japanese magazine. Standing next to them were Japanese businessmen and politicians. Six-time lawmaker of the far-right Japan Innovation Party Mikio Shimoji also attended the meeting. After the banquet, Shimoji got involved in a casino corruption scandal. He got kicked out from the party after he admitted that he had received political funds from a Chinese firm that approached him with an ambition to enter Japanese casino market.
It is hard to know what Park, Manfort and Shimoji had in mind when they got together in Japan. Whatever their intention might have been, the gathering’s meaning has faded. 
▲ (Faces circled in red, from left to right) Paul Manafort, Tongsun Park, Japanese Diet member Shimoji Mikio are smiling while looking at the camera. (Source: Japan Presidents Journal, March 25, 2017)
The leaked FinCEN files shed light on the longstanding secretive relationship between these two high-profile lobbyists in Korea and the U.S. Despite Parkington’s effort to hide Tongsun Park’s presence in shadows in its U.S. lobbying endeavor, U.S. authorities were already aware of his influence. For instance, it underlined ‘Koreagate’ to explain who Tongsun Park was, citing Wikipedia.   
From the outside, the USD 25,000 fund looked like a legitimate business deal between Tongsun Park’s Parkington and Manafort’s DMC. If so, the possibility of the two companies signing a formal contract and paying money should be considered. Also, if the lobbying contract really exists, it should be available in the FARA database. 
Browsing the FARA database is not very difficult. It would only take about five minutes. But there was no legal document to justify the suspicious wire transfer from Parkington to DMC. 
But it is still premature to determine the fund in question was a slush fund to support Manafort’s overseas activities including his illegal lobbying.
Newstapa called Park to ask him about the source and purpose of the fund wire transferred to Manafort. The mobile number had been known to have been used by Tongsun Park. We only heard the automated answer saying, “The number you dialed is no longer valid.”
▲ Parkington International’s sign is visible on a building located in Hannam-dong, Seoul. Parkington is a consulting firm controlled by Tongsun Park. 
Newstapa also visited Parkington’s office located on the second floor of a building hidden in a small alley of hilly Itaewon area. When a Newstapa reporter knocked on the door -there was no doorbell- a man answered and opened the door only about a half way.
“I am Park OO,” he said. He was Tongsun Park’s nephew.
When informed about Newstapa’s investigation, he responded nonchalantly, “It’s all bygone matters. We’ve no longer got much to do with Manafort. We haven’t been in touch with him for a long time.” Then he went back in and locked the door again. 
While Park told Newstapa that he would call, he has not kept the promise yet.
Both Tongsun Park and Paul Manafort have served foreign principals as unregistered agents which is an obvious violation of FARA.
For instance, Tongsun Park had lobbied on behalf of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq before he got arrested in 2006. Paul Manafort lobbied while hiding the fact that his clients were pro-Moscow Ukrainian government as it later came to light during the investigation into the Russian scandal. 
In June 2017, Manafort made a retroactive report to the U.S. government on his lobbying contract with Ukraine which he had previously concealed. It is not coincidental that global banks and U.S. authorities kept watchful eyes on the dubious financial transactions between Manafort and Park.  
These six words were used to fill the report’s money laundering category of the report: “Suspicious concerning the source of funds.”
ReportingYongjin Kim, Jiyoon Kim, Myungju Lee
DesignDo-hyeon Lee
PublishingHyeon-jae Heo