For the “We Build The Wall” campaign, Trump’s ex-advisor Bannon raised millions in donations. He probably picked off part of it for himself. After his arrest, he denies all allegations.
The former chief strategist of US President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, pleaded not guilty after his arrest on suspicion of fraud. Judge Stewart Aaron ruled in New York that Bannon would be released on bail of five million dollars. Aaron also imposed a travel ban for areas outside of the northeastern United States. Bannon has to hand in his passport. Trump distanced himself from his former advisor.
Bannon was arrested on a yacht off the coast of Connecticut, according to prosecutors. New York prosecutors have accused him and three other suspects of having diverted money from an online fundraiser to build a wall on the border with Mexico. The non-profit organization called "We Build the Wall" has raised more than $ 25 million from hundreds of thousands of donors.
Long prison sentences possible
According to a press release from the Ministry of Justice, the 66-year-old faces up to 20 years in prison. The indictment states that Bannon received more than $ 1 million from the proceeds of We Build the Wall. Of that, he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on personal expenses. The other three accused also received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, "each of which they used in a way that is inconsistent with the organization’s public representations.".
Judge Aaron ordered Bannon to apply for permission to use private planes or boats. He is also not allowed to have any contact with the other defendants or with anyone connected to We Build the Wall. Bannon is due to appear in court on August 31st. The three other defendants were also arrested.
Money ran through a straw company
According to the indictment, the organization advertised that 100 percent of the funds would go towards building a wall. The 38-year-old founder and president of the organization had repeatedly falsely assured the public that he would not receive any salary or remuneration. Bannon said publicly: "We are a volunteer organization." These representations were wrong.
In order to conceal the payments to the also accused president of "We Build the Wall", the accused had hatched a plan to channel funds, among other things, through the non-profit organization under Bannon’s control and through a straw company. For this purpose, bills were falsified. Acting District Attorney Audrey Strauss said the organization’s president had used the funds to finance his lavish lifestyle. According to the allegations, the fraud plans of the four accused date back to the end of 2018.
Trump: "It sounded like showing off to me"
Bannon is one of the most influential voices in the ultra-conservative camp of US politics. He was Trump’s chief strategist and campaign leader for a while. The president has since said he did not approve of the organization’s project. "It sounded like showing off to me." Building the wall is a matter for the government, not private individuals. He had not had any contact with his former campaign manager for a very long time. Bannon was long criticized by senior advisers in the White House until he was fired in August 2017 after a falling out with Trump. Bannon was best known as the editor of the website "Breitbart News", known for its ultra-right conspiracy myths..
Building a wall on the border with Mexico was one of Trump’s most important campaign promises ahead of the 2016 presidential election. He wants to seal off half of the 3200-kilometer border to ward off illegal migrants. Trump promised Mexico would pay for the construction of the wall. but what did not happen. So far, almost 480 kilometers have been built – at the expense of the US taxpayer.