Russian money-laundering will be a major focus of FBI investigations into links between Donald Trump’s associates and Russia as I suggested on Reaction weeks ago.

The FBI director James Comey admitted last week that the FBI had been investigating links between people in Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia for many months. Now sources with US intelligence experience (but not FBI personnel working on the Russian links) are confident money-laundering will be a priority of the FBI investigation.

Investigators from the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network will likely collaborate. Our sources indicated that even before Trump’s inauguration the overarching connection between Trump and Vladimir Putin was not Kremlin blackmail or some weird ideological affiliation but money.

Russian individuals and entities may have used Trump’s property empire, perhaps without his knowledge, to launder dirty cash into legitimate western financial systems, thereby rescuing Trump from a series of financial disasters, including bankruptcy.

A desire not to damage a good business relationship could also explain Trump’s puzzling refusal to criticize Putin despite Russia’s covert meddling in US elections, military aggression and atrocities in Syria and Ukraine.

After Russian police used violence and arrested more than 1000 protesters demonstrating against their government’s corruption last Sunday (March 26) Trump remained silent.

In contrast he has made outlandish accusations that US intelligence agencies, former President Barrack Obama and British intelligence at GCHQ have spied on him or “wiretapped” his building to deflect attention from the ties with Russia that seem to surface daily.

Money-laundering of dirty Russian cash by many Western banks, financial institutions and businesses, including Wall Street and the City of London, has been a shoddy open secret for years.

In March there were allegations that British institutions had laundered some $30 billion. Last month the UK and US fined Deutsche Bank, which happens to be intimately connected with Trump, $630 million for Russian money-laundering.

Several years ago the FBI discovered, at a property where Trump himself was living in Manhattan, a Russian money-laundering operation being masterminded from apartments owned by Russians. As many as 30 of them were arrested.

Scores of Trump properties have been purchased over the years by wealthy Russians and that doesn’t tie him to money-laundering.  But he has tried to obscure his Russian business links although his son, Donald Jnr, has admitted that Russian money was “pouring” into their property empire.

Many Russian businessmen acquired their fortunes in a murky, often violent, environment where success depended on a nexus of links between politicians, secret police, crooks and business. In the Putin era success depends on obedience to Putin and sharing the spoils with him. Cash is laundered to buy luxury property, yachts and businesses in the West. They educate their children here and enjoy the freedoms that Putin’s “elite” conspires to deny their own people.

It is not a “victimless crime” because it has disastrously stunted those nations’ economic development, suppressed democracy and the rule of law and helped mire a majority of Russia’s citizens in poverty.

Trump’s businesses will have to show investigators they carried out the due diligence checks demanded by laws such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Patriot Act and KYC rules – know your client – requiring demonstrable efforts to check the provenance of clients’ money.

The FBI is one of the few outfits with the resources, capacity and reach to track the probably thousands of individuals and business entities involved.

Political operative Paul Manafort, who has featured in my previous articles on this topic, could be pivotal to the FBI investigation.

For several critical months last summer he ran Trump’s election campaign but was dismissed after embarrassing media revelations concerning his clients including ousted Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, and Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash. Firtash has strong links to Putin and faces th prospect of extradition to the US on bribery charges.

Another Manafort client, Oleg Deripaska, is one of Russia’s richest oligarchs, who is also tied closely to Putin.

Manafort allegedly received undeclared large sums of money for his services to Yanukovych, which included undermining American and EU efforts to foster human rights and democracy inUkraine. Putin-puppet Yanukovych fled to Russia after his security forces murdered 100 pro-western demonstrators and his government was deposed.

Manafort’s assistant in Ukraine was a former Russian military intelligence (GRU) officer who claims he visited the US and continued communications with Manafort during the latter’s time on Trump’s campaign. Manafort is credited with diluting Trump’s Republican Party’s support for arming the Ukrainian military – something welcomed by the Kremlin.

Associated Press claims documents show Manafort offered his expertise to Putin at a time when the Russian dictator was charting an openly hostile course towards America and the West. He worked for Ukraine’s richest and pro-Russian oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov, who funded Yanukovych’s political career from street-gangster to president.

Manafort could face criminal charges for not registering his work as a foreign agent.

Manafort is also financially linked to Firtash who for many years ran an opaque company used by Russian energy giant Gazprom to channel billions of dollars for Putin and his cronies.

Firtash has long fought extradition but now it’s looming he may strike a deal with US authorities to tell all he knows about Manafort. Manafort in turn might be tempted to make his own deal.  After all… Trump boasts that it’s all about the art of the deal.