Wednesday, 22 August, 2018

Mueller's 'star witness' returns for testimony in Manafort trial

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Leonard Rios | 07 August, 2018, 21:55

The trial of Paul Manafort resumes Monday afternoon with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's prosecutors expected to focus less on the lifestyle of the former Trump campaign chairman and more on the financial machinations underpinning the bank fraud and tax charges.

In this November 6, 2017 photo, Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, leaves the federal courthouse in Washington.Gates told jurors that he siphoned off the money without Manafort’s knowledge by filing false expense reports. Gates pleaded guilty this year to felony charges and agreed to co-operate in an investigation into possible ties between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign.

A former Justice Department attorney with experience prosecuting similar cases told Roll Call that the prosecution will most likely call another summary witness toward the trial's conclusion to testify about evidence that shows Manafort opened more than 30 accounts in four different countries under his name, including shell companies that sent Manafort and Gates the money that they classified as "loans".

But she said she was under the impression that Mr Manafort had been directing his deputies' actions and "knew what was going on".

On Tuesday, Gates also testified about "modified" invoices for payments to USA vendors that he said he created at Manafort's request.

The case against Manafort has nothing to do with either man's work for the Trump campaign and there's been no discussion during the trial about whether the Trump campaign co-ordinated with Russian Federation - the central question Mueller's team has tried to answer.

Manafort's defense has sought to blame Gates, described by witnesses as his "right-hand man", for any illegal conduct and accused him of embezzling millions of dollars from Manafort.

Manafort's political activities were not limited to the U.S.by any means: government prosecutors are alleging that he evaded taxes on $15 million worth of income earned while promoting former Ukrainian President Viktor F. Yanukovych.

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Jurors will hear again Monday from Cynthia Laporta, an accountant who testified August 3 about going along with phony, backdated documents meant to help lower Manafort's tax bills and secure real-estate loans even as his personal debt rose.

And yesterday, Gates testified that him and Manafort had no less than 15 foreign accounts that they did not report to the USA government-which both of them knew was illegal. He said he did so at Manafort's direction.

Trump hasn't tweeted about Manafort since the first day of the trial last week, and the trial itself is not about the work Manafort did on the campaign. Mueller is also investigating possible coordination between Trump campaign members and Russian officials in the election campaign, but the charges against Manafort do not address that.

But Tuesday, Manafort did not stare Gates down. Similar to prior witnesses, Laporta testified that Gates and Manafort were in lockstep but that Manafort was in charge.

As a sober Gates recited his testimony, Manafort reacted about the way you'd expect. Laporta said she had no indication that the loan from Deripaska had been paid off.

During Manafort's trial, Greg D. Andres and other prosecutors have tried to illustrate the corrupt nature of the Ukrainian politicians and oligarchs Manafort worked with-and Judge T.S. Ellis has discouraged such testimony.

Some of the manoeuvrers were at the request of Mr Gates, while others implicated Mr Manafort, Ms Laporta testified.

Under cross examination on Monday, defence attorney Kevin Downing attempted to show that Gates was the point person in dealing with the accountants.

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