Friday, 16 November, 2018


Star witness to take stand for second day in Manafort trial

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Bennie Garza | 07 August, 2018, 21:52

Rick Gates, the former associate of one-time Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, is testifying in Manafort's criminal trial for alleged bank and tax fraud.

Gates was expected to be a star witness in the government's case against Manafort having pleaded guilty in February and agreed to co-operate with prosecutors under a deal that could lead to a reduced sentence.

Laporta also said Manafort was copied on several emails she sent to Gates regarding her concerns - but she did not consider calling Manafort directly because it appeared he was largely aware of what was happening.

Mr Gates was Mr Manafort's partner in the consultancy.

Gates testified that Manafort "requested I make wire transfers from the foreign accounts" and that "at Mr. Manafort's request", the two of them "did not disclose the foreign bank accounts" to the USA government.

Gates, who first met Manafort working for him as an intern fresh out of college, has been described by witnesses as Manafort's right-hand man in his multimillion-dollar political consulting business.

"Did you commit any crimes with Mr. Manafort?"

Those admissions are likely to become a focal point for Manafort's defence team when he is cross examined on Tuesday.

Prosecutors say this work resulted in earnings of around $60m (£46m) and that a "significant percentage" of this was omitted from Manafort's income tax returns. With an enormous salary serving his expensive lifestyle (earlier in Manafort's trial, we learned about his taste for ostrich jackets), Manafort had a pretty good racket going on, until he plunged into debt and made the fateful decision to run President Trump's long-shot campaign in 2016.

Gates, Manafort's long-time business partner, is expected to face a tough cross-examination later on Tuesday by defense lawyers in the first trial to arise from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 USA election.

The charges relate to Manafort's work for Ukraine's former pro-Kremlin president, Viktor Yanukovich.

Manafort, a veteran lobbyist, has tried to get the financial charges against him dismissed and arguing that Mr Mueller has a "blank check" that he "has cashed, repeatedly".

Manafort's lawyers are expected to use the theft to try to undermine Gates' credibility as a witness.

Testimony from Mr Manafort's tax preparer continued on Monday. Laporta, who testified under an immunity deal with the government, acknowledged that she agreed under pressure from Gates to alter a tax document for one of Manafort's businesses.

In the telling of Manafort's legal team, any problems with his financial paperwork were either mistakes or the fault of Gates, who they say was stealing from Manafort and is now cooperating with investigators to cover his tracks. Laporta said she had no indication that the loan from Deripaska had been paid off.

After that, Gates sent her a document dated March 6, 2014, that purported to represent a $900,000 loan from a Cyprus entity, Telmar Limited, to Manafort's company.

Manafort, 69, meanwhile, is facing 18 felony charges that could carry a maximum of 30 years in prison.

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