Published: Fri, August 10, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Manafort team attacks star witness over affair, fraud and 'so many lies'

Manafort team attacks star witness over affair, fraud and 'so many lies'

This courtroom sketch depicts defense lawyer Kevin Downing asking questions of Rick Gates, as former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, bottom front left, listens during Manafort's trial on bank fraud and tax evasion.

Overall, the accountant traced more than $65 million flowing into offshore accounts controlled by Manafort, and she detailed for jurors how more than $15.5 million flowed out to fund his lavish lifestyle between 2010 and 2014.

For the previous two days in court, Gates has testified that he and Manafort committed bank and tax fraud together.

Testimony resumes Thursday at 9:30 a.m. ET in Alexandria, Virginia, and the government is expected to rest by Friday.

Manafort is the first person to be tried on charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 USA election.

Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, is charged with 18 counts of tax and banking crimes, and has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Mr Gates said he did, but the defence lawyer wasn't satisfied.

"I'm here to tell the truth and take responsibility for my actions", Gates said in response to a question from Downing about his trustworthiness.

Manafort's attorneys have signaled they will seek to blame Gates and have accused him of embezzling millions of dollars from Manafort.

Gates, under questioning by prosecutor Greg Andres, admitted that he padded his expense accounts with phony charges without Manafort's knowledge, siphoning "several hundred thousand" dollars from the secret accounts.

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Downing seized on those admissions to try and cast doubt on whether the jury can trust Gates' claims that he only carried out the fraud alleged by prosecutors at Manafort's behest. His former accountant Cindy Laporta has already testified that she participated in that fraud, as did his ex-employee Rick Gates.

In one example, Manafort and Gates emailed each other copies of a doctored profit and loss statement they later sent a bank to help Manafort obtain a loan. "I'm trying to change".

"I've acknowledged there was a period where I had another relationship", said Gates, who is married.

The jury was reminded of the universe of vendors who've testified - the high-end suit sellers, the landscaper, the friend-turned-real-estate-agent, the general contractor - as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and IRS representatives walked through money flowing into their legitimate businesses from Manafort's foreign accounts.

After Mr Gates described his theft as "unauthorised transactions" instead of embezzlement, Mr Downing prodded him to use the latter term - and Mr Gates ultimately relented, saying: "It was embezzlement from Mr Manafort".

"I would be surprised, given what's occurred in the Manafort trial, if Judge Ellis didn't issue this relatively standard instruction", Abramson said.

For this Manafort was paid US$4million a year, in quarterly payments of US$1million, Gates recalled, though at some point the currency switched from United States dollars to Euros.

After saying Monday that he committed crimes with Manafort, including concealing offshore accounts to avoid reporting them to the US government at tax time and claiming false income to get loans, Manafort defense attorney Kevin Downing asked the witness, "This jury is just supposed to believe you after all the lies that you've told and the fraud you've committed?"

You told me you were on top of this.

Gates, who also worked on Trump's campaign, is the star witness against Manafort. "They may think he's a sleazebag - but that's not going to make them overturn how they view the documents", the former attorney said. Prosecutors allege that he failed to pay taxes on millions he made from his work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party, then lied to get loans when the cash stopped coming in.

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