Published: Thu, August 09, 2018
Global | By Shelia Dennis

Manafort’s Lawyers Get Personal As Rick Gates’s Testimony Wraps Up

Manafort’s Lawyers Get Personal As Rick Gates’s Testimony Wraps Up

A U.S. Internal Revenue Service agent testified on Wednesday that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is on trial on tax and bank fraud charges, had $16.5 million in unreported taxable business income between 2010 and 2014.

Gates' testimony concluded Wednesday following three days worth of questioning, during which he detailed how he and Manafort had 15 undisclosed foreign bank accounts and falsifying bank accounts.

On Wednesday, Gates initially testified Manafort told him to be truthful during a 2014 interview with the Federal Bureau of Investigation about offshore shell companies and bank accounts that contained millions of dollars in proceeds from their Ukrainian political work.

More recently, after the launch of the Mueller investigation but before his plea bargain, Gates lied to the FBI about a meeting between Manafort and an unnamed US Congressman regarding a "specific issue". Downing asked Gates Tuesday, a rhetorical question everyone present at the trial with any courtroom experience saw coming a mile away.

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Manafort's defense team's primary strategy has been to pin much of the blame for financial crimes on Gates, and some observers felt Downing made some headway toward that goal on Tuesday. But he was consistent in saying he was now telling the truth and that there was a "strong record" to support his key assertions: that Manafort directed him to hide money from the IRS and fake financial documents to get bank loans.

Defense lawyer Kevin Downing guided Gates on a tour through the wide array of lies he's told, and sought to paint him as a man not to be trusted.

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The case is being prosecuted by the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 USA presidential election.

"There is a period of time over 10 years ago when I had a relationship, yes", Gates said.

Gates also said that when their political work in Ukraine dried up in 2015, Manafort had difficulty paying his bills and had no other clients at that time.

Manafort and Gates were the first two people indicted in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential ties between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign.

Mr Gates pleaded guilty months later and agreed to co-operate in Mr Mueller's investigation of Mr Manafort, the only American charged by the special counsel to opt for trial instead of a guilty plea.

The judge overseeing the Paul Manafort trial, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis, has clashed with prosecutors in recent days.

Cindy Laporta testified Friday in the government's case against the former Trump campaign chairman, saying she went along with the scam because she was anxious Manafort and his right-hand-man Rick Gates would sue.

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The 46-year-old former political consultant told jurors how Manafort asked for tickets to Trump's inauguration so he could give them to a banker involved in approving a loan at the center of his financial fraud trial.

Ahead of that barrage, Gates has implicated himself in a vast amount of criminal conduct on the stand, an apparent strategic decision by prosecutors as they hope to take some of the steam out of the defense's questioning.

He told jurors he embezzled from Mr Manafort by filing false expense reports.

Cindy Laporta, a tax accountant for Manafort, testified Monday under immunity that she helped file falsified bank loan applications for him even though she knew they were inaccurate. Gates said he was responsible for collecting all relevant documents for the loan applications.

But prosecutor Greg Andres followed up by suggesting that Gates and Manafort were not fully truthful. Mr Gates also said he may have submitted personal expenses for reimbursement by Mr Trump's inaugural committee, which he helped operate.

The vendors testified about how Manafort paid for his luxury goods, including cars and custom suits, by using direct wire transfers from accounts overseas. However, Gates also said the agents did not ask about tax returns and "the majority of the Cypriot accounts were closed" at the stage.

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