Manafort's lawyers press witness about his own lies, affair, embezzlement

Manafort's lawyers press witness about his own lies, affair, embezzlement

Manafort's lawyers press witness about his own lies, affair, embezzlement

Prosecutors summoned Mr Gates to give jurors the first-hand account of a co-conspirator they say helped Mr Manafort carry out an elaborate offshore tax-evasion and bank fraud scheme.

The testimony, stretching across three days, created an extraordinary courtroom showdown between the two former Trump campaign aides who were indicted together by Mueller but who have since opted for radically different strategies: Manafort is the lone American charged by Mueller to opt for trial, whereas Gates pleaded guilty and agreed to co-operate by testifying against his former boss.

Mr Gates testified he and Mr Manafort knew they were committing crimes for years, saying they had stashed money in foreign bank accounts and falsified bank loan documents.

Gates told the court Manafort requested he not tell a bookkeeper about payments made from accounts he held in Cyprus, testifying that hundreds of emails show Manafort approved payments out of those accounts, which he said at one point held almost $6 million.

When it was his turn to question Gates, defense attorney Kevin Downing went on the offensive, pressing him on what amount of time he would have expected to face in prison had he not agreed to cooperate with the government.

Gates admitted to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars - $3 million, Downing claimed, but could not definitively prove - from Manafort.

Gates, Manafort's longtime right-hand man, pleaded guilty in February to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of lying to an Federal Bureau of Investigation agent in exchange for testifying against his former boss.

In a tense day in court, the campaign strategist's longtime deputy, Rick Gates, told jurors how the pair were paid by Ukrainian oligarchs for their work as political consultants in the country. A bookkeeper said she helped disguise foreign income as a loan to reduce Manafort's tax burden.

After Yanukovych lost power in 2014, "I would say it decreased the income stream", Gates, wearing a blue suit, told the court matter-of-factly.

Gates, a married father of four, faced tough questioning under cross-examination on Tuesday about leading a "secret life".

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While businesses can deduct losses from theft, Welch said on redirect by one of the prosecutors: "If money is stolen from money that is untaxed, there is no deduction".

The case has little to do with either man's work for the Trump campaign and there's been no discussion during the trial about whether the Trump election effort coordinated with Russian Federation - the central question Mueller's team has tried to answer.

"This jury is just supposed to believe you after all the lies that you've told and the fraud you've committed?" asked Downing. But Trump has shown interest in the proceedings, tweeting support for Manafort and suggesting he has been treated worse than gangster Al Capone.

The questioning is part of the Manafort defense strategy of presenting Gates to the jury as someone who lies and can not be trusted. However, Gates also said the agents did not ask about tax returns and "the majority of the Cypriot accounts were closed" at the stage. "Mr. Manafort had the same path", Gates said.

"I'm here. I'm trying to change", he said.

Gates said he did not.

Numerous jurors have diligently taken notes throughout the proceedings, peering down into small monitors in front of them to scrutinize bank and tax documents. Gates said the man schooled them on how to shield their operations from scrutiny by tax collectors.

Rick Gates has finished his testimony in the financial fraud trial of his former boss, Paul Manafort, after one last effort by defense lawyers to erode his credibility.

Mr Mueller, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation director, has indicted more than 30 people - including 26 Russians - in connection with his probe into whether members of Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to help get the real estate tycoon elected.

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