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Manafort Trial Defense Chips Away at Credibility of Star Witness Gates

10 August 2018
Manafort Trial Defense Chips Away at Credibility of Star Witness Gates

Gates, who had been on stand for more than seven hours by conclusion of Tuesday's testimony, is anticipated to be on stand for an additional hour more of cross-examination, according to Manafort's attorneys.

Rick Gates, the government's star witness, recounted how he and Manafort used more than a dozen offshore shell companies and bank accounts in Cyprus to funnel the money, all while concealing the accounts and the income from the IRS. Federal Bureau of Investigation forensic accountant Morgan Magionos showed her work on tracking Manafort's Ukrainian money and payments out of his foreign accounts.

More than $15 million of that went to personal purchases, like ostrich and python skin jackets, a dining room renovation, flower beds in the Hamptons and a karaoke machine, the IRS and Federal Bureau of Investigation employees testified.

Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano expressed his displeasure with the judge presiding over Paul Manafort's tax and bank fraud trial in Virginia by telling him to stop making this about him.

The 46-year-old, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and is cooperating with the government, began the day by describing how he helped Manafort evade USA taxes on millions of dollars earned from political consulting work they did in Ukraine.

Moreover, Manafort remains a central figure in the broader inquiry into the Trump campaign's dealings with Russia, including a 2016 Trump Tower meeting at which Russians promised "dirt" on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and his role in watering down the 2016 Republican Party platform position on Ukraine.

"No, I did not", Gates responded.

Asked if he had been coached, Gates replied, "The only answer I was told was to tell the truth".

His defence team is seeking to pin the blame on Gates, who they say was responsible for day-to-day operations of the business. But Gates nonetheless faced aggressive questioning by Manafort's lawyer, Kevin Downing, who at one point asked him, "After all the lies you've told and the fraud you've committed, you expect this jury to believe you?" And the fact that after loaning Manafort millions of dollars Calk became an economic adviser to Trump casts doubt on Trump's famous pledge to "drain the swamp" and puncture the rampant influence peddling in Washington.

Gates said he and Manafort created an elaborate operation in Cyprus to use shell companies to secretly accept the money.

Rick Gates says he and Manafort disguised foreign income as loans

Prosecutors relied on Gates to provide first-hand support of the accusations against Manafort. "I'm taking responsibility for it".

Gates, who is 46 and married, admitted: "There was a period in my life, about 10 years ago, when I had a relationship, yes".

Gates's testimony wrapped moment later.

In the six days since the trial began, the jury has heard from 15 witnesses including two of Manafort's former accountants and his former bookkeeper.

Gates added that Manafort also wanted to give the businessman a heads-up about the FBI's interest in the offshore accounts as part of the US government's efforts to recover assets stolen under former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

"I thought it was a lower amount", Gates said Wednesday. He banned the word "oligarch" from the courtroom for being "pejorative" and complained last week about prosecutors' attempts to put Manafort on trial "for having a lavish lifestyle".

He told the jury that Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, loaned himself money between two Cypriot accounts because "he was trying to decrease his taxable income".

Gates also admitted, however, that the same tricks he used to help doctor and falsify records for Manafort he also deployed for his own personal gain in order to covertly wire funds out of Manafort's offshore accounts to line his own pockets.

In one email, Manafort wrote "WTF" and "not happy" about tax payments he was going to have to make, Gates said.