Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Judge in Manafort trial: 'I was probably wrong' to criticize prosecutors

Rick Gates is seen on the witness stand as a message between he and his former boss Paul Manafort appears before the court during Manafort's trial in Virginia. Courtroom illustration courtesy of Bill Hennessy Paul Manafort's associate says 'hundreds' of emails prove former Trump campaign chief directed fraud
Deanna Wagner | 09 August, 2018, 19:39

Gates served as a deputy for Manafort's political consulting business, and then as his deputy on the Trump campaign in 2016.

During his three days of testimony, Gates laid out in detail how payments to Manafort's company from political work in Ukraine were made to bank accounts in Cyprus and the money was never reported to accountants or the Internal Revenue Service. He also testified that he pressed the firm's accountants to reclassify loans as income so the company could qualify for more bank loans or get favorable lending rates.

Lawyers for Mr Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign manager, hammered Rick Gates about his own crimes.

"He always had control over the accounts", Gates said of Manafort, and the income was not reported to his bookkeepers, his accountants or the USA tax authorities.

Federal Bureau of Investigation forensic accountant Morgan Magionos brought Manafort's fashion tastes back to the spotlight.

"They failed to check the box that Mr. Manafort had a foreign bank account", Welch said, later adding. "Pls (sic) make the five transfers listed below from the Leviathan account and confirm to me when completed", Manafort wrote.

From the prosecution's perspective, Magionos' testimony was key to the jury's understanding of the case.

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 USA dollars to Euros.

"It actually kind of shows in real time the course of months of investigation where they painstakingly did a jigsaw puzzle of records", former US prosecutor Harry Litman said of Magionos' testimony.

Litman said he believed the indictment was hard to put together - "but once put together, a pretty straightforward case to prove".

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When Yanukovych lost power, Gates testified that "decreased the income stream" significantly for Manafort, and his financial situation "substantially decreased" from prior years.

Judge T.S. Ellis III said it would be up to the jury to decide if the signatures were different. He is testifying as an expert witness in Manafort's financial fraud trial.

She said even though she worked with Gates a lot, it was clear to her that Manafort "knew what was going on" in most instances.

At times, Ellis has crossed lines, Litman said.

Gates's testimony wrapped moment later.

Manafort's defense team says it was actually Gates who committed the financial crimes, without Manafort knowing, and Manafort's lawyers also have sought to exploit the guilty plea that Gates has accepted after he was indicted on related charges.

"I'm here. I'm trying to change", he said. Some of the jurors respond loudly, "Yes, judge" or "Yes, your honor".

"I would be surprised, given what's occurred in the Manafort trial, if Judge Ellis didn't issue this relatively standard instruction", Abramson said. While Trump has not played a significant role in the trial, Gates testified on Tuesday that after the election, Manafort recommended a banker who had loaned him money to be Trump's Army secretary.

Gates' testimony is among the most important of the trial - pitting the longtime right-hand man against his boss face-to-face for the first time publicly since Gates flipped in February and pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to investigators. But then prosecutor Greg Andres invoked Trump's name, and Gates' and Manafort's work on the campaign became more explicitly tied to the alleged crimes at the heart of the trial. However, Gates also said the agents did not ask about tax returns and "the majority of the Cypriot accounts were closed" at the stage.