Star witness Gates resumes testimony in Manafort trial

Leroy Wright
August 8, 2018

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort's ex-business partner has taken the stand against him in his trial on bank and tax fraud charges.

Gates, who also served in a senior role in Donald Trump's presidential campaign, read off the names of more than a dozen shell companies he and Manafort set up in Cyprus, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the United Kingdom to stash the proceeds of Manafort's Ukrainian political consulting work.

When one of the defense lawyers tried to suggest to Manafort's tax accountant Monday that Gates had kept Manafort in the dark about his own finances, the accountant, Cynthia Laporta, pushed back.

He said that Manafort knew it was illegal not to report his foreign bank accounts to the Treasury Department but asked Gates to help him deceive his accountants so he could hide income and pay less in taxes.

There is an old saying that "there is no honor among thieves", and one of the many things Gates has confessed to is using falsified expense reports to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort's company-embezzlement that both federal prosecutors and Manafort's defense have acknowledged during the trial. It is not a crime, he has said several times, to be rich and to spend ostentatiously.

Prosecutors will turn to Gates for first-hand support of their accusations that Manafort concealed millions of dollars in foreign income and later lied when he applied for bank loans.

Gates, whose testimony in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, was continuing, was expected to be a star witness in the government's case, having pleaded guilty in February and agreed to co-operate with prosecutors under a deal that could lead to a reduced sentence. His case is the first to go to trial arising from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 USA election.

The scene was less tense Tuesday when Gates resumed his testimony and Manafort's lawyers prepared to grill him on cross examination.

Before the campaign, according to Gates' testimony, the two had quietly committed crimes in a scheme spanning continents and featuring faked invoices, fancy suits and at least one Ukrainian oligarch.

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Manafort has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank and tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.

Gates also described to jurors how he repeatedly submitted fake financial documents at Manafort's behest as his former boss became concerned he was paying too much in taxes and, later, that his funds were drying up.

"Certainly the president has made clear he believes Mr. Manafort has been treated unfairly", White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday.

It's important to note that some of the alleged bank fraud did occur while Manafort was running the Trump campaign.

"I assisted Mr. Manafort in filing false tax returns", Gates testified. Instead, he glanced up at his former protege periodically but mostly stared intently at documents displayed for the jury on a screen in front of him.

Andres has become frustrated a couple of times during the trial, but according to Judge Ellis, he was not only frustrated-he was crying in the courtroom.

Gates admitted that at Manafort's behest, they later created a loan agreement for Lyovochkin's payment, though no loan existed.

Liss's testimony lasted less than 45 minutes, the shortest of any witness so far this trial.

Gates testified that Manafort "requested I make wire transfers from the foreign accounts" and that "at Mr. Manafort's request", the two of them "did not disclose the foreign bank accounts" to the USA government.

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