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Published: Mon, August 06, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Paul Manafort's first trial begins | LRC Presents: All the President's Lawyers

Paul Manafort's first trial begins | LRC Presents: All the President's Lawyers

Prosecutors headed toward the heart of their financial fraud case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Friday, with jurors expected to hear testimony that he never told his tax accountants about offshore bank accounts containing millions of dollars. Gates was Manafort's business associate.

Asonye walked jurors through an incident in 2015 when Manafort asked Ayliff to tell potential lenders at UBS bank that one of his properties, on Fifth Avenue in New York City, was for personal use - even though on his taxes he classified it as a property that he rented out. After the bank expressed reservations about the size of Manafort's debt, Gates sent her documentation showing the $1.5 million loan had been forgiven.

But when prosecutor Greg Andres read off some of the companies, Washkuhn said Manafort never told her about them.

Laporta said she knew what she did was "not appropriate", adding that "you can't pick and choose what's a loan and what's income".

"In other words, Mueller could have indicted the leading edge, perhaps to convince Manafort to cooperate with him down the road", she said.

When asked if she believed Mr. Manafort would actually receive the money, Ms. Laporta responded, "I have no idea".

Laporta was testifying under an immunity agreement.

But when applying for a loan at UBS, he wanted to buff up his reported income to demonstrate he had the means to pay it back.

Heather Washkuhn, a bookkeeper for Manafort, told the jury that she had no knowledge of the offshore companies and bank accounts that prosecutors say Manafort used to spend millions of dollars without being taxed over the last decade. One way to do that could be to show that documents Manafort had provided to the accountant contained details about foreign bank accounts.

Prosecutors showed so many photographs of his pricy threads that Judge T.S. Ellis III of the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. eventually scolded prosecutors.

"Did you believe those representations?"

"An oligarch is just a despotic power exercised by a privileged few", Ellis said.

Despite pressing both sides to keep the case chugging along, Ellis has wandered down the occasional tangent on his own, with self-deprecating asides (his hearing isn't what it used to be) or anecdotes about, say, his wife (who does have an email account and multiple computers).

Paul Manafort (right) and his lawyer, Kevin Downing, arrive at the federal courthouse for a motion hearing./Victoria Pickering (Flickr). "It's evidence of his income".

Manafort signed an agreement to account for that loan that was backdated, according to Laporta and an exhibit shown to the jury.

The charges largely pre-date the five months Manafort worked for Trump, some of them as campaign chairman, during a pivotal period in the race for the White House. Gates is expected to face bruising cross-examination, and his credibility is likely to be an important test of the prosecution's case.

Some of the businesses that provided Manafort with services communicated only with Manafort, while his finance team either dealt with Manafort or Gates, who appeared to stay in communication with Manafort and relay requests from him. It's the first courtroom test of the work of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is tasked with looking into Russia's efforts to interfere with the USA election and whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Moscow to sway voters.

Manafort's attorneys have signalled they will seek to blame Gates, who was Trump's deputy campaign chairman in 2016.

Joyce Vance, a law professor at the University of Alabama, explained on MSNBC Friday that Manafort may yet prove himself to be a key figure in a potential case of collusion between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign to interfere in the election.

This gets to the crux of the tax evasion charges against the former Trump campaign manager, as the fact Manafort lied to his accountants about his overseas accounts diminishes his attorneys' attempts to pin the crimes on Gates. So she went ahead and filed the false tax return.

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