Monday, 20 August, 2018

Forensic Accountant Next Up in Manafort Trial as Gates Ends Testimony

Rick Gates says he and Manafort disguised foreign income as loans Forensic Accountant Next Up in Manafort Trial as Gates Ends Testimony
Melinda Barton | 09 August, 2018, 08:27

Gates said that Manafort asked him to meet with one of the Ukrainian businessmen involved in paying him millions of dollars to find out if one of the shell companies used to pay him was a "clean entity". U.S. District court Judge T.S. Ellis III presides.

Earlier Tuesday, Gates told the court that Manafort would frequently pay for clothing, landscaping and other personal expenses using wire transfers directly from his bank accounts in Cyprus and others in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

"Those appear to be substantially different, don't they?" defense attorney Richard Westling asked Magionos, showing her Manafort's signatures on a loan application to the Bank of California and one of the foreign banking documents.

Gates, also a former Trump campaign aide, has claimed during three days of evidence that he both stole for and stole from Manafort, who denies 18 counts of bank and tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.

Gates, a longtime business partner of Manafort, had been working on the incoming president's transition team.

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 USA government's efforts to recover assets stolen under former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

He also admitted to embezzling money from other employers in the past. Gates 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.

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 testified that Manafort asked him to float Calk, who was on Trump's economic advisory council, for Secretary of the Army.

Downing followed up: "Do you remember telling the office of the special counsel you actually engaged in four extramarital affairs?"

Gates said under questioning Wednesday that he told Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and Justice Department lawyers about some of the offshore companies that contained millions of dollars in proceeds from their Ukrainian political work.

He also said Manafort had asked him to disguise income as loans.

In a final back and forth between lawyers over Gates's credibility, the focus turned to his decision to plead guilty and cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, which Manafort's defence have portrayed as an attempt to save his own skin.

Neither man was charged in connection with their Trump campaign work, but the trial has nonetheless been a distraction for a president who insists Manafort was treated shabbily and who continues to publicly fume about Mueller's investigation into potential ties between his associates and the Kremlin. He said there were 15 secret accounts. He scoffed at the idea that Gates had repented for his actions, noting that prosecutors have said they won't oppose his bid for probation and getting him to acknowledge he had not repaid the money he had taken from Manafort.

Before the final bang - or was it a whimper? - prosecutors had their own opportunity Wednesday morning to revisit with Gates exactly what he had done by way of financial crimes, and the steep, lifelong outcome of prison time he could face if he told the jury inaccuracies about Manafort.

She essentially connected the dots of testimony from previous witnesses - vendors, Manafort's bookkeeper and accountants, and Gates - but did so in a way that presented direct links between one witness's part of the story and another's. "Mr Manafort had the same path".

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. He also committed credit card and mortgage fraud, falsified a letter for a colleague involved in an investment deal and made false statements in a deposition at Manafort's direction.