Rick Gates testifies he committed crimes while working for Paul Manafort

Arturo Kim
August 7, 2018

The trial of Paul Manafort resumes Monday afternoon with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's prosecutors expected to focus less on the lifestyle of the former Trump campaign chairman and more on the financial machinations underpinning the bank fraud and tax charges.

On Monday, another witness for the prosecution-former Manafort accountant Cynthia Laporta-testified that in 2006, Manafort received a $10 million loan from Russian oligarch Oleg V. Deripaska, who had close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Whilst the charges against Manafort do not directly relate to Trump's presidential campaign, or any potential collusion, both Gates and Manafort were indicted as a direct outcome of Mueller's investigation.

Gates reportedly testified that he broke the law by failing to report foreign bank accounts, helping Manafort file false tax returns, and swindling Manafort out of money by submitting fake expense reports.

"In most instances, it was clear that Mr. Manafort knew what was going on", she said.

Prosecutors summoned Gates, described by witnesses as Manafort's "right-hand man", to give jurors the direct account of a co-conspirator they say carried out an elaborate offshore tax-evasion and fraud scheme on behalf of his boss.

"At Mr Manafort's request we did not disclose foreign bank accounts", Mr Gates told the jury in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.

Manafort's defence attorneys have sought to paint Gates as an embezzler, liar and the instigator of any criminal conduct.

In early testimony Tuesday, Gates related his role in setting up offshore bank accounts for Manafort, a complex arrangement that was requested by wealthy and powerful Ukrainian businessmen who bankrolled Manafort's political consulting work in the country.

Jurors will hear again Monday from Cynthia Laporta, an accountant who testified August 3 about going along with phony, backdated documents meant to help lower Manafort's tax bills and secure real-estate loans even as his personal debt rose.

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Gates also testified he and Manafort knew it was a crime because they had been notified by Manafort's accountants in emails.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether any Trump aides colluded with an alleged Moscow plot to help elect him as U.S. president, and whether there was any obstruction of justice.

The jury has heard how Manafort made tens of millions of dollars for work with pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.

Manafort, a veteran lobbyist, has tried to get the financial charges against him dismissed and arguing that Mr Mueller has a "blank check" that he "has cashed, repeatedly".

The government called Gates, its star witness, to the stand Monday, just five days into what prosecutors originally expected would be a three-week trial.

Rick Gates will continue his testimony today.

Meanwhile, Manafort's legal team is trying to persuade jurors Gates is exclusively responsible for any errors in Manafort's tax filings. Previous evidence has indicated that Peranova, a company Gates said Manafort controlled, never loaned Manafort money.

Under cross examination on Monday, defence attorney Kevin Downing attempted to show that Gates was the point person in dealing with the accountants.

Prosecutor Greg Andres pointed out that he had created a "loan forgiveness letter between Mr. Manafort and Mr. Manafort".

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