Bookkeeper tells jury Manafort submitted doctored statements to bank

06 August, 2018, 16:19 | Author: Trevor Moore
  • Paul Manafort

A statue adorns the front of the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018 in Alexandria, Va., where President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is on trial facing federal charges of tax evasion and bank fraud.

The charges against Manafort largely predate the five months he worked for Trump, some of them as campaign chairman, during a pivotal period in the race for the White House.

Manafort's defense is looking to blame Gates for any crimes.

Gates, who pleaded guilty in February of conspiracy and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is cooperating with Mueller's probe, and is expected to testify later in the trial.

Manafort's defense is expected to try to paint Gates as somebody who took advantage of Manafort and did all the things Manafort is accused of without his knowledge.

While taking some of the sting out of Laporta's testimony could prove useful to the defense, the more important challenge will be undercutting Gates, who as part of his plea deal admitted to helping Manafort evade taxes and mislead banks to get him loans. Washkuhn said Gates was only involved in Manafort's business dealings, not his personal expenses.

The trial opened with a display of Manafort's opulent lifestyle, then progressed into testimony about what prosecutors say were years of financial deception.

On cross-examination by defense attorney Thomas Zehnle, Washkuhn conceded that she did recognize some names associated with Manafort's foreign accounts.

"It's kind of leading up to Gates" testimony that, "Yep, this is what he was telling me to do, '" the former US prosecutor said.

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Cindy Laporta, an accountant with Kositzka Wicks & Co. testified that she classified income from foreign companies allegedly controlled by Mr. Manafort as "loans" so he could avoid paying taxes on it. When prosecutors asked her why she went along with what she knew to be wrong, she said because she "had two options". Asked why she sent the e-mail if she knew the loan wasn't real, she said: "I was still feeling pretty disturbed about the tax return filed as it was".

Laporta detailed multiple examples in which Manafort and Gates sought to doctor financial records, first in order to lower Manafort's taxable income and then later to inflate his income so that he could get bank loans.

The Government has provided trial evidence of Mr Manafort controlling a web of overseas accounts in Cyprus and elsewhere.

"I would say he was very knowledgeable".

"We have absolutely put him on the witness list", prosecutor Greg Andres said before the jury entered the courtroom this morning.

Testimony also came from Manafort's former bookkeeper Heather Washkuhn, who said she too was unaware of his foreign holdings and had relied on him to say whether wire transfers should be designated as loans or as income.

"Manafort collected more than $60 million between 2010 and 2014 from his Ukraine work, where President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of the Kremlin, was Manafort's 'golden goose, ' (Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo) Asonye said".

His plea documents count at least five specific falsehoods he told authorities: that he was told by Manafort that a meeting about Ukraine was not about Ukraine; that he did not lobby US officials about Ukraine; that he did not recall lobbying meetings about Ukraine; that he had served merely as "a means of introduction" for others to talk to USA officials about Ukraine; that their firm did not retain emails longer than 30 days. They allege Manafort is a victim of Gates' illegal activity. A second trial is scheduled for September in the District of Columbia.

It also tried the patience of U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who repeatedly scolded prosecutors for what he said was excessive and unnecessary information. And it remains murky exactly when Gates is expected to testify. The emails will provide the jurors a glimpse into the private conversations between Manafort and Gates, the man to whom he entrusted his personal and business finances.

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