Longtime Manafort deputy Rick Gates admits embezzlement
07 August, 2018, 05:25 | Author: Diane Mills
Manafort's attorneys have sought to blame Gates for the financial crimes, in addition to embezzling money from Manafort.
Gates's appearance in court marked a dramatic moment in the probe: the first visible case of a witness flipping, or turning on friends or colleagues in a case.
On day five of the trial in Alexandria, Virginia, Gates was asked by the prosecutor whether he had committed any crimes with Mr Manafort, and he said: "Yes". All this was an effort to make Gates seems like a credible witness against Manafort.
Gates, who first met Manafort working for him as an intern fresh out of college, has been described by witnesses as Manafort's right-hand man in his multimillion-dollar political consulting business.
The witness also testified that he had helped the defendant file false tax returns, and had concealed 15 foreign accounts from the United States government.
Gates said that Manafort had indicated to him that the Ukrainian businessmen who were funding their consulting work had directed him to set up the accounts in Cyprus, where they also had bank accounts.
Since he was high-level Trump staffer who is now cooperating with Mueller, Gates' testimony was highly anticipated and seen as key evidence in the case against Manafort.
Prosecutors allege that Manafort financed a lavish lifestyle featuring sumptuous residences and extravagant wardrobes by using millions of dollars in profits that he hid from tax authorities then turned to bank fraud when his income started to dry up. Gates said he made the government aware of the scheme, which was not among the initial charges he faced before pleading guilty, as part of his cooperation with prosecutors. 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.
Gates also testified he and Manafort knew it was a crime because they had been notified by Manafort's accountants in emails.
Gates also said he lied in a lawsuit deposition years ago, after Manafort "asked me not to include" certain things in the deposition.
Prosecutors will turn to Gates for firsthand support of their accusations that Manafort concealed millions of dollars in foreign income and later lied when he applied for bank loans.
Throughout his testimony, Gates largely avoided making eye contact with Manafort, who appeared to be watching him. But court watchers had been eagerly awaiting Gates, who both the prosecution and defense seem to be hoping will be at the center of their case.
Paul Manafort's attorney says the former Trump campaign chairman's longtime deputy will be testifying next in Manafort's fraud trial.
But Laporta's testimony raised the stakes for Manafort, legal experts said. His testimony, given in short, clipped answers as Manafort rarely broke his gaze from the witness stand, follows that of vendors who detailed Manafort's luxurious spending and financial professionals who told jurors how the defendant hid millions of dollars in offshore accounts. It's the first of Mueller's prosecutions to reach a jury, but lawyers have made no mention of President Donald Trump or possible campaign coordination with the Kremlin.
Downing also accused Gates of embezzling "millions", a higher amount than Gates later admitted to in his testimony. Laporta said she had no indication that the loan from Deripaska had been paid off.
Manafort, Gates said, was probably the "most politically brilliant strategist I've ever worked with".
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