Manafort’s former business partner drops bombshell testimony

Rick Gates the star witness in the case against Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort

Rick Gates the star witness in the case against Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort's former business partner Rick Gates testified today that he committed crimes with Manafort.

Gates, who began working closely with Manafort in 2006, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against the avoiding taxes and one count of lying to investigators in February 2018.

In addition to assisting in Manafort's alleged crimes, Gates told the jury he had failed to report income he routed through his bank accounts in the United Kingdom and said he stole several hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort by filing false and inflated expense reports. They were the first two people indicted by Mueller's grand jury.

Gates was given a deal by Robert Mueller's special counsel probe to become star witness at the fraud trial of his former boss.

Manafort, 69, has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank fraud, tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.

He has also sought to blame Mr Gates for the crimes.

Gates, frequently pictured with a thick lumberjack beard at the height of his political power alongside Manafort, entered the courtroom at 4:15 p.m. Monday, clean-shaven and wearing a dark suit and gold tie.

Gates admitted that at Manafort's behest, they later created a loan agreement for Lyovochkin's payment, though no loan existed.

Gates also said he lied in a lawsuit deposition years ago, after Manafort "asked me not to include" certain things in the deposition. The charges largely predate his five months on the Trump campaign.

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.

Questioned by prosecutors earlier on Tuesday, Gates testified that Manafort instructed him not to tell their firm's bookkeeper about payments from accounts in Cyprus that held millions of dollars in earnings from consulting work for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Manafort's legal team is trying to persuade jurors Gates is exclusively responsible for any errors in Manafort's tax filings.

A former Justice Department attorney with experience prosecuting similar cases told Roll Call that the prosecution will most likely call another summary witness toward the trial's conclusion to testify about evidence that shows Manafort opened more than 30 accounts in four different countries under his name, including shell companies that sent Manafort and Gates the money that they classified as "loans".

During the testimony, Manafort did not stare Gates down as he did on Monday. But Trump has shown interest in the proceedings, tweeting support for Manafort and suggesting he had been treated worse than gangster Al Capone.

US district Judge T.S. Ellis III presides as Manafort attorney's including Kevin Downing, left, Thomas Zehnle, third from left, listen.

On Monday Gates testified that he has met with prosecutors about 20 times.

Laporta said she had grown to distrust the information Gates was providing her, though she didn't know about the embezzlement.

On Friday, a tax preparer named Cindy Laporta admitted that she helped disguise $900,000 in foreign income as a loan in order to reduce Manafort's tax burden.

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