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Paul Manafort’s Defense Was Just Dealt Multiple Blows By Immunized Accountant

Susan Walsh  AP

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort's accountant admitted she filed tax returns that she was aware may have been criminally fraudulent, at Manafort's tax fraud trial in Alexandria, Virginia, Friday. Laporta said she believed Paranova to be a client of Manafort's global consulting firm but otherwise received no information or documents related to said entities.

In calling Gates, the government will present jurors with the first-hand account of a co-conspirator expected to say Manafort was knee-deep in an alleged scheme to hide millions of dollars from the IRS and defraud several banks.

In the first four whirlwind days of the Manafort trial, unfolding in a cellphone-free federal court here a half hour south of the White House, Robert Mueller's special counsel team has laid out a compelling case that Manafort is a tax cheat.

Laporta, who testified with a grant of immunity because she feared prosecution, recounted the creation of a $900,000 loan booked to a Cyprus company that had the effect of disguising income in that amount on Manafort's 2014 tax return. Last week she said that Manafort asked her to falsify numbers related to his company's profits.

At one point Wednesday, after a prosecutor played coy about a key witness testifying, reporters scurried to break the news like "rats", outspoken Judge T.S. Ellis III remarked.

Gates pleaded guilty to making false statements after being indicted by Mueller.

Manafort's defense has sought to blame Gates, described by witnesses as his "right-hand man", for any illegal conduct and accused him of embezzling millions of dollars from Manafort. Gates is one of 35 potential witnesses prosecutors hope to call to the stand. Such accounts must be reported to tax authorities if they contain $US10,000 or more.

Gates is expected to be a star witness in the government's case because of his long association with Manafort. So she went ahead and filed the false tax return.

What we don't know: What is Manafort's end game?

The indictment says he and Gates moved money from Ukraine through foreign bank accounts to hide it from the Internal Revenue Service.

The most significant moment on Friday, however, came when assistant United States attorney Uzo Asonye asked Laporta to describe a conference call in September 2015.

Prosecutors called on the vendors who made the clothing, as well as others who performed landscaping and other work on Manafort's many properties across the country.

Mr Manafort is facing charges of bank fraud, tax fraud, and failing to report foreign bank accounts.

If the trial continues quickly, it could wrap up before a second, more consequential, trial against Manafort begins.

In other words, Paul Manafort's trial will set the table for what follows.

Asked whether the money in the accounts was income to Manafort, Gates said, "it was". "He is fighting back", she said.

Prosecutors in Paul Manafort's financial crimes trial want a judge to bar defense lawyers from arguing to the jury that he was never audited.

Gates pleaded guilty in February and agreed to cooperate with the Mueller investigation on "all matters" they deem relevant.

Washkuhn said Gates was only involved in Manafort's business dealings, not his personal expenses. During this conference call, Gates allegedly said, "Income tax is too high".

When they appeared, the bookkeeper and accountants said, they thought the companies were clients or, in some cases, lenders.

In cross examining on Monday, attorney Kevin Downing tried to illustrate that Laporta's accounting firm had been aware of overseas wire transfers being booked as loans for years and highlighted a record showing Manafort had paid $8.4 million in federal income taxes between 2005 and 2015. That case involves allegations that he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests and made false statements to the US government.