Gates Takes Stand In Manafort Trial

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

HuffPost Illustration Getty Images Rick Gates the star witness in the case against Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort

"In Cyprus, they were documented as loans". Gates said he spoke to LaPorta about listing the property as a residence.

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

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. It is not a crime, he has said several times, to be rich and to spend ostentatiously. The effect of the loan was to reduce Manafort's income by that amount and reduce his taxes, she said.

Gates pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge and to lying to investigators as part of his plea agreement. 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.

He also said he lied in a deposition in a civil case against Manafort involving a private equity fund and wrote a letter saying his friend Steve Brown, who is facing fraud prosecution in a NY federal court, had income that didn't exist.

With President Trump making the election campaign promise to "drain the swamp", critics have been quick to point out the hypocrisy of having two high up former aides associated with salacious behaviour.

On Tuesday, Gates also testified about "modified" invoices for payments to USA vendors that he said he created at Manafort's request. He recounted how Manafort negotiated the offshore payment structure in person with Ukrainian oligarchs, and then Gates would then codify the details in writing. Gates agreed to flip on his former boss in exchange for leniency.

"Yes", Laporta said, "of course" she would call Manafort if she suspected Gates was enriching himself with Manafort's money.

Gates did not make eye contact with Manafort as he took the stand wearing a yellow tie and navy blue suit. The funds were logged as loans, but Gates testified they were in fact compensation to Manafort. Gates said that he backdated a letter claiming that the loan was forgiven, even though it was not.

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"Were you engaged in criminal activity during your time working for Mr. Manafort?"

Gates admitted in testimony on Friday that he had lied to Laporta, as well as other accountants and Manafort's bookkeeper. Instead, he glanced up at his former protege periodically but mostly stared intently at documents displayed for the jury on a screen in front of him.

On Monday, Ms LaPorta was asked by prosecutors if she had been aware of a $10m loan from Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska that the district attorney said was "supposedly made in 2006".

Liss's testimony lasted less than 45 minutes, the shortest of any witness so far this trial.

Gates and Manafort have known each other for two decades and ran a multimillion-dollar political consulting business.

A $1 million payment for work in 2014 was "significantly past due" and "Mr. Manafort was quite upset the money had not been sent", Gates told the court.

Gates, who is awaiting sentencing, told jurors that he siphoned off the money without Manafort's knowledge by filing false expense reports.

This courtroom sketch depicts Rick Gates, right, answering questions by prosecutor Greg Andres as he testifies in the trial of Paul Manafort in Alexandria, Va.

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