Paul Manafort’s ex-business partner Rick Gates testifies they committed crimes – Donald Trump’s America
Rick Gates is expected to be a star witness in the US Government’s case. (AP: Jose Luis Magana, File)
Rick Gates has testified that he and US President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, committed crimes.
- Paul Manafort’s attorneys have signalled they will seek to blame Rick Gates
- They have accused him of embezzling millions of dollars from Mr Manafort
- Mr Manafort pleads not guilty to 18 counts of bank and tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts
Mr Gates, whose testimony in the federal court trial of Mr Manafort — his longtime business partner — in Alexandria, Virginia, was continuing, was expected to be a star witness in the Government’s case, having pleaded guilty in February and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors under a deal that could lead to a reduced sentence.
Mr Manafort’s attorneys signalled they would seek to blame Mr Gates and had accused him of embezzling millions of dollars from Mr Manafort.
But Mr Gates, described by witnesses as Mr Manafort’s “right-hand man”, is expected to provide the most damning testimony about Mr Manafort’s state of mind as well as his own role in the crimes.
Mr Gates told jurors he siphoned off the money without Mr Manafort’s knowledge by filing false expense reports.
He also admitted to concealing millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts on Mr Manafort’s behalf and to falsifying loan applications and other documents to help Mr Manafort obtain more in bank loans.
“We didn’t report the income or the foreign bank accounts,” Mr Gates told jurors, noting he knew he and Mr Manafort were committing crimes each time.
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Mr Gates read off the names of more than a dozen shell companies he and Mr Manafort set up in Cyprus, St Vincent and the Grenadines and the United Kingdom to stash the proceeds of Mr Manafort’s Ukrainian political consulting work.
Mr Gates said he repeatedly lied to conceal the bank accounts and, at Mr Manafort’s direction, he would classify money that came in as either a loan or income to reduce Mr Manafort’s tax burden.
Asked whether the money in the accounts was income to Mr Manafort, Mr Gates said: “It was.”
Mr Gates, who also served in a senior role in Mr Trump’s presidential campaign, is expected to face aggressive cross-examination once prosecutors are finished questioning him.
Mr Gates pleaded guilty to financial fraud and to lying to investigators as he negotiated a plea agreement, something defence lawyers will no doubt seize on to try to undercut his credibility.
Mr Manafort has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank and tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.
The charges largely predate his five months on the Trump campaign but were the first to go to trial arising from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
The jury heard how Mr Manafort made tens of millions of dollars for political work with pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. Mr Gates was Mr Manafort’s partner in the consultancy.
Mr Mueller is also investigating possible coordination between Trump campaign members and Russian officials in the election campaign, but the charges against Mr Manafort do not address that.
‘Don’t look down, don’t roll your eyes’
Rick Gates, right, answers questions by prosecutor Greg Andres as he testifies in the trial of Paul Manafort. (AP: Dana Verkouteren)
US District Judge T.S. Ellis, who repeatedly interrupted prosecutors last week as they tried to present evidence about Mr Manafort’s lifestyle, clashed again with prosecutor Greg Andres when he delved into the status and identities of the eastern Europeans who made payments to Mr Manafort.
Judge Ellis said the prosecutors were wasting time drilling into the details of Mr Manafort’s Ukrainian work and the backgrounds of those who paid him.