Tuesday, 16 October, 2018

Paul Manafort fraud trial: Manafort accused of amassing "secret income"

Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at US District Court Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at US District Court
Ray Hunter | 01 August, 2018, 21:07

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III specifically told prosecutors to stop using the word "oligarch" to describe wealthy Ukrainians, whose dealings with Manafort are at the heart of the fraud charges he faces in northern Virginia federal court.

Asonye told jurors the evidence would show Manafort hid "tens of millions of overseas income" to avoid paying taxes.

The first trial of US Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation probe has begun with Paul Manafort, a former chairman of President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign.

Three other aides, including Mr Manafort's longtime business partner Rick Gates, have already pleaded guilty and are cooperating with Mueller's probe.

On the second day of Paul Manafort's trial, Trump took to Twitter to purge the contents of his disordered mind and come to his former campaign manager's defense.

Manafort attorney Thomas Zehnle at Tuesday's opening made it clear the defence plans to make attacking Gates a central element of their defence.

A defense lawyer painted a drastically different portrait of Manafort and made clear he will go after one of the government's star witnesses, former Manafort associate Rick Gates.

In the Washington case, a federal judge last month ordered Mr Manafort be jailed after Mr Mueller charged him with witness-tampering, charges to which he pleaded not guilty. He created "bogus" loans, falsified documents and lied to his tax preparer and bookkeeper to hide the money, which he obtained from Ukrainian oligarchs through a series of shell company transfers and later from fraudulently obtained bank loans in the USA, prosecutors said. Prosecutors said Tuesday that Manafort hid 30 foreign bank accounts from USA authorities.

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Ellis has scolded members of Mueller's team before, asserting back in May that the team was really interested in targeting President Trump. He was in the hot seat when Mr Trump eventually won the Republican nomination, and organised the Republican convention in July 2016.

Asonye, who described Manafort's "lavish lifestyle" in detail, alleged that Manafort held more than 30 bank accounts that "served no business goal other than to receive and hide income".

"The documents establish the breadth of the work that Manafort performed, including commissioning television ads, writing speeches and carrying on campaign-related activities", read the filing, Bloomberg states.

The sharp words marked a dramatic opening to the trial, in keeping with the notoriously fast-moving Eastern District Court of Virginia, which lawyers often refer to as home to the "rocket docket".

In a tweet on Wednesday, the president said Manafort worked for Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many highly prominent and respected political leaders.

Today, Trump is invoking one of the nation's most notorious criminals in venting about the treatment of Manafort as he begins trial.

"This is the way that they required it to be done", Zehnle said, arguing why oligarchs paid Manafort through secret foreign accounts. That trial, set in the District of Columbia, involves allegations that the longtime political consultant acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests and made false statements to the USA government.

Manafort is also charged in federal court in Washington with undisclosed foreign lobbying and money laundering.

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