Manafort's right-hand man testifies against him in tax fraud case

 

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Aug 6 (Reuters) - Rick Gates, a longtime business associate of U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, on Monday testified that he helped Manafort file false tax returns and hide his foreign bank accounts.

Gates is the government's star witness in its case against Manafort, who is accused of bank and tax fraud. Gates, who also served on Trump's campaign, pleaded guilty in February and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors under a deal that could lead to a reduced sentence.

Taking the stand on the trial's fifth day, Gates admitted to helping Manafort doctor financial statements, hide foreign income and cheat on his taxes. He said he was aware Manafort was acting as an unregistered foreign agent in lobbying for Ukraine. He said he engaged in the wrongdoing at Manafort's direction.

"At Mr. Manafort's request we did not disclose foreign bank accounts," Gates told the jury in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.

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Paul Manafort's trial for bank and tax fraud charges
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Paul Manafort's trial for bank and tax fraud charges
After a guilty verdict on the first count, an unidentified man holds a sign outside the U.S. District Courthouse for the fourth day of jury deliberations in former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort's trial on bank and tax fraud charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russia's role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
The 2012-issued passport of President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, included in the government's exhibits admitted into evidence during Manafort's trial, is shown in this image released from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office in Washington, DC, U.S. on August 1, 2018. Image released August 1, 2018. Courtesy Special Counsel's Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JULY 31: An activist holds a picture of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort during a protest outside the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse prior to the first day of the trial of Manafort July 31, 2018 in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort was charged with financial frauds and is the first defendant in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to face trial. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Jackets included in the government's exhibits admitted into evidence, at the trial of President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, are seen in this combination image of pictures released from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office in Washington, DC, U.S. on August 1, 2018. Courtesy Special Counsel� Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. UNPROCESSED VERSIONS HAVE BEEN PROVIDED SEPARATELY
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JULY 31: Activists hold signs during a protest outside the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse prior to the first day of the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort July 31, 2018 in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort was charged with financial frauds and is the first defendant in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to face trial. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - AUGUST 02: Kathleen Manafort (L), wife of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, arrives at the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse August 2, 2018 in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort has been charged with bank and tax fraud as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Defense Attorney Kevin Downing arrives at U.S. District Court for the opening day of Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort's trial on bank and tax fraud charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Protesters gather outside the US District Courthouse ahead of Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort arriving for the opening day of his trial on bank and tax fraud charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Defense Attorney Kevin Downing arrives at U.S. District Court for the opening day of Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort's trial on bank and tax fraud charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Heather Washkuhn, manager of Paul Manafort's personal and business finances, left, walks toward District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. Washkuhn told the jury that she had no knowledge of the offshore companies and bank accounts that prosecutors say helped former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort hide tens of millions in income from the U.S. government. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Defense Attorney Kevin Downing arrives at U.S. District Court for the opening day of Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort's trial on bank and tax fraud charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
The U.S. District Courthouse is seen ahead of Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort arriving for the opening day of his trial on bank and tax fraud charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JULY 31: Members of Manafort's legal team Jay Nanavati, (C), and Richard Westling, (R), wait to enter the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse to attend the trial of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort who was arrested last year on financial fraud charges, on July 31, 2018 in Alexandria, Virginia. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
The U.S. District Courthouse is seen ahead of Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort arriving for the opening day of his trial on bank and tax fraud charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Protesters gather outside the U.S. District Courthouse ahead of Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort arriving for the opening day of his trial on bank and tax fraud charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
UNITED STATES JULY 31: Media set up microphones in front of the United States District Court in Alexandria, Virginia where President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort stands trial July 31, 2018. (Photo By Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES JULY 31: A protester is seen outside of the United States District Court in Alexandria, Virginia where President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort stands trial July 31, 2018. (Photo By Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JULY 31: An activist wears an 'It's Mueller Time' T-shirt as she hits a drum during a protest outside the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse prior to the first day of the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort July 31, 2018 in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort was charged with financial frauds and is the first defendant in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to face trial. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES JULY 31: A protester is seen outside of the United States District Court in Alexandria, Virginia where President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort stands trial July 31, 2018. (Photo By Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JULY 31: An activist holds a puppet of U.S. President Donald Trump during a protest outside the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse prior to the first day of the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort July 31, 2018 in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort was charged with financial frauds and is the first defendant in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to face trial. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JULY 31: People wait in-line to enter the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse to hear the first day of the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort July 31, 2018 in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort was charged with financial frauds and is the first defendant in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to face trial. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Jay Nanavati, co-counsel for former Trump Campaign Manger Paul Manafort, left, and Richard Westling, co-counsel for former Trump Campaign Manger Paul Manafort, right, wait to enter District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., on Tuesday, July 31, 2018. The 18-count Alexandria indictment includes five charges of filing false tax returns, five for conspiracy to commit bank fraud, four bank fraud counts and four counts of failing to file reports of his foreign bank and financial accounts with the U.S. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JULY 31: Anti Trump and Manafort protesters gather in front of the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse where the trial of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort starts today, on July 31, 2018 in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort was arrested last year on financial fraud charges. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JULY 31: A protester stands in front of the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse where the trial of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort starts today, on July 31, 2018 in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort was arrested last year on financial fraud charges. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Paul Manafort's lawyer Thomas Zehnle (C) is surrounded by media as he arrives at the Albert V. Bryan US Courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia on July 31, 20187, for the opening of the jury selection for the Paul Manafort trial. - Donald Trump's former campaign chief Paul Manafort on July 31, 2018 becomes the first member of the president's election team to face trial on charges stemming from the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 vote. Manafort, 69, has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank and tax fraud related to his lobbying activities on behalf of the former Russian-backed government of Ukraine. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - JULY 31: People wait in line to enter the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse to attend the trial of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was arrested last year on financial fraud charges, on July 31, 2018 in Alexandria, Virginia. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Kathleen Manafort departs from U.S. District Court following the opening day of Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort's trial on bank and tax fraud charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russia's role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Defense Attorney Kevin Downing departs from U.S. District Court following the opening day of Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort's trial on bank and tax fraud charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller?s investigation of Russia's role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
ALEXANDRIA, VA - AUGUST 02: Heather Washkuhn, managing director of the accounting firm Nigro Karlin Segal Feldstein & Bolno, arrives at the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse to testify in the Paul Manafort trial August 2, 2018 in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort has been charged with bank and tax fraud as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - AUGUST 02: Jay Nanavati, attorney of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, arrives at the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse August 2, 2018 in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort has been charged with bank and tax fraud as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - AUGUST 02: Kevin Downing, attorney of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, outside the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse August 2, 2018 in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort has been charged with bank and tax fraud as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - AUGUST 01: The statue of Justice outside the Albert V. Bryan U.S. Courthouse is reflected in a television news camera lens on the second day of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's trial August 1, 2018 in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort has been charged with bank and tax fraud as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Accountant Cindy Laporta arrives to testify on day 5 of the trial against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort on 18 charges stemming from bank and tax fraud at US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, on August 6, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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Manafort's defense hinges on pinning the blame on Gates, who they accuse of embezzling millions of dollars from Manafort.

Gates, who first met Manafort working for him as an intern fresh out of college, has been described by witnesses as Manafort's right-hand man in his multimillion-dollar political consulting business.

Throughout his testimony, Gates largely avoided making eye contact with Manafort, who appeared to be watching him.

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.

Those admissions are likely to become a focal point for Manafort's defense team when he is cross examined on Tuesday.

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. His case is the first to go to trial arising from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

The jury has heard how Manafort made tens of millions of dollars for work with pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. Mueller is also investigating possible coordination between Trump campaign members and Russian officials in the election campaign, but the charges against Manafort do not address that.

SEE ALSO: Paul Manafort's bookkeeper says former Trump campaign chairman approved 'every penny' of his personal expenses

CYPRUS ACCOUNTS

Gates also testified about how wealthy Ukrainian businessmen paid Manafort millions of dollars for his political services through wire transfers to Cyprus-based accounts that were set up for Manafort by a lawyer and local politician known as "Dr. K."

"He indicated that the Ukrainian businessmen...had directed him to set up Cyprus accounts because the payments would be coming from Cyprus," Gates said when asked to explain the payment structure.

Gates also testified that both he and Manafort had control over the foreign accounts, as well as Manafort's business associate Konstantin Kilimnik.

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Richard Gates, business associate of Paul Manafort
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Richard Gates, business associate of Paul Manafort
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 02: Richard Gates leaves the Prettyman Federal Courthouse following a hearing November 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. Gates and his former business partner and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort both pleaded not guilty Monday to a 12-charge indictment that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: Richard Gates (C) leaves the Prettyman Federal Courthouse January 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. Gates and his former business partner and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort were indicted on charges that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 11: Richard Gates leaves the Prettyman Federal Courthouse after a hearing December 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. Gates and his former business partner former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort both pleaded not guilty Monday to a 12-charge indictment that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 02: Richard Gates arrives at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse for a hearing November 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. Gates and former business partner and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort both pleaded not guilty Monday to a 12-charge indictment that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: Richard Gates (C) arrives at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse January 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. Gates and his former business partner Paul Manafort were indicted on charges that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 02: Richard Gates arrives at the Prettyman Federal Court Building for a hearing November 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. Gates and former business partner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort both pleaded not guilty Monday to a 12-charge indictment that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 11: Richard Gates arrives at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse for a hearing December 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. Gates and his former business partner former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort both pleaded not guilty Monday to a 12-charge indictment that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 02: Richard Gates arrives at the Prettyman Federal Court Building for a hearing November 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. Gates and former business partner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort both pleaded not guilty Monday to a 12-charge indictment that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 11: Richard Gates arrives at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse for a hearing December 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. Gates and his former business partner former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort both pleaded not guilty Monday to a 12-charge indictment that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Kilimnik is a Russian-Ukrainian political consultant who was indicted in June on charges stemming from the Mueller probe. In court filings, Mueller has accused Kilimnik of having ties to Russian intelligence services, an allegation he has denied.

Gates testified that Manafort told him to report overseas income as loans to lower Manafort's taxable income, supporting the testimony of his accountant.

"When income came into the company, Mr. Manafort directed whether it would be treated as income ...or loans," Gates said.

The jury heard testimony on Friday and Monday from accountant Cynthia Laporta, who described how Manafort and Gates doctored financial statements and backdated loans.

Gates admitted in testimony on Friday that he had lied to Laporta, as well as other accountants and Manafort's bookkeeper.

In questioning Laporta on Monday, a prosecutor asked her about a $10 million loan purportedly received by Manafort from Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska in 2006. Laporta said she had no indication that the loan from Deripaska had been paid off.

Since the trial started before U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis last Tuesday, Manafort's lawyers have kept their cross-examinations brief and at times refrained from attempting to rebut damaging testimony in detail.

But Laporta's testimony raised the stakes for Manafort. Testifying under immunity, she was the first witness to admit she knew accounting maneuvers Manafort and Gates requested of her were wrong and could be crimes. One accounting trick saved Manafort $500,000 in taxes, she said.

Under cross examination on Monday, defense attorney Kevin Downing attempted to show thatGates was the point person in dealing with the accountants. But while Laporta acknowledged that she regularly communicated with Gates, she said she believed Manafort was in the know.

"In most instances it was clear Mr. Manafort knew what was going on," Laporta said.

On redirect, prosecutor Uzo Asonye used a spreadsheet to show that Manafort's firm had earned $31 million in gross receipts between 2010 and 2014 - half the amount prosecutors say he netted during the same time frame in Ukraine.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne, Sarah N. Lynch and Karen Freifeld in Alexandria, Virginia, Warren Strobel; Editing by Grant McCool and Lisa Shumaker)

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