- Rick Gates, a associate of US President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, testified Monday that they committed crimes together.
- Gates testified that he knowingly violated federal tax law by not disclosing 15 foreign bank accounts owned by him and Manafort to US authorities.
- Gates and Manafort were charged with a combined 32 counts of tax and bank fraud in February, after which Gates accepted a plea deal which included testifying against Manafort.
Rick Gates, a longtime business associate of US President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, on Monday testified at Manafort’s fraud trial that they committed crimes together.
Gates, whose testimony in federal court 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.
Manafort’s attorneys have signaled they will seek to blame Gates and have accused him of embezzling millions of dollars from Manafort.
Gates reportedly testified that he broke the law by failing to report foreign bank accounts, helping Manafort file false tax returns, and swindling Manafort out of money by submitting fake expense reports.
He testified that “at Mr. Manafort’s direction,” he knowingly and deliberately violated US tax law by failing to disclose assets held in 15 foreign bank accounts belonging to both him and Manafort to federal authorities.
He then described having “cheated” Manafort out of “several hundred thousand dollars” by submitting fabricated expense reports. Manafort then paid Gates out of Cryprus-based bank accounts illegally concealed from the US government, Gates testified, according to CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz.
Gates also testified that he helped Manafort illegally file false tax returns by lying to his accountants about Manafort’s assets and liabilities, as well as the existence of the foreign bank accounts.
Manafort has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank and tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts filed against him in February. Gates was charged with 12 counts of tax and bank fraud in the same indictment, after which he chose to become a cooperating witness.
The charges largely predate Manafort’s five months on the Trump campaign but were the first to go to trial arising from the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
The jury has heard how Manafort made tens of millions of dollars for political work with pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. Gates was Manafort’s partner in the consultancy.
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.
The jury had heard testimony on Friday and Monday from accountant Cynthia Laporta, who described how she said Manafort and Gates doctored financial statements and backdated loans.
Laporta detailed multiple examples in which Manafort and Gates sought to doctor financial records — first to lower Manafort’s taxable income and then later to inflate his income so that he could get bank loans, she said.
Some of the maneuvers were at the request of Gates, while others implicated Manafort, Laporta testified. Similar to prior witnesses, Laporta testified that Gates and Manafort were in lockstep but that Manafort was in charge.
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