Prosecutors Tell Jury Ex-Trump Campaign Chief Manafort Hid Wealth

Prosecutors Tell Jury Ex-Trump Campaign Chief Manafort Hid Wealth

Paul Manafort's financial crimes trial, the first arising from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, will center on his Ukrainian consulting work and only briefly touch on his involvement with the president's campaign.

His defense team's opening day strategy was to try and undermine the Mueller team's star witness, Rick Gates, who was Manafort's deputy in business and at the Trump campaign. Prosecutors questioned veteran political consultant Daniel Rabin about the work he did for Manafort. Manafort faces bank and tax fraud charges in this district.

Manafort, 69, has pleaded not guilty to tax and bank fraud charges.

Manafort, the lone American charged by Mueller who has opted to stand trial instead of cooperate with prosecutors, was described by his defense lawyer as a hugely successful global political consultant who left the details of his finances to others.

Defense attorney Thomas Zehnle focused much of his opening statement on the question of trust, particularly the trust that Manafort placed in his former right-hand man, Rick Gates. "Counterintelligence officers say the duo's banking activity could provide a road map of back channels to powerful American entities such as the National Rifle Association, and information about the Kremlin's attempt to sway the 2016 US presidential election".

Expected to be a main witness, Gates was Manafort's right-hand man for years and has knowledge of their offshore accounts and work for Deripaska and in Ukraine. Asonye said Manafort lied also to his own bookkeepers to avoid paying taxes, and he lied to banks in an effort to qualify for loans he wouldn't otherwise have been approved for. "Let's move on. That's enough", Eric Tucker of the Associated Press transcribed the judge's words.

A prosecutor showed Mikuska and the jury a series of invoices, including for home improvement work, that were seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation during the August 2017 raid. Asonye described how Manafort snapped up expensive real estate in the United States, spent millions of dollars on renovating his properties and more than a half million dollars on "fancy clothes".

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Lawyers for the special counsel have, however, said that "the government does not intend to present at trial evidence or argument concerning collusion with the Russian government".

Asonye said Manafort set up more than 30 bank accounts in overseas countries and funnelled millions of dollars into them in order to bankroll an extravagant lifestyle.

At one point, his defense lawyers sued Mueller and the Justice Department, saying they'd overstepped their bounds by bringing a prosecution untethered to the core questions of Mueller's investigation - whether Russian Federation worked with the Trump campaign to tip the election. Last month, Mueller's team disclosed in a court filing what it said was a $10 million loan to Manafort from Oleg Deripaska, a magnate with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was in the hot seat when Mr Trump eventually won the Republican nomination, and organised the Republican convention in July 2016. Devine also worked closely with Manafort on consulting work in Ukraine.

"There was No Collusion (except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats)!"

Prosecutors made no reference to Trump in their opening statement nor discussed in any way Manafort's leadership of the Trump campaign, or the ongoing investigation into potential collusion between Russian Federation and the president's associates.

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