Manafort trial day 4: Prosecutors follow the money, Cinda Laporta testifies

Paul Manafort arrives at U.S. District Court on June 15 in Washington D.C

Paul Manafort arrives at U.S. District Court on June 15 in Washington D.C

One member of the jury nodded in apparent agreement when US District Judge T.S. Ellis cut off the prosecution's questioning to ask her if she was afraid of being prosecuted herself.

The trial opened with a display of Manafort's opulent lifestyle, then progressed into testimony about what prosecutors say were years of financial deception.

One of Paul Manafort's tax preparers says she helped disguise $900,000 in foreign income as a loan in order to reduce the former Trump campaign chairman's tax burden.

Manafort's attorneys have signalled they will pin blame for any illegal conduct on Gates. Defense lawyers have painted Gates as an untrustworthy business partner who embezzled funds from Manafort's consulting firm.

Laporta also testified about two additional loans for a combined $1 million that she said had no supporting documentation.

They say that hidden among those records were more than 200 wire transfers from more than 30 companies Manafort controlled.

Prosecutors tightened the noose on Manafort for the tax evasion charges Friday during questioning with Ayliff and Laporta.

Greg Andres, a member of Mueller's team, confirmed on Thursday that the prosecution will call Gates as a witness, a day after another prosecutor suggested they might not.

The Manafort defense hinges on convincing jurors that Manafort was the boss who didn't handle bills or accounts, but left that to Gates, who is cooperating with prosecutors and may testify as its star witness. 'It's a lot, and Paul Manafort trusted that Rick Gates was keeping track of it'. And if Manafort was actively trying to circumvent lending laws, he wouldn't send emails to his accountant and bookkeeper about it.

While prosecutor Uzo Asonye was questioning an Federal Bureau of Investigation agent about a financial document authored by Gates, Judge Ellis interrupted the testimony to ask why the agent was being asked about the document and not its apparent author.

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Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, is the first person prosecuted by Mueller to face a jury. Asked if she believed the loan had been forgiven, LaPorta said she did not believe that at the time.

"I very much regret it", Laporta said on the trial's fourth day as prosecutors build their case that Manafort hid tens of millions of dollars he earned working for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine to evade taxes.

Manafort is charged with 18 counts of conspiracy, tax and bank fraud.

In the first four whirlwind days of the Manafort trial, unfolding in a cellphone-free federal court here a half hour south of the White House, Robert Mueller's special counsel team has laid out a compelling case that Manafort is a tax cheat.

While the question of collusion remains unanswered, Manafort's financial fraud trial has exposed the lucrative and secretive world of foreign lobbying that made Manafort rich. It has also revealed how, when income from his Ukrainian political consulting work dried up, he struggled to pay his bills and, prosecutors say, began obtaining bank loans under false pretenses. Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime attorney and former fixer, is said to be prepared to testify that the President knew about the Trump Tower meeting ahead of time sources with knowledge of the matter told CNN.

Ayliff said that although he dealt with both Manafort and Gates, the man in charge was always Manafort. But he said Manafort authorized those discussions, and Gates and Manafort never contradicted each other. One witness, Maximillian Katzman, testified that Manafort spent more than $900,000 at his boutique retailer in NY.

Asonye walked jurors through an incident in 2015 when Manafort asked Ayliff to tell potential lenders at UBS bank that one of his properties, on Fifth Avenue in New York City, was for personal use - even though on his taxes he classified it as a property that he rented out.

What we don't know: What is Manafort's end game?

Reading aloud from an email, Ayliff said Manafort told him to classify the apartment as a personal residence in any conversation with the bank.

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