Manafort’s taxes to be focus of trial on Friday

Former Manafort partner Gates to testify next in fraud trial

Manafort’s taxes to be focus of trial on Friday

The testimony of tax preparer Cindy Laporta came as prosecutors from special counsel Robert Mueller's office focused on the heart of their financial fraud case against Manafort, with jurors hearing testimony that he inflated his business income by millions of dollars and concealed foreign bank accounts he was using to buy luxury items and pay personal expenses.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his attorneys would like a jury to believe, was simultaneously a highly skilled and sought-after political consultant and a clueless executive unwittingly benefiting from a conspiracy led by his right-hand man to keep foreign-earned cash out of Uncle Sam's pocket.

One email from Washkuhn to Manafort said $120,000 was "urgently needed for your personal bills".

Cynthia Laporta, who prepared Mr Manafort's tax returns starting in 2014, told a jury in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, that she was testifying under an immunity agreement with the Government to avoid being prosecuted as Mr Manafort was charged with bank fraud and tax fraud.

He said Manafort paid for much of the work through worldwide wire transfer and was his only client to do so.

The trial, however, is not about Russian Federation, or any such conspiracy, focused instead on the personal and business finances of Manafort, Trump's onetime campaign chairman.

The most anticipated testimony is by Rick Gates, who is both a former business partner of Manafort's and also was deputy chairman for Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. Mueller's team said the witnesses refused to testify or would refuse to answer certain questions if not given the protection.

The defense has argued that even if Manafort did direct the effort to inflate his income on his loan applications, it doesn't prove that he willfully broke the law. Specifically, it pointed to a $1.5 million loan from a company called Peranova Holdings, another entity prosecutors say Manafort controlled.

"He was trying to reduce income and therefore, income taxes", Laporta testified. Such accounts must be reported to tax authorities if they contain $10,000 or more. Gates is expected to face bruising cross-examination, and his credibility is likely to be an important test of the prosecution's case.

Joyce Vance, a law professor at the University of Alabama, explained on MSNBC Friday that Manafort may yet prove himself to be a key figure in a potential case of collusion between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign to interfere in the election.

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Prosecutors tightened the noose on Manafort for the tax evasion charges Friday during questioning with Ayliff and Laporta. She also said Manafort told Banc of California that his company made almost $4.5 million when the actual amount was $400,000.

Asked why she engaged in misconduct, Laporta said she had few good choices.

Kevin Downing, a defense attorney for Mr. Manafort, said he would need about an hour to cross-examen Ms. Laporta.

Manafort's team blamed Gates in opening statements for the financial crimes of which Manafort stands accused, but Manafort's former bookkeeper Heather Washkuhn testified today that he "approved every penny of everything we paid" while keeping her in the dark about offshore accounts that prosecutors say funded a lavish lifestyle.

During one series of questions, prosecutors asked Laporta about loans from two distinct entities, Telmar and Paranova.

By listing it as a rental property on his tax forms, Manafort saved thousands of dollars in taxes.

Laporta also detailed multiple examples in which Manafort and Gates sought to doctor financial records. He pleaded guilty earlier this year and agreed to cooperate with the investigation, making him the government's star witness.

The store's chief financial officer, Ronald Wall, testified that Manafort paid for the clothes with wire transfers.

Ayliff testified that Manafort pressed him to tell bankers considering a loan application that one of Manafort's NY properties was being used as a personal residence when in fact he was renting it out.

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