Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

Manafort hid millions in foreign accounts, US prosecutor says

Charlie Simmons | 01 August, 2018, 21:04

During his opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye told the jury that Manafort considered himself above the law as he funneled tens of millions of dollars through offshore accounts.

Lawyers representing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort shifted blame to their client's former business associate, Rick Gates, in the first trial related to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

The charges against Manafort center on lobbying work he did in Ukraine - work that predates the 2016 presidential campaign, when he served as Donald Trump's campaign chairman.

Opening remarks by Manafort's lawyer, Thomas Zehnle, gave an indication of his defense tactic - singling out Gates. In fact, prosecutors said last week they don't expect the word "Russia" to be mentioned at all.

Paul Manafort is being tried in Alexandria, Va., on 18 counts of tax and bank fraud.

It's the first trial arising from Mueller's investigation into potential ties between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and Russian Federation.

If the judge rules in their favor, prosecutors could present evidence that delves deeper into Manafort's Russian connections. Trump repeatedly has sought to discredit the investigation, which is also looking into any possible unlawful Trump campaign coordination with Moscow.

That task comes as the president and his lawyer-spokesperson, Rudy Giuliani, have intensified their attempts to undermine the Mueller investigation in the court of public opinion and as the USA president continues to waffle on whether he'll sit for a private interview with prosecutors.

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"Looking back on history, who was treated worse, Alfonse Capone, legendary mob boss, killer and "Public Enemy Number One", or Paul Manafort, political operative & Reagan/Dole darling", Trump wrote in a tweet. He said he would not tolerate any pictures of Manafort and others "at a cocktail party with scantily clad women", if they exist.

But prosecutor Uso Asonye said jurors may not hear from Mr. Gates after all.

The special counsel has enlisted as many as 35 witnesses to testify against Manafort.

"They're going to be seeing a guy who spent half a million dollars just on landscaping", Turley said.

More details about Mr Manafort's work in Ukraine and with Russian nationals are expected to emerge in the 69-year-old's trial, which starts on Tuesday.

"It was a tremendous amount of work and I have to say, Paul worked harder than anyone", Devine said. The Virginia trial will be followed by a second one in Washington in September in which Manafort is charged with money laundering, failing to register as a foreign agent and witness tampering.

Given the strength of the evidence, however, some legal experts have suggested Manafort may be banking on an eventual pardon from Trump, who has called his former campaign chairman a "nice guy" who has been treated unfairly. That trial, set in the District of Columbia, involves allegations that the longtime political consultant acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests and made false statements to the U.S. government. But Butina also appeared to have had a broader mission, The Daily Beast reports, detailing an encounter in which Butina urged legendary USA financial executive Maurice "Hank" Greenberg to pour more money into the secretly insolvent Russian bank Investtorgbank, leaving observers "shocked and disturbed" at her audacity.

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