Prosecutors turn to Manafort taxes, unreported bank accounts

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Paul Manafort's federal trial has now entered the alleged bank fraud section. It's the first courtroom test of the work of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is tasked with looking into Russia's efforts to interfere with the US election and whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Moscow to sway voters.

Manafort's attorneys have sought to pin any illegal conduct on longtime Manafort deputy, Rick Gates.

A bookkeeper for Manafort's company testified Thursday that Manafort was broke by 2016 and sent false income statements to banks to obtain loans. But other witnesses, including Heather Washkuhn, Mr. Manafort's bookkeeper, testified this week that while he relied on Mr. Gates, Mr. Manafort kept track of "every penny" of his finances.

Given the impact of Laporta's testimony, it is now unlikely the prosecution will call O'Brien to the stand, according to a person close to the case. One instance involved classifying revenue from a Cyprus-based company as a loan to lower his taxable income, Laporta testified.

"You make her say "I lied" as many times as you can", Axelrod said. So she went ahead and filed the false tax return.

"I would say [Manafort] was very knowledgeable; he was very detail oriented", Washkuhn said.

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For Mueller's team, the strategy is to show that Gates' version of events is supported by documents and other witnesses, and that this version of events contradicts Manafort's claims of innocence.

The jury also heard from several money managers contracted to keep tabs on Manafort's cash flow.

Laporta said she asked Manafort directly about any such holdings and was told there were none.

Trump also tweeted Wednesday that Manafort was being treated unfairly, leading to speculation he could pardon him. Mr. Gates responded by sending a forged forgiveness letter, Ms. Laporta testified.

Manafort emailed Laporta in December 2015 telling her he was applying for a mortgage from Citizen Bank for a property located on Howard Street in Manhattan.

Asonye then asked Laporta whether she believed the transactions were actually foreign loans. "You are not limited in your cross-examination of her", Ellis said.

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It is clear to me he is very anxious about it and he wants to prevent it any way he can. Laporta said that Gates sent her a backdated document purporting to memorialize the loan and that Manafort saved $400,000 to $500,000 in taxes. She works for KWC, the tax firm that lists Manafort as a client, and she began managing his taxes in 2014. Such accounts must be reported to tax authorities if they contain $US10,000 or more. A jury set to decide the fate of President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Manafort was selected Tuesday, and opening statements in his tax evasion and bank fraud trial were expected in the afternoon. She testified that Mr. Manafort had emailed her about the fraudulent loan.

"Nobody intending to violate the law would leave the evidence around for his accountant to find it", Manfort's lead attorney Kevin Downing said in the courtroom Friday.

Among the 18 counts Manafort faces is the failure to report foreign bank accounts.

One member of the jury nodded in apparent agreement when US District Judge TS Ellis cut off the prosecution's questioning to ask her if she was afraid of being prosecuted herself. But attempts to verify the loan's terms were futile. Mueller's team said the witnesses refused to testify or would refuse to answer certain questions if not given the protection.

Prosecutors allege he used the money he made overseas to fund his expensive tastes, including nearly $1 million on suits and $15,000 on an ostrich leather jacket.

"Money's coming in fast", Manafort's lawyer, Thomas Zehnle, told jurors at the trial's beginning. Peranova is one of numerous Cypriot entities that prosecutors have said Manafort controlled.

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"We thought it was an independent third party", he said.

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