Prosecutors focus on Manafort 'lies' as trial draws to a close | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 17, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 17, 2018

Prosecutors focus on Manafort 'lies' as trial draws to a close

Closing arguments wrapped up in the trial of Paul Manafort on Wednesday with prosecutors accusing Donald Trump's former campaign chairman of weaving a web of lies to avoid paying taxes on tens of millions of dollars he earned advising Russian-backed politicians in Ukraine.

Defense attorneys sought, meanwhile, to cast doubt on the credibility of the government's star witness in the case, which stems from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

"This case is littered with lies," assistant US attorney Greg Andres told the six-man, six-woman jury on day 12 of Manafort's trial for tax evasion and bank fraud.

"Mr Manafort lied and lied again" as he sought to conceal the payments he received between 2005 and 2014 from politicians in Ukraine, Andres said.

"Mr Manafort lied to keep more money when he had it," Andres told a packed federal courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia. "And he lied to get more money when he didn't."

Manafort, 69, a Republican political consultant and lobbyist, is charged with 18 counts of tax evasion and bank fraud.

He is not charged with any crimes related to his brief time as Trump's campaign chief, but the trial is seen as an important test for the Mueller probe, which the president has repeatedly denounced as a political "witch hunt."

Judge T.S. Ellis told the jury following closing arguments to return to the court at 9:30 am (1330 GMT) yesterday to begin deliberations.

Andres said Manafort, who could face decades in prison, filed false tax returns between 2010 and 2016 to hide his earnings in Ukraine from US tax authorities.

The money was deposited in 31 foreign bank accounts, most of which were in Cyprus, and Manafort repeatedly failed to report their existence to his bookkeeper, his accountants and the Internal Revenue Service, the prosecutor said.

"He owned these accounts, he controlled them, he moved the money at will," Andres said as Manafort, dressed in a blue suit, jotted down notes at the defense table.

Manafort also filed false statements to obtain millions of dollars in loans from banks when he was facing financial difficulties, he said.

The prosecution's key witness against Manafort was his long-time deputy, Rick Gates, who outlined for the jury how he helped his boss hide his earnings offshore.

Defense attorneys sought to paint Gates as a liar and a thief, pointing out that he had pleaded guilty to his own crimes in the hopes of receiving a lesser prison sentence.

"The government was so desperate to make a case against Mr Manafort that it made a deal with Rick Gates," defense attorney Kevin Downing said. "This was someone Paul trusted."

During his three days of testimony, Gates, 46, acknowledged stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort and having an extramarital affair a decade ago.

Andres countered that the defense focus on Gates was a diversion. "They want to distract you," he said.

"We don't ask you to like him," the prosecutor added, appealing to the jury to compare Gates' testimony to that of the more than 20 other witnesses called against Manafort.

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