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Ex-Manafort aide Gates testifies on Cyprus accounts, shell companies

Ex-Manafort aide Gates testifies on Cyprus accounts, shell companies

Gates, considered a star witness against Manafort, struck a plea deal with prosecutors to cooperate in the case against his former business partner.

Gates, 46, is already facing up to six years in prison under the terms of a plea deal he struck with prosecutors in February when he pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiracy and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In addition to assisting in Manafort's alleged crimes, Gates told the jury he had failed to report income he routed through his bank accounts in the United Kingdom and said he stole several hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort by filing false and inflated expense reports.

Manafort's defense is seeking to pin the blame on Gates himself, who has acknowledged embezzling from Manafort's firm.

The jury heard how Mr Manafort made tens of millions of dollars for political work with pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.

Gates, Manafort's long-time business partner, is expected to face a tough cross-examination later on Tuesday by defense lawyers in the first trial to arise from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 USA election.

Manafort is charged with bank and tax fraud related to political consulting work he did in Ukraine. Gates also said that they sometimes characterized payments as loans to mask income.

Gates revealed that Pinchuk paid Manafort through a company called Plymouth Consultants Ltd. for what he described as a legal project. Gates said he spoke to LaPorta about listing the property as a residence. Gates said that at Manafort's request, he sent a 2015 insurance policy for the home that did not list a mortgage on the home, even though the more current 2016 insurance policy noted the mortgage.

Accountant Cindy LaPorta - who was granted immunity from prosecution - said on Friday she suspected that Gates was misleading her about Mr Manafort's finances.

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Taking the stand on the trial's fifth day, Gates admitted to helping Manafort doctor financial statements, hide foreign income and cheat on his taxes.

This courtroom sketch depicts Rick Gates, right, answering questions by prosecutor Greg Andres as he testifies in the trial of Paul Manafort in Alexandria, Va.

The second week of the tax evasion and bank fraud trial of Paul Manafort kicked off Monday. But Trump has shown interest in the proceedings, tweeting support for Manafort and suggesting that he had been treated worse than gangster Al Capone.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who has clashed with prosecutors as he urged them to hurry up presenting their case, has largely allowed the prosecution to question Gates uninterrupted. Gates also testified that a Russian citizen, who is allegedly tied to Russian intelligence, had signatory authority over some of Manafort's hidden accounts in Cyprus, according to reports.

Gates's appearance in court marked a dramatic moment in the probe: the first visible case of a witness flipping, or turning on friends or colleagues in a case.

Some of the maneuvers were at the request of Gates, while others implicated Manafort, Laporta testified.

"In Cyprus, they were documented as loans". One accounting trick saved Manafort $500,000 in taxes, she said.

Rick Gates testified today that he committed crimes while working with Paul Manafort.

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