Manafort’s ‘right-hand man’ to testify in fraud trial

Ayliff also testified that he sometimes communicated with longtime Manafort deputy Rick Gates about the former Trump campaign chairman's personal and business tax returns.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's prosecutors are walking the jury in the trial of Paul Manafort through the records to back their claim that the former Trump campaign chairman deceived his own financial advisers to hide his foreign accounts and income from US tax authorities.

Accountant Cindy LaPorta said she had a sense that what Manafort and aide Rick Gates told her about funds being transferred into their worldwide political consulting business wasn't accurate. Laporta said she later regretted her actions but at the time didn't want to risk losing a lucrative client. "You can't pick and chose what's a loan and what's income", she said. "Then came the resistance and everything changed", he said.

"The government must prove that Manafort was complicit in whatever Gates said or did", Axelrod said. Asked why such accounts would be important to a tax-preparing accountant, Laporta said the information would be necessary to properly account for income, any possible foreign income taxes owed, and for FBAR purposes - because the penalties were severe for noncompliance with the federal foreign account reporting regime. They were booked to the same Cyprus entity, bringing the total to $1.9 million. In any given year, it's around $400,000, she said.

She said Manafort was copied on an email to the bank that included the fake letter. Washkuhn told jurors about a series of emails she sent him in 2016 warning that he was behind on his payments, including to her.

While laying a foundation for Laporta's testimony, Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye elicited the immunized witness's annual salary.

During the questioning, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III will be both referee and wild card.

"Did you have concerns about representation you received about these foreign loans?"

The judge overseeing the tax evasion and bank fraud trial of Paul Manafort is known for courtroom interruptions and stern lawyer warnings.

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

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.

This trial, happening in Virginia, is only the first of two Manafort faces; he'll be tried later in D.C. on separate charges. Later, they say, when that income dwindled, Manafort launched a different scheme, shoring up his struggling finances by using doctored documents to obtain millions more in bank loans.

When asked if she believed the loan had been forgiven, Ms. Laporta hesitated before saying, "no". It's the first courtroom test of Mueller's team, which is tasked with looking into Russia's efforts to interfere with the USA election and whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Moscow to sway voters. The defense lawyers are not allowed to suggest to the jury that an earlier federal investigation that started before the special counsel's office formed ended with a decision not to prosecute Manafort. "He had access to much if not all of the business dealings that form the substance of the charges, but that also gives the defense the opportunity to try to convince jurors that he manipulated the evidence to protect his own skin and to paint Manafort as the fall guy".

The defense in the case is likely to subject Gates to an intensive cross-examination after arguing during opening statements that he embezzled millions of dollars from Manafort and then turned against him under pressure from Mueller.

Gates pleaded guilty to making false statements after being indicted by Mueller. Such accounts must be reported to tax authorities if they contain $US10,000 or more.

Trump's protestations aside, Manafort worked on the campaign during a critical six-month period in 2016, during which he led the effort to ensure Trump won the Republican nomination.

Mr. Ayliff said if Pernova Holdings was controlled by Mr. Manafort the money would be counted as income and, therefore, taxable.

  • Rogelio Becker