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Mueller's 'star witness' testifies against former boss Paul Manafort

Mueller's 'star witness' testifies against former boss Paul Manafort”

Paul Manafort's former deputy Rick Gates took the stand Monday and admitted to committing crimes with his then-boss.

Prosecutors have been preparing for this credibility battle by asking a number of witnesses speak to Manafort's role as a supervisor over Gates.

"Were you involved in any criminal activity with Mr. Manafort?" a prosecutor on special counsel Robert Mueller's team asked Gates, the key witness in the charges brought against Manafort. When a banker asked about $1.5 million debt that Manafort's company owed to a Cyrus entity called Peranova Holdings Limited, Gates produced a backdated document showing it was forgiven.

Gates served as Manafort's business partner for almost a decade until 2016, when the two joined the Trump campaign for president. Gates was Manafort's partner in the consultancy.

Among the crimes Gates testified to doing with Manafort include: knowingly hiding 15 foreign accounts from the government; stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort by filing false expense reports, which were paid from Manafort's offshore accounts; and filing false tax returns, in which the men under-reported their income, created fake loans and failed to disclose their foreign accounts. Gates also worked for the Trump election campaign.

Gates' testimony began on Monday and will likely continue into Tuesday, when Manafort's defense attorneys will cross-examine him. It's the first of Mueller's prosecutions to reach a jury, but lawyers have made no mention of President Donald Trump or possible campaign coordination with the Kremlin.

Jurors will hear again Monday from Cynthia Laporta, an accountant who testified August 3 about going along with phony, backdated documents meant to help lower Manafort's tax bills and secure real-estate loans even as his personal debt rose.

Gates, a longtime business associate of Manafort's, was indicted on fraud charges in October but later pleaded guilty to reduced charges as part of a plea deal. The effect of the loan was to reduce Manafort's income by that amount and reduce his taxes, she said.

"Rick Gates had his hand in the cookie jar and couldn't let his boss find out", Manafort defense attorney Thomas Zehnle said during opening arguments. And Gates says he also falsified loan applications and other documents to help Manafort obtain millions more in bank loans.



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