Manafort Trial Day Three Will Feature Bookkeepers’ Tales

This courtroom sketch depicts Paul Manafort, seated right row second from right, together with his lawyers, the jury, seated left, and the U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III, back center, listening to Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye, standing, during opening arguments in the trial of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Manafort’s on tax evasion and bank fraud charges. (Dana Verkouteren via AP)

(CN) – Prosecutors will ask jurors Thursday to follow the money in the Paul Manafort trial, a trail they say shows that the former campaign chairman took millions from wealthy Ukrainian clients then hid it from banks and the Internal Revenue Service.

The prosecution witness list for Thursday features bookkeepers and accountants and appear intended to directly link Manafort to the financial fraud that government lawyers say enabled his extravagant lifestyle.

On Wednesday, lawyers with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office detailed how Manafort personally directed millions of dollars in international wire transfers to pay for high-end suits and more than $3 million in improvements at various houses.

The trial is the first to stem from the Russia probe by special counsel Robert Mueller, who was tasked last year with investigating the Russian efforts to disrupt the 2016 presidential election and potential collusion with the Trump campaign.

That investigation is ongoing. Although Manafort’s financial fraud trial stems from the investigation, it is not directly tied Trump campaign activities.

While jurors have thus far been presented with evidence of Manafort’s extensive purchases of luxury cars, sprawling homes, jewels and custom-made clothing including a $15,000 ostrich jacket, the defense has indicated it will paint for Manafort co-defendant Rick Gates as the person responsible for their clients bank and tax fraud woes.

According to defense attorneys Kevin Downing and Thomas Zehnle, the alleged betrayal by Gates, a former Manafort business associate, went on for years as he allegedly embezzled his boss and doctored financial records to head off the feds and keep Manafort none the wiser.

As the trial opened, Gates, who plead guilty to conspiracy and making a false statement to the FBI last year in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, was positioned as the prosecutor’s star witness during opening arguments.

But on Wednesday Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye revealed that Gates may not testify at all.

The announcement was met with murmurs in the courtroom, but Asonye immediately walked the statement back, saying the question of whether Gates will testify or not is entirely dependent on how the case unfolds.

As the proceedings wrapped up on Wednesday, assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Andres said in addition to the bookkeepers and accountants, jurors will also hear from at least one more vendor who sold Manafort goods and services.

Heather Washkun, the managing director of the accounting firm Nigro Karlin Segal Feldstein and Bolno, is expected up first.

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