Longtime Manafort deputy Rick Gates admits embezzlement

Rick Gates leaves federal court in Washington. Paul Manafort’s trial opened this week with a display of his opulent lifestyle and testimony about what prosecutors say were years of financial deception. But the

Rick Gates, the key prosecution witness in the tax and fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, testified Monday he had committed crimes alongside and at the direction of his former partner - and had also stolen from Manafort himself.

Gates is considered the prosecution's star witness given his deep ties to Manafort and his past work on the Trump campaign.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether any Trump aides colluded with an alleged Moscow plot to help elect him as USA president, and whether there was any obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors are trying to craft a narrative through the various vendors, bookkeepers, and accountants who have testified that Manafort, through Gates, directed his own illicit transactions.

As well as serving as Manafort's right-hand man in their multimillion-dollar business, Gates was also Manafort's deputy on the Trump campaign.

Rick Gates told jurors that he siphoned off the money without Manafort's knowledge by filing false expense reports. "He said that he was indicted with Paul Manafort on bank and tax fraud charges, and he is guilty of all those charges".

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

Manafort's defense hinges on convincing a jury that it was Gates, not Manafort, who committed all of these crimes, and that Manafort is a victim of Gates.

The defendant's lawyers say Rick Gates embezzled millions of dollars from Mr Manafort's consulting firm.

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The criminal case has nothing to do with either man's work for the Trump campaign and there's been no discussion during the trial about whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian Federation - the central question Mueller's team has tried to answer.

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

Gates read off the names of more than a dozen shell companies he and Manafort set up in Cyprus, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the United Kingdom to stash the proceeds of Manafort's Ukrainian political consulting work.

An attorney for Manafort, Kevin Downing, let it slip earlier in the afternoon that Gates would testify on Monday, intensifying the tension in the courtroom. In questioning Laporta on Monday, a prosecutor asked the accountant about a $10 million loan purportedly received by Manafort from Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska in 2006.

The trial opened last week with a display of Manafort's opulent lifestyle, then progressed into testimony about what prosecutors say were years of financial deception. Gates will follow the testimony of tax preparer Cindy Laporta, who says she came to suspect Gates was misleading her about Manafort's finances.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who repeatedly interrupted prosecutors last week as they tried to present evidence about Manafort's lavish life - including $900,000 in expensive suits and a $15,000 ostrich jacket - clashed again with prosecutor Greg Andres on Monday when Andres delved into the status and identities of the Eastern Europeans who made payments to Manafort.

When asked who was in charge in the relationship, Manafort's longtime tax accountant Phillip Ayliff told the jury: "Oh - Mr. Manafort".

Under cross-examination, she said at the time she believed Manafort was directing Gates' actions and "knew what was going on".

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