Published: Thu, August 02, 2018
World News | By Joan Terry

Prosecutors: Paul Manafort believed he was above the law

Prosecutors: Paul Manafort believed he was above the law

An FBI agent who participated in the raid previous year on Paul Manafort's Virginia condo testified on the second day of the trial for the former Trump campaign chairman.

Alphonse Capone, who spelled his name with a ph, not an F, and was best known as "Al" Capone, likely suffered a wee bit more than Manafort himself.

"Not tax, not banking law", said Uzo Asonye, a member of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team looking at possible collusion between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign in 2016.

Trump early on August 1 wrote on Twitter that "this is a bad situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further". Typically, government officials refrain from commenting on any criminal cases, particularly when those cases are on trial. A jury set to decide the fate of President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Manafort was selected Tuesday, and opening statements in his tax evasion and bank fraud trial were expected in the afternoon.

Asonye said Manafort created "bogus" loans, falsified documents and lied to his tax preparer and bookkeeper to hide the money, which he obtained from Ukrainian oligarchs through a series of shell company transfers and later from fraudulently obtained bank loans in the U.S. Katzman noted Alan Couture had about 40 regular clients, and that Manafort was the only one who paid for his goods by global wire transfer.

On trial in Alexandria, Virginia, Manafort is facing charges of evading taxes on more than $60 million of income earned working for Ukrainian politicians.

On the witness stand, Katzman was asked to review invoices from Manafort's purchases.

The prosecution could be rethinking whether Gates, who pleaded guilty in February to money laundering charges in exchange for offering information on Manafort, will help them, multiple experts said.

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"Of course, there will be no evidence about that", the judge said, adding that oligarchs are merely rich people. "It's a lot, and Paul Manafort trusted that Rick Gates was keeping track of it", Zehnle said.

Wald, who was in charge of the financial records at House of Bijan - known as the "most expensive men's store in the world" - said Manafort spent over $657,000 at the retailer between 2010 and 2013, according to his records.

House of Bijan only sells House of Bijan clothing, and House of Bijan clothing can only be bought at House of Bijan, its one-time CFO Ronald Wall, who a now still manages its finances, testified Wednesday. They also highlighted the fact that Wald has never had direct contact with Manafort.

The trial is the first courtroom test for special counsel Robert Mueller, who was tasked previous year with investigating Russia's efforts to sway the 2016 election and to determine whether the Trump campaign was involved.

The trial, however, is not about Russian Federation, or any such conspiracy, focused instead on the personal and business finances of Manafort, Trump's onetime campaign chairman.

The luxurious lifestyle was funded by Manafort's political consulting for the pro-Russian Ukrainian political party of Viktor Yanukovych, who was deposed as Ukraine's president in 2014. In fact, at the outset of the day, Ellis even banned the word "oligarch" from the courtroom in reference to people Manafort dealt with during his work in Ukraine and Russian Federation, saying the word had "come to have a pejorative meaning".

At the judge's urging, the trial has gotten off to a fast start, and it seemed to only accelerate on its second day. He especially trusted business associate Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty in Mueller's investigation and is now the government's star witness.

On Wednesday, the prosecutors brought more than a half dozen witnesses to the stand, though they said they expect to finish presenting their case by next week, which means Manafort's trial could be even shorter than the three weeks initially predicted.

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