Monday, 12 November, 2018

Chicago bank official recalls red flags on Manafort loan application

Banker testifies after unexplained recess Chicago bank official recalls red flags on Manafort loan application
Steven Clarke | 16 August, 2018, 13:10

It would be surprising if Manafort testified.

Instead, Mueller's prosecutors have called accountants, bookkeepers, luxury vendors and Manafort's longtime business associate, with a final group of witnesses appearing on Friday to lay out his alleged financial transgressions. Those arguments are scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Liss' testimony came after Manafort's attorneys signaled they intend to argue that the offshore accounts that he used to pay for millions of dollars in personal expenses, such as fancy suits, landscaping, rugs and homes, were actually controlled by the company and not him personally.

Defence attorneys have so far blamed any wrongdoing on Rick Gates, Manafort's former protege, who testified August 6. Defence attorneys have called Gates a liar, philanderer and embezzler in seeking to undermine his testimony.

Before prosecutors rested for the day, they sparred with defense lawyers about a technical issue that may become key in closing arguments.

In asking the court for an acquittal, Manafort's lawyers argued that the evidence in the case was "insufficient" to convict him.

It was unclear if Ellis will make public the reason behind an unexpected recess on Friday that lasted into the midafternoon and included a lengthy discussion with the lawyers and judge at the bench, the contents of which remain under seal. Ellis took the motion under advisement. Manafort's lawyers asked the judge to toss out all the charges, but they focused in particular on four bank-fraud charges.

The government says Manafort hid around $16 million in income from the IRS between 2010 and 2014 by disguising money he earned advising politicians in Ukraine as loans and hiding it in foreign banks.

One of Mueller's last witnesses on Monday was a mortgage banker with The Federal Savings Bank, which loaned money to Manafort in 2016.

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Judge TS Ellis said he would talk to Manafort on Tuesday about whether he wanted to take the stand, something that legal experts say is highly unlikely.

Still, the proceedings have drawn global attention - as well as Trump's - for what the case reveals about people in the combative president's orbit as Mueller examines the same circles for any election interference or obstruction. Manafort, Donald Trump's campaign manager in 2016, got a quick response. Gates struck a plea deal with prosecutors and has provided much of the drama of the trial so far.

"I would have expected some witnesses on how Manafort trusted and relied upon Gates and gave him independent control of his finances", he said. The defense also pushed Gates to address allegations that he embezzled "several hundred thousand" dollars from Manafort to finance an apartment in London where Gates had an extra-marital affair.

The only dispute was about what jurors should be told about how to interpret questions and comments interjected by the judge during the course of the trial.

"You have an absolute right to testify before this jury", Ellis said.

Ellis eventually came up with compromise language that was agreeable to both sides.

Manafort's defense team previewed the case it is expected to launch Tuesday, by blaming the financial irregularities on Gates.

Television cameras are set outside of federal court as the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort continues, in Alexandria, Va., Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. With Downing are members of the defense team for Manafort, from left, Thomas Zehnle, Jay Nanavati and Brian Ketcham. As the prosecution case neared its end, defense lawyers said they meant to argue that Manafort did not own enough of his company to require him to disclose such accounts.

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