Trial set to begin for ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort

Trial set to begin for ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort

Trial set to begin for ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort

In all, prosecutors say, more than $75 million flowed through the offshore accounts Manafort and Gates set up.

Mr Asonye said Mr 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 US.

"Paul Manafort traveled in circles that most people will never know and he's gotten handsomely rewarded for it", Zehnle said.

The tax and bank fraud trial represents the first test of Mueller's ability to win a conviction of a former Trump aide. Manafort worked on Trump's presidential campaign for five months and attended a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians that is a focal point of Mueller's probe into possible collusion between the campaign and the Kremlin.

Mueller was appointed by the U.S. Justice Department's No. 2 official past year to take over an FBI investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election and whether there was unlawful coordination between Trump's campaign and Moscow.

"His trust in Rick Gates was misplaced", Zehnle said, alleging that Gates had embezzled millions of dollars from Manafort.

"Perhaps he believes that he's done nothing wrong, and because he's done nothing wrong, he's unwilling to plead guilty to any crime whatsoever - even if it's a lesser crime", said Jimmy Gurule, a Notre Dame law professor and former federal prosecutor.

"It seems to me we're seeing deeper ties that Manafort has had financially with his business deals in the Ukraine and with Russian Federation", said Shanlon Wu, a former lawyer for Manafort associate Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty in February and is aiding Mueller's probe.

Gates was originally a co-defendant in the case, until reaching a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller in February.

As he started delivering his opening statement, Asonye earned a near-immediate rebuke from Judge T.S. Ellis, who told him not to tell jurors that "the evidence will show" that the allegations against Manafort are true.

Manafort, 69, played an active role in the selection process, jotting down notes and chatting with his lawyers during questioning of the prospective panelists in federal court. In fact, prosecutors said last week they don't expect the word "Russia" to be mentioned at all. There are also four alternates, three women and a man.

If the judge rules in their favor, prosecutors could present evidence that delves deeper into Manafort's Russian connections. The charges stem from Manafort's activities from 2006-2017.

Yet the trial also contains pitfalls for Trump.

A list of 30 witnesses submitted by prosecutors includes luxury rug dealers, clothiers, real estate agents and others who would be expected to describe how Manafort spent money.

Defense attorney Shanlon Wu, who is also not participating in the case, seconded the legal strategy, saying it would lessen the chance of a mistrial should Manafort's attorneys want to contest guilty verdicts over accusations jurors let their distaste for Trump influence their decisions. He pleaded not guilty to these allegations, and the case is scheduled to go to trial in mid-September.

Prosecutors also charged another one of his associates, Konstantin Kilimnik, with working with Manafort to try to tamper with the potential witnesses.

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