Longtime Manafort deputy Rick Gates admits embezzlement

Rick Gates and Paul Manafort

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.

Manafort is on trial in Virginia for various financial crimes he was charged with as part of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russian Federation probe MORE's ongoing investigation.

Aside from admitting to the false expense reports, Gates said he also created a fake letter to an investment company for a different colleague, Steve Brown. His testimony, given in short, clipped answers as Manafort rarely broke his gaze from the witness stand, follows that of vendors who detailed Manafort's luxurious spending and financial professionals who told jurors how the defendant hid millions of dollars in offshore accounts.

Similar to prior witnesses, Laporta testified that Gates and Manafort were in lockstep but that Manafort was in charge.

After that, Gates sent her a document dated March 6, 2014, that purported to represent a $900,000 loan from a Cyprus entity, Telmar Limited, to Manafort's company.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank and tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. Gates and Manafort were also long-time business associates, and Gates flipped on his former ally when the two were indicted by the special counsel for a variety of financial crimes, including tax and bank fraud.

But she said she was under the impression that Mr Manafort had been directing his deputies' actions and "knew what was going on".

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Manafort's defence has sought to blame Gates for any illegal conduct and accused him of embezzling millions of dollars from Manafort.

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 co-ordinated with Russian Federation - the central question Mueller's team has tried to answer. But Trump has shown interest in the proceedings, tweeting support for Manafort and suggesting that he had been treated worse than gangster Al Capone.

Notably, after urging prosecutors to speed things along as jurors heard from 14 witnesses last week, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said late on August 3 that Downing could begin his questioning of Laporta on Monday and wouldn't rush him. Ellis asked Andres to explain why he was asking questions about the nature of the businessmen's payments to Manafort and about whether the businessmen benefitted from paying for campaign work.

"When we try to describe the work, Your Honor stops us and tell us to move on", he said.

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

On Monday, Ms LaPorta was asked by prosecutors if she had been aware of a $10m loan from Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska that the district attorney said was "supposedly made in 2006". Manafort attorney Kevin Downing will cross-examine Laporta, who is testifying under an immunity agreement because she feared prosecution for perjury or false statements. But while Laporta acknowledged that she regularly communicated with Gates she said she believed Manafort was in the know.

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