Trial of Former Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort Begins in VA

A jury of six men and six women was impaneled on Tuesday afternoon for the closely watched financial crimes trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in Alexandria, Virginia.

A jury of six men and six women was impaneled on Tuesday afternoon for the closely watched financial crimes trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in Alexandria, Virginia.

Manafort, 69, is on trial for tax and bank fraud charges related to his political consulting and lobbying work for politicians in Ukraine.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The trial of Manafort, who briefly headed President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, is the only to arise so far from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the vote.

The jurors – 10 whites and two Asian-Americans — who will decide Manafort’s guilt or innocence were selected from a pool of several dozen candidates. Four alternate jurors were also selected.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers objected to nearly two dozen other candidates in the juror pool for unknown reasons.

Federal District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III summarized the indictment for the jury, imploring them to consider the case “solely based on the evidence presented here and the court’s instructions of the law.”

With the jury impaneled, the trial is scheduled to continue Tuesday afternoon with 30-minute opening statements by prosecutors and defense lawyers.

On the surface, the criminal charges against Manafort — tax evasion, failure to report foreign bank accounts and fraudulently obtaining bank loans — are unrelated to the core of Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to subvert the 2016 U.S. national election.

The charges stem from Manafort’s decade-long lobbying and political consulting work for Ukraine’s former president, Viktor Yanukovych.

On the surface, the criminal charges against Manafort — tax evasion, failure to report foreign bank accounts and fraudulently obtaining bank loans — are unrelated to the core of Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to subvert the 2016 U.S. national election.

The charges stem from Manafort’s decade-long lobbying and political consulting work for Ukraine’s former president, Viktor Yanukovych.

While working for Yanukovych and his pro-Russia Party of Regions between 2006 and 2015, Manafort and his former business partner, Rick Gates, allegedly earned tens of millions of dollars in fees while hiding the income from the Internal Revenue Service.

To avoid paying hefty taxes, prosecutors say, they set up secret shell companies and offshore accounts to funnel their Ukrainian proceeds disguised as “loans” to U.S. accounts to buy multimillion dollar properties and luxury goods.

After Yanukovych was deposed in 2014 and their Ukrainian income dwindled, Manafort and Gates allegedly came up with another scheme to obtain money: the two used their real estate properties in the United States as collateral to fraudulently secure more than $20 million in bank loans by “falsely inflating” their income.

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

Manafort has been in jail since June, when the judge presiding over the Washington case revoked his bail for allegedly tampering with potential witnesses.

The special counsel has enlisted as many as 35 witnesses to testify against Manafort. They include accountants, financial advisers, tax preparers and real estate agents.

But prosecutors’ star witness is likely to be Gates, who worked closely with Manafort in Ukraine and later followed him into Trump’s campaign as deputy chairman.

Gates was named as a co-defendant in the initial indictment handed down against Manafort last October. But when the special counsel hit the two men with a second indictment in February, Gates pleaded guilty to two lesser counts in exchange for cooperation.

Manafort has remained defiant, vowing to fight the charges.

By: Masood Farivar

LEAVE A REPLY

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

INTERNATIONAL NEWS