Aug. 7 (UPI) — During testimony Tuesday for Paul Manafort’s fraud trial, Rick Gates outlined an operation in which he and Manafort used shell companies to secretly accept millions of dollars for their work in Ukraine.
In his second day of testimony, Gates said Manafort used members from a Cyprus-based law firm as ghost directors of the shell companies through a director known as “Doctor K,” who set up a series of bank accounts in order to disguise Manafort’s connection to Ukraine, USA Today reported.
Gates testified the law firm’s bookkeepers weren’t made aware of the accounts and that he would create invoice documents to wire money to the United States in order to fund construction contractors, custom tailors and other vendors for Manafort.
The typical practice involved Manafort sending a list of wire requests to Gates and the Cyprus law firm, Gates told jurors, according to CNN.
“There were hundreds of these,” he said, as prosecutors showed emails in which Manafort requested transfers.
In one such email, Manafort instructed Gates to proceed with plans to transfer funds from one of his shell companies, Leviathan Advisors Limited, to their consulting group, DMP International.
The law firm eventually moved the accounts to the Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, at which point Gates said Manafort requested his name be removed from the bank account registrations. Gates also had his name removed from some of the legal documents.
Gates also testified about financial woes he experienced in 2015, when his DMP consulting group was without clients and was unable to secure another political consulting contract in Ukraine.
During this period Gates said he falsified the firm’s financial statements to support mortgage loan applications and misled bankers by submitting old home insurance policy information to make it appear Manafort owned the property, although the current policy showed a mortgage loan.
Gates said he was aware this information was false and it was provided at Manafort’s direction.
Manafort’s attorney, Kevin Downing, asked Gates whether he expected the jury to believe his testimony after acknowledging he falsified information and embezzled money from Manafort.
“I’m here to tell the truth. Mr. Manafort had the same path; I’m here … I’m trying to change,” Gates said.
As part of the cross-examination Gates also clarified testimony that he embezzled money from Manafort’s firm, which he used to pay for residence and travel in Europe while he was engaged in an extramarital affair in London.
Meanwhile, Manafort’s former accountant, Cindy Laporta, was fired from her firm on Tuesday after testifying last week that she helped falsify his tax records, The Hill reported.
Her testimony “clearly represents that she failed to meet the firm’s high standards for professional and ethical conduct in her work for Mr. Manafort,” Laporta’s firm Kositzka, Wicks & Co., said.
The firm also said it was “shocked” by her testimony and has begun an investigation to ensure the actions mentioned only affected Manafort.
On Friday, Laporta testified Gates asked her to treat $2.4 million that Manafort’s consulting firm received from offshore businesses as loans on his 2014 and 2015 tax returns and that she knew the returns weren’t accurate.