Paul Manafort’s accountant testified Friday that the ex-Trump campaign manager repeatedly denied having foreign bank accounts and stakes in foreign companies.
CNN reports Manafort is standing trial as a result of being charged with 18 counts of tax and banking crimes. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecution of Manafort is the first case taken to trial as part of his larger probe of Russian election interference in 2016.
Phil Ayliff said that his tax-preparation firm was assured by Manafort and Rick Gates, Manafort’s deputy, that the two had no foreign accounts. In February, Gates pleaded guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators during Mueller’s Russia election 2016 interference investigation. Ayliff’s firm asked Manafort directly in a 2011 email if he, his wife or two daughters had foreign accounts.
The email shown to the jury stated that Manafort said no.
Here is more on how Manafort may have misinformed his accountants about his foreign income, per CNN:
The accountants reminded Gates in an email that Manafort would need to disclose to the U.S. Treasury Department any foreign accounts he controlled. “As discussed, to my knowledge, nothing has changed,” Gates wrote back.
Prosecutors have implied that Manafort and Gates used a separate set of accountants in Cyprus and filed tax returns in the country, unbeknownst to their US-based financial specialists. Manafort or Gates “never told you they filed tax returns in Cyprus” or had accountants on the Mediterranean Island, prosecutor Uzo Asonye asked Ayliff in court.
“No,” Ayliff responded.
The tax preparer was asked about several companies identified on a client list provided by Manafort. Ayliff identified nine of them, including Lucicle Consultants Ltd and Global Highway Ltd, as clients.
Prosecutors have alleged in the indictment that some of the same companies were actually controlled by Manafort and were used to pay vendors for home renovation, expensive suits and luxury cars.
Ayliff said he had no knowledge that Manafort or Gates had any financial interest in those companies. He added that he had no understanding of the relationship with the companies beyond them being identified by Manafort and Gates as clients.
Asonye asked why he would want to know if there was any financial interest by Manafort. Ayliff said if there was a financial interest, then Manafort would have had to identify them as foreign bank accounts.
Additionally, Manafort paid himself improperly through a consulting firm he and his wife owned, Ayliff said:
Manafort reported on his 2012 tax return a total income of $5.36 million. At the time, he and his wife each owned 50% of the Ukraine-focused political consulting firm DMP International.
He also reported earning wages of $1.99 million — the amount a bookkeeper testified to as well Thursday.
Partners with ownership of businesses like DMP International shouldn’t pay out wages, Ayliff testified. “When we found out he had been paid through the payroll company, we stopped the practice going forward,” but still reported the amount on Manafort’s 2012 tax return, Ayliff said.
That year was the same time DMP International received a $1.5 million loan from his alleged shell company Peronova Holdings Limited, which was forgiven and counted as income years later.
Translation: This ain’t looking good for Manafort.