ALEXANDRIA, VA — Prosecutor Greg Andres completed his closing statement in Paul Manafort’s Virginia trial on Wednesday morning, emphasizing to the jury that the government believes Manafort repeatedly “lied” about his income.
“Mr. Manafort lied to keep more money when he had it, and lied to get more money when he didn’t,” Andres told the jury.
Andres charged that the evidence presented in the case, including witness testimony, emails, and financial documents, is “littered with lies.”
Manafort is facing 27 counts in the case, including tax fraud and bank fraud charges. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Andres used his closing statement, which lasted for about an hour and 40 minutes, to methodically walk the jury through the charges against Manafort and the corresponding evidence presented by his team throughout the two-week trial.
As he discussed the charges, Andres repeatedly noted that Rick Gates, Manafort’s former deputy who pleaded guilty and began cooperating with the government, was often not involved in Manafort’s alleged schemes to lie to the government and banks. And he pointed out that when Gates was aiding his former boss, Manafort was aware of and directed his deputy’s activities.
Andres also addressed the defense’s tactic, employed during cross-examination of Gates last week, to paint Gates as untrustworthy. Andres said that the government’s evidence on the tax fraud charges and the charges on Manafort’s alleged failure to report foreign bank accounts was “more than sufficient” without Gates’ testimony.
He told the jury that he does not expect them to take Gates’ testimony “at face value” and instead asked them to “verify” Gates’ claims with testimony from other witnesses.
Though Andres’ closing argument was mostly a deliberate attempt to walk the jurors through the charges and evidence, Andres made an impassioned aside when discussing the defense’s mention of Gates’ affairs earlier in the trial.
“What about Mr. Gates’ affairs?” Andres asked, moving on to ask why the defense would focus on that, as opposed to Gates’ attempts to help Manafort break the law.
“Was it to distract you?” Andres asked further.
He then asked if Gates’ affairs “make Mr. Manafort any less guilty,” and suggested that it would only make sense that Manafort would choose someone like Gates to help him with his alleged schemes.
“He didn’t choose a boy scout,” Andres said.
Andres spent the bulk of his time walking the jury through the counts, beginning with the charges that Manafort filed false tax returns and failed to file a necessary FBAR report telling the government that he had foreign bank accounts. Andres spent a good deal of time discussing the law governing these counts and the evidence, perhaps because the testimony on those matters came earlier in the trial.
He reminded the jury of previous testimony from Manafort’s bookkeeper and tax accountants, who were unaware of his foreign business accounts. And he brought up charts from an expert witness showing the amount of income Manafort reported to the government and the amount he hid each year. He reminded them of numbers that prosecutors previously raised in evidence — that Manafort failed to report more than $15 million in income on his tax returns between 2010 and 2014, and that Manafort had 31 foreign bank accounts that he never reported.
Andres attempted to head off any argument from the defense that Manafort merely forgot to report his foreign income and accounts, or that Manafort was confused by the law. He showed documents that suggested Manafort took these steps intentionally and emphasized that he is “capable and bright,” and trained as a lawyer.
“Mr. Manafort knew the law but he violated it anyway,” Andres said.
Andres also offered a motive for Manafort’s alleged lies about his income.
“He wanted to hide that money and evade taxes,” Andres said.
Andres then moved into the bank fraud charges Manafort faces, telling the jury that the evidence on these counts is “riddled with false statements.” He told the jury that virtually all the witness testimony on this matter was backed up in documents.
“The star witness in this case is the documents,” Andres said.
Andres spent a great deal of time walking the jury through the first bank fraud charges, which related to a $3.4 million loan from Citizen’s Bank. He then breezed through the remaining loans, perhaps because he felt he was running low on time or because he felt that evidence was fresher in jurors’ minds.
He reminded the jury that prosecutors admitted evidence suggesting that Manafort submitted false documents inflating his income, backdated documents claiming a loan was forgiven, and lied to banks about where he lived and which properties had mortgages.