ALEXANDRIA, VA — Rick Gates, beginning testimony at the financial crimes trial of Paul Manafort, said he committed crimes with his former boss.
Prosecutor Greg Andres asked Gates if he conducted “criminal activity” with Manafort and if he had “committed crimes” with Manafort. Gates, to both questions, indicated that he did.
Gates also admitted to taking money from Manafort. “I added money to expense reports,” he said, adding that he obtained “several hundred thousand dollars” in this way.
Gates said he had authority over some of the offshore accounts that Manafort owned, and that he was the one who directed the law firm that ran the consulting group’s accounts to transfer money to his own accounts, leaving Manafort in the dark on the exact dollar amount.
Gates was Manafort’s right-hand man during the pair’s lobbying work in Ukraine. Special counsel Robert Mueller originally charged Gates alongside Manafort, but Gates reached a plea deal with Mueller in exchange for cooperating in the investigation.
Gates took the stand for the first time on Monday afternoon. He is expected to be the prosecution’s star witness in the case.
During his testimony, Gates ran through a list of crimes that he helped Manafort commit. He said that he and Manafort told an accountant, incorrectly, that Manafort did not have foreign bank accounts. Gates said he did this “at Mr. Manafort’s direction.”
Gates also testified that he helped Manafort underreport his income on his tax filings, and lied to Manafort’s bookkeeper about the nature of Manafort’s loans.
Manafort is on trial here facing bank and tax fraud charges. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Gates’ appearance on the stand Monday was highly anticipated, and, during the recess after it was announced, observers aggressively tried to squeeze into seats in the already packed courtroom.
Manafort’s attorneys have already made claims that Gates was to blame for Manafort’s alleged crimes, and that he embezzled money from his former boss, a focus of their defense.
Prosecutors’ first questions for Gates Monday seemed to be an attempt to inoculate him ahead of the defense’s cross-examination, which will likely not begin until Tuesday afternoon.
In addition to the admission that he stole from Manafort, Gates also admitted to other crimes not among those he was initially charged with before reaching a plea deal with Mueller in February. Those crimes, Gates said, included mortgage fraud and omitting certain details in a deposition for a case not related to the current charges.
Gates revealed that conduct before going into the details of his plea deal with Mueller, where he has pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and to making a false statement in his plea negotiations.
From there, Andres questioned Gates on the mechanics of his and Manafort’s consulting work in Ukraine, and the specifics of the wire transfers that prosecutors say Manafort illegally failed to report on his taxes.
Gates said the Ukrainians funding their political work transferred payments from bank accounts for entities they set up in Cyprus to the entities Gates and Manafort had set up in the same country. Gates said that some of that money was then moved to the U.S., but some stayed behind in Cyprus.