MANAFORT TRIAL | Prosecutors turn to Manafort taxes, unreported bank accounts
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — Prosecutors headed toward the heart of their financial fraud case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort today, with jurors hearing testimony that he never told his tax accountants about offshore bank accounts containing millions of dollars.
The testimony of longtime accountant Philip Ayliff builds on evidence presented by special counsel Robert Mueller's team that Manafort inflated his business income by millions of dollars and kept his bookkeeper in the dark about foreign bank accounts he was using to buy luxury items and pay personal expenses.
Ayliff told jurors Manafort denied on multiple occasions he controlled foreign bank accounts when asked by his tax preparers. That's why the accounts weren't reported on years' worth of Manafort's tax returns as required by federal law, he said.
Ayliff also testified he sometimes communicated with longtime Manafort deputy Rick Gates about the former Trump campaign chairman's personal and business tax returns. But he says Manafort authorized those discussions, and Gates and Manafort never contradicted each other.
That testimony is important to prosecutors as they look to rebut defense arguments that Manafort can't be responsible for financial fraud because he left the details of his spending to others. Those include Gates, who pleaded guilty earlier this year and is expected to testify soon as the government's star witness.