Paul Manafort's former business partner, Rick Gates, took the witness stand on Monday for what may be the most critical testimony in Manafort's bank and tax fraud trial.
Prosecutors were expected to ask Gates for an inside look at what they say was a scheme by Manafort to use offshore bank accounts, shell companies and wire transfers as to avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax bills.
Manafort, a flamboyant figure in Washington for decades, became known for his consulting and lobbying work for ethically questionable global leaders like Ukraine's Viktor Yanukovych.
Gates, who also served in a senior role in Donald Trump's presidential campaign, is expected to face aggressive cross-examination once prosecutors are finished questioning him.
Gates pleaded guilty earlier this year as part of an agreement to cooperate with federal prosecutors. Gates was Manafort's partner in the consultancy.
The jury heard testimony on Friday and Monday (local time) from accountant Cynthia Laporta, who described how Mr Manafort and Mr Gates doctored financial statements and backdated loans.
Manafort's attorneys have signalled they will seek to blame Gates and have accused him of embezzling millions of dollars from Manafort.
Prosecutors are trying to craft a narrative through the various vendors, bookkeepers, and accountants who have testified that Manafort, through Gates, directed his own illicit transactions.
"This is typically the most important testimony that a "flipper" can give prosecutors - an admission that they committed crimes along with the defendant, along with an explanation of how they did it", Mariotti tweeted on Monday.
Gates has been cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation probe after he cut a plea deal earlier this year.
Gates served as Manafort's business partner for almost a decade until 2016, when the two joined the Trump campaign for president.
Gates is also admitting to carrying out a vast scheme to hide millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts on Manafort's behalf.
Some of the maneuvers were at the request of Gates, while others implicated Manafort, Laporta testified.
Prosecutors said last week that they meant to call him to the stand before resting their case this week.
But Ms Laporta's testimony raised the stakes for Mr Manafort, legal experts said. The effect of the loan was to reduce Manafort's income by that amount and reduce his taxes, she said.
Gates also said he lied in a lawsuit deposition years ago, after Manafort "asked me not to include" certain things in the deposition.
Prosecutors surprised Judge T.S. Ellis last Wednesday when Uzo Asonye, a special counsel attorney, suggested that Gates "may not" take the stand.
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