The Slatest

Manafort Trial: Who Would Just Leave Evidence Around That Makes Them Look Guilty?

Paul Manafort walks into the federal courthouse for a hearing.
Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at US District Court on June 15, 2018 in Washington, DC
MANDEL NGAN/Getty Images

The first week of Paul Manafort’s bank and tax fraud case wrapped up Friday, capping off four days of prosecutors detailing the former Trump campaign chairman’s lavish—and tax-free—spending from overseas accounts brimming with cash from his work as a political consultant in Ukraine.

One of the highlights of testimony Wednesday, the second day of the trial, was a clothing store employee detailing Manafort’s taste for high-end suits and menswear, spending more than $900,000 in five years, making him one of the store’s top five customers. But more relevant to the tax fraud charges looming over Manafort was the evidence that he’d paid with wire transfers from overseas accounts.

Another retailer employee testified, this time the chief financial officer of the House of Bijan, “the world’s most expensive store.” Manafort spent more than $300,000 there, the executive testified, again with invoices filled from entities based in Cyprus.

Prosecutors then called up witnesses to walk the jury through more Manafort expenditures, including more than $3 million worth of home renovations. On Thursday, another vendor, this time a Florida-based home technology executive, said Manafort had spent more than $2 million on various properties, paying, as always, with wire transfers. A Hamptons landscaper said he had done “hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of work” on a Manafort home in Bridgehampton, including “14-foot hedges around the roughly 1-acre property, lawns, a waterfall, flower-lined tennis courts, a bed of ‘hundreds and hundreds’ of white flowers and another which had red flowers in the shape of the letter ‘M,’ ” the Washington Post reported.

Later Thursday, prosecutors shifted from exhaustively listing Manafort’s spending with overseas cash to his dealings with the financial system more directly. A bookkeeper for Manafort testified that he was both very well-versed in his own finances and spending but that she was “unaware of and did not have any records of foreign holdings or accounts controlled by Manafort,” the Post reported. She also reported that as Manafort was working on the Trump campaign—without pay—his firm started to pile up huge losses, shedding $1.2 million in 2016.

The bookkeeper testified that Manafort’s partner, Rick Gates (who has already pleaded guilty as part of a deal with prosecutors), told banks that the company had made more than $4 million in 2015 when it was really around $400,000, the Post reported.

More financial shenanigans were detailed Friday. A Manafort-Gates accountant, Philip Ayliff, told the jury “that he and his colleagues often directly asked Manafort and his top aide, Rick Gates, about possible foreign accounts and other unusual transactions but were never informed about a web of foreign entities prosecutors say Manafort controlled,” Politico reported. “They never told us about any income deposited in foreign accounts,” he said.

One of Manafort’s attorneys, Kevin Downing, cast doubt on the prosecution’s use of tax forms prepared by accountants: “Nobody intending to violate the law would leave the evidence around for his accountant to find it,” he said.