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Jury selection underway in Manafort trial

Jury selection underway in Manafort trial

Paul Manafort orchestrated a multimillion-dollar conspiracy to evade USA tax and banking laws, leaving behind a trail of lies as he lived a lavish lifestyle, prosecutors said Tuesday as they laid out their case against the former Trump campaign chairman.

It's the first of two trials Manafort will go through.

It's the first trial arising from Mueller's investigation into potential ties between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian Federation.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty.

"This case is about taxes and trust", defence attorney Thomas Zehnle told jurors. Zehnle said Manafort, earning millions as a political consultant helping officials in other parts of the world, relied on Gates and others - including a professional accounting firm - to keep watch over the money. He warned jurors not to believe Gates when he testifies against Manafort later in the trial.

Manafort joined Trump's political campaign in 2016, and is now charged with tax and bank fraud, as well as being accused of colluding with the Russian government. A jury of six men and six women was ultimately selected, along with four alternate jurors. Asonye said the evidence would show he lied to the Internal Revenue Service.

Asonye said Manafort created "bogus" loans, falsified documents and lied to his tax preparer and bookkeeper to hide the money, which he obtained from Ukrainian oligarchs through a series of shell company transfers and later from fraudulently obtained bank loans in the U.S.

Westling asked Devine about Manafort deputy Richard Gates, specifically whether it was part of Gates' job to manage Manafort's business operations in the USA while he was overseas, as well as to handle the business side of things in general.




The tax and bank fraud trial represents the first test of Mueller's ability to win a conviction of a former Trump aide.

The luxurious lifestyle was funded by Manafort's political consulting for the pro-Russian Ukrainian political party of Viktor Yanukovych, who was deposed as Ukraine's president in 2014. Manafort has filed a motion to have details of that work excluded from trial.

Mueller was appointed by the U.S. Justice Department's No. 2 official a year ago to take over an FBI investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election and whether there was unlawful coordination between Trump's campaign and Moscow.

At jury selection earlier Tuesday, the pool faced questions from both sides and the judge as they tried to weed out potential prejudice in what has become a highly publicised and politically divisive investigation. And they won't learn that Manafort's co-defendant in the Washington case is a business associate named Konstantin Kilimnik, who lives in Russia and who US authorities assert has connections to Russian intelligence.

Manafort actively conferred with his lawyers during the jury selection process, writing and passing notes.

Manafort worked for the Trump campaign for five months in 2016, rising to campaign chairman. And it will unfold at a delicate time for the president as Mueller's team presses for an interview and as Trump escalates his attacks on an investigation he calls a "witch hunt". Trump denies any collusion with Russian Federation, and on Tuesday tried to make the case publicly that collusion would not be a crime anyway.

"When a prosecutor looks into those dealings and uncovers evidence of criminal culpability", said Stanford law professor David Alan Sklansky, "it doesn't make sense to ask him to avert his eyes". The Virginia trial will be followed by a second one in Washington in September in which Manafort is charged with money laundering, failing to register as a foreign agent and witness tampering.

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