Mueller's 'star witness' testifies against former boss Paul Manafort

AFP  Getty Images FILEPaul Manafort arrives for a hearing at U.S. District Court

Paul Manafort's former associate Rick Gates has admitted that he committed crimes for the onetime Trump campaign manager when he was in his employ.

In questioning Laporta on Monday, a prosecutor asked the accountant about a $10 million loan purportedly received by Manafort from Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska in 2006.

Gates pleaded guilty in February to charges of conspiracy against the United States and lying to federal authorities.

Gates and Manafort have known each other for two decades and ran a multimillion-dollar political consulting business. Manafort's attorneys have signaled they will seek to blame Gates and have accused him of embezzling millions of dollars from Manafort.

"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.

"Were you involved in any criminal activity with Mr. Manafort?" a prosecutor on special counsel Robert Mueller's team asked Gates, the key witness in the charges brought against Manafort.

Gates, considered a star witness against Manafort, struck a plea deal with prosecutors to cooperate in the case against his former business partner.

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Manafort, facing charges of bank and tax fraud related to his work in Ukraine, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The contents of those emails - and how Gates interprets them before the court - could help either save or sink Manafort.

Gates is also admitting to carrying out a vast scheme to hide millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts on Manafort's behalf.

"Rick Gates had his hands in the cookie jar and he didn't want his boss to find out", defense attorney Thomas Zehnle told the court in opening statements last week, accusing Gates of being "willing to say anything to save himself".

Paul Manafort's longtime deputy has been called to the witness stand to testify against the former Trump campaign chairman. Another special counsel prosecutor, Greg Andres, later clarified that prosecutors had "every intention" of calling Gates to the stand.

Under cross examination, she said at the time she believed Manafort was directing Gates' actions and "knew what was going on". It's the first of Mueller's prosecutions to reach a jury, but lawyers have made no mention of President Donald Trump or possible campaign coordination with the Kremlin.

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