Rick Gates admits to committing crimes with Paul Manafort

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Special counsel Robert Mueller's star witness took the stand on Monday in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, capping a week of contradictory messages from the Mueller team about whether Rick Gates would testify against his former boss.

The testimony from Gates, a former adviser to Donald Trump, comes after reaching a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year to testify against his former partner in a lucrative global political consulting firm.

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 says the goal of the fraud was to lower Manafort's tax bill and allow him to defer payment on the income until later years.

Accountant Cindy LaPorta - who was granted immunity from prosecution - said on Friday she suspected that Gates was misleading her about Mr Manafort's finances.

Multiple accountancy and bookkeeping witnesses testified last week that they dealt with Gates in preparing Manafort's financial paperwork.

Gates then admitted that he also turned the tables on Manafort - cheating him out of "several hundred thousand" dollars by submitting false expense reports that were paid out of some of the undisclosed foreign bank accounts in Cyprus.

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Gates, 46, is already facing up to five years in prison under the terms of a plea deal he struck with prosecutors in February when he pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiracy and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Gates did not make eye contact with Manafort as he took the stand wearing a yellow tie and navy blue suit. When a banker asked about $1.5 million debt that Manafort's company owed to a Cyrus entity called Peranova Holdings Limited, Gates produced a backdated document showing it was forgiven.

Manafort's defense has sought to blame Gates for any illegal conduct and accused him of embezzling millions of dollars.

Manafort attorney Kevin Downing says that Rick Gates will testify at the conclusion of the testimony of Manafort's tax preparer. One accounting trick saved Manafort $500,000 in taxes, she said.

Testimony from Mr Manafort's tax preparer continued on Monday.

Mueller is also investigating possible coordination between Trump campaign members and Russian officials in the election campaign, but the charges against Manafort do not address that.