Former Trump Campaign Chair Goes on Trial

Washington DC. Manafort and his former business partner Richard Gates both pleaded not guilty last year to a 12-charge indict

The trial of Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on tax evasion and bank fraud charges got underway at a courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia on Tuesday.

That "secret income" was used to pay for personal expenses such as a $US21,000 ($28,000) watch, a $US15,000 ($20,000) jacket made of ostrich skin and more than $US6 million ($8 million) worth of real estate paid for in cash, Mr Asonye said.

Manafort faces 18 charges alleging a series of financial crimes in this case, including filing false income tax returns, bank fraud conspiracy, failing to report foreign bank accounts and bank fraud.

Paul Manafort, 69, who chaired the Trump campaign during the summer of 2016, was accused of putting "himself and his money above the law" by laundering tens of millions of dollars derived from pro-Moscow groups in Ukraine.

To avoid paying hefty taxes, prosecutors say, they set up secret shell companies and offshore accounts to funnel their Ukrainian proceeds disguised as "loans" to US accounts to buy multimillion dollar properties and luxury goods.

In all, prosecutors say, more than $75 million flowed through the offshore accounts Manafort and Gates set up.

The sharp words marked a dramatic opening to the trial, in keeping with the notoriously fast-moving Eastern District Court of Virginia, which lawyers often refer to as home to the "rocket docket".

"The judge has very strictly instructed no mention of Paul Manafort's role in the Trump campaign, no mention of Trump, Russia or collusion", senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway said Tuesday morning on Fox News. An acquittal would give Mr. Mueller's critics ammunition to push for a quick end to the special counsel's operation.

"Not tax, not banking law", said Uzo Asonye, a member of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team looking at possible collusion between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign in 2016.

"There was No Collusion (except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats)!"

Prosecutors have said they will not present evidence of collusion at this trial.

Just before 2 p.m., prosecutors and defense attorneys finalized the twelve men and women who will serve as jurors, as well as four alternates.

Prosecutors made no reference to Trump in their opening statement nor discussed in any way Manafort's leadership of the Trump campaign, or the ongoing investigation into potential collusion between Russian Federation and the president's associates.

Five witnesses have been granted immunity from prosecution to testify against Manafort.

Several dozen potential jurors were called into an Alexandria, Virginia, federal courtroom by the presiding judge in the case, T.S. Ellis III.

Manafort, a veteran Republican political consultant, served as chairman of Trump's presidential election campaign for three months in 2016 before being forced to step down amid questions about his lobbying work in Ukraine. Having his former campaign chairman, who helped run Trump's campaign at a critical point of the election, in the news so consistently shines a negative light on him.

This is the first of two trials for Manafort. It involves allegations that he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests and made false statements to the USA government.

The other 31 people charged by Mueller so far have either pleaded guilty or are Russians seen as unlikely to enter an American courtroom. Three Russian companies have also been charged.

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