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Manafort seeks acquittal as tax, bank fraud trial moves to defence

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Manafort seeks acquittal as tax, bank fraud trial moves to defence
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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Reuters) – Lawyers for Paul Manafort will have the opportunity on Tuesday to put up their defence, a day after U.S. prosecutors rested their case against the former campaign chairman for President Donald Trump in his trial over alleged tax and bank fraud.

Manafort’s legal team have asked for the charges to be thrown out, claiming in a court filing on Monday that prosecutors under U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller failed to show the necessary wilfulness to break the law.

Judge T.S. Ellis said he would talk to Manafort on Tuesday about whether he wanted to take the stand in his defence, a move legal experts say is highly unlikely.

Manafort’s lawyers will also tell the court on Tuesday whether they plan to call any witnesses. If the defence rests, closing statements would be next, after which the 12-person jury will begin deliberations.

Manafort is being tried on 18 counts, which include tax and bank fraud charges, as well the failure to disclose foreign bank accounts. If found guilty on all charges, he could face eight to 10 years in prison, according to sentencing expert Justin Paperny.

The trial is the first courtroom test for Mueller, who indicted Manafort in October 2017 as part of an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

U.S. prosecutors on Monday rested their case against Manafort after 10 days of testimony alleging he evaded taxes and defrauded banks.

During the trial, more than two dozen witnesses took the stand and portrayed Manafort, 69, as a lavish spender with little regard for the law. As a political consultant for pro-Kremlin politicians in the Ukraine, Manafort earned some $60 million (£47 million) between 2010 and 2014.

Stashing the money in 31 offshore bank accounts, he skirted taxes by having the funds wired directly to vendors to snap up real estate and luxury goods, the witnesses said.

The prosecution’s final witness on Monday, a Treasury Department agent, testified that Manafort and his consulting companies did not disclose their foreign bank accounts as required by law.

In asking the court for an acquittal, Manafort’s lawyers argued that the evidence in the case was “insufficient” to convict him.

Dan Goldman, a former federal prosecutor who has attended the court proceedings, called the request pro forma, adding that such actions are rarely successful.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne, Karen Freifeld and Amanda Becker in Alexandria, Virginia; Writing by Warren Strobel and Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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