Uzo Asonye, one of the prosecutors in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, made the comment as part of the prosecution’s opening statement as the trial of Manafort got underway in a Virginia federal court.
The high-profile trial is the first to arise out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Earlier in the day, prosecutors and defense attorneys selected a 12-member jury to weigh Manafort’s fate.
Manafort faces charges that he hid tens of millions of dollars earned in Ukraine in offshore accounts and defrauded banks for loans. Four alternate jurors, three women and one man, also were chosen.
“A man in this courtroom believed the law did not apply to him. Not tax, not banking law,” Asonye told the jury of six men and six women in federal court in Virginia, referring to Manafort.
Manafort, 69, was seated in the courtroom wearing a dark suit, white shirt and tie. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis made several jokes during the jury selection process, including about the quality of the lunches jurors will be provided. While many in the courtroom laughed, including Manafort’s lawyers, the defendant himself did not.
Asonye told jurors the evidence would show Manafort hid “tens of millions of overseas income” to avoid paying taxes. Asonye said the evidence would show he lied to the Internal Revenue Service.
Asonye said Manafort set up more than 30 bank accounts in overseas countries and funneled millions of dollars into them in order to bankroll an extravagant lifestyle. Asonye described how Manafort snapped up expensive real estate in the United States, spent millions of dollars on renovating his properties and more than a half million dollars on “fancy clothes.”
Prosecutors are seeking to provide details of Manafort’s work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, raising the possibility that new information about his Russian connections could emerge.Manafort has filed a motion to have details of that work excluded from trial.
Manafort faces 18 criminal counts, which center on allegations that he hid much of the $60 million he earned in Ukraine in undisclosed overseas bank accounts and failed to pay taxes on it.
Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.