Banker: Chief OK’d loans

Manafort got more than $16M from bank, witness says

Orlando Sentinel - - NATION & WORLD - By Stephen Braun, Chad Day and Lau­rie Kell­man

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A New York bank ex­ec­u­tive tes­ti­fied Fri­day that Paul Manafort re­ceived more than $16 mil­lion in loans af­ter the bank’s chair­man ex­pressed in­ter­est in join­ing Don­ald Trump’s cab­i­net if he won the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

The tes­ti­mony in the for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man’s fi­nan­cial fraud trial came af­ter pro­ceed­ings were halted for hours by mys­te­ri­ous back­stage dis­cus­sions be­tween the judge and at­tor­neys for both sides.

Pros­e­cu­tors say they will wrap up their case against Manafort on Mon­day.

De­fense lawyers have not said whether they ex­pect to call any wit­nesses af­ter that.

It was a strange hic­cup in nine days of pro­ceed­ings that have been some­times dra­matic and fea­tured tense ex­changes be­tween pros­e­cu­tors and ad­mit­tedly im­pa­tient U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III as he has pushed the gov­ern­ment to speed up its case.

Ellis re­cessed the trial with­out ex­pla­na­tion af­ter hud­dling with his bailiff and at­tor­neys from spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s of­fice and Manafort’s lawyers.

At one point, Ellis left the court­room and headed to­ward the jury room. Af­ter bring­ing court back into ses­sion, he re­minded ju­rors sev­eral times that they weren’t to dis­cuss the tax eva­sion and bank fraud case.

The ex­change came dur­ing a day in which ju­rors heard de­tailed tes­ti­mony about Manafort’s bank loans and about his New York Yan­kees lux­ury sea­son ticket pur­chases — paid for from an off­shore ac­count that pros­e­cu­tors say he con­cealed from the IRS.

Den­nis Raico, an ex­ec­u­tive at Chicago-based Fed­eral Sav­ings Bank, who tes­ti­fied un­der an im­mu­nity agree­ment, de­tailed for ju­rors how he grew un­com­fort­able with the ac­tions of bank chair­man Stephen Calk in the han­dling of Manafort’s loans.

Pros­e­cu­tors have said that de­spite red flags, Calk pushed through the loans for Manafort be­cause he wanted a job in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Dur­ing his tes­ti­mony, Raico told ju­rors that Calk dis­cussed roles in the Trump cam­paign ahead of ap­prov­ing the loans and later ref­er­enced be­ing a can­di­date for sec­re­tary of the Trea­sury or Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment in mes­sages he wanted Raico to pass to Manafort.

Raico said he didn’t re­lay Calk’s mes­sages be­cause he thought they were in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

Raico told ju­rors that a com­mit­tee that Calk led ap­proved Manafort’s loan within one day. Raico also said Calk ap­proved one of the loans, worth $9.5 mil­lion, af­ter over­rul­ing the bank’s pres­i­dent, who had ex­pressed doubts that Manafort had enough in­come to pay back the debt.

Raico said that ap­proval came de­spite un­der­writ­ers find­ing sev­eral dis­crep­an­cies be­tween the in­come on Manafort’s tax re­turns and the fig­ures con­tained on fi­nan­cial state­ments he pro­vided to the bank.

Pros­e­cu­tors ze­roed in a let­ter Manafort sub­mit­ted to ex­plain a $300,000 balance on his Amer­i­can Ex­press card.

Manafort had pro­vided the bank with a let­ter say­ing he lent the card to his long­time deputy, Rick Gates, so Gates could buy about $300,000 in sea­son tick­ets. But Irfan Kir­imca, a se­nior di­rec­tor of ticket oper­a­tions for the New York Yan­kees, told ju­rors the baseball team had no record of Gates ever mak­ing such a pur­chase.

Kir­imca also tes­ti­fied that Manafort paid for lux­ury sea­son tick­ets to the Yan­kees us­ing an off­shore bank ac­count in the name of Global High­ways Lim­ited, one of the off­shore shell com­pa­nies pros­e­cu­tors say Manafort failed to re­port on his tax re­turns.

Fri­day’s pro­ceed­ings also fea­tured a light­hearted mo­ment be­tween Ellis and pros­e­cu­tor Greg An­dres, who have tan­gled dur­ing the trial.

While ques­tion­ing a witness, An­dres noted he had for­got­ten to ad­mit a doc­u­ment into ev­i­dence when he should have, prompt­ing Ellis to re­tort, “Con­fes­sion is good for the soul.”

An­dres said, “I think my soul is in pretty good shape af­ter this process,” prompt­ing laugh­ter in the gallery.

EVAN VUCCI/AP

Paul Manafort’s lawyers, Kevin Down­ing, left, and Thomas Zehnle, have not said if they ex­pect to call any wit­nesses.

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