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Manafort case nears close as defence rests without calling witnesses

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The explosive trial of former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort headed toward final arguments Tuesday after defence attorneys rested their case without calling witnesses on the veteran political operative's behalf.

[ALEXANDRIA, United States] The explosive trial of former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort headed toward final arguments Tuesday after defence attorneys rested their case without calling witnesses on the veteran political operative's behalf.

After hearing some 20 witnesses for prosecutors describe how Manafort allegedly evaded taxes on millions of dollars and repeatedly lied to banks as he borrowed millions more, a jury of 12 could begin deliberating on the case as early as late Wednesday, according to US media.

Lawyers for Manafort, 69, who faces 18 counts related to tax and bank fraud, had tried to get federal Judge T.S. Ellis to throw out some or all of the charges against him, but Judge Ellis rejected the motion.

In a two-week trial that highlighted Manafort's lavish spending on clothing, including US$15,000 for an ostrich-skin bomber jacket and landscaping one of his homes with a flower bed shaped like the letter "M", the jury heard from a former partner and a former accountant on how the longtime political consultant doctored his accounts and laundered tens of millions of dollars through offshore banks.

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The case was the first to be tried in the sprawling investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which is focused on possible illegal collusion between President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia.

Mr Trump has denounced the probe as a politically motivated "witch hunt" and denied there was any collusion with Moscow to defeat Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

While several others charged in the investigation, including former Manafort aide Richard Gates, have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in the Mueller probe, Manafort has stubbornly battled the prosecution's charges.

Yet Mr Trump and the 2016 election campaign were barely mentioned during the trial.

The charges against Manafort relate mostly to his handling of money he earned working for Russian-favored politicians in Ukraine from 2005 to 2014, including helping tycoon Viktor Yanukovych become president in 2010.

Besides the trial underway in the US district court in Alexandria, Virginia, Manafort faces multiple charges of conspiracy, money laundering and obstruction of justice filed separately by Mueller's team in the Washington, DC district court.

AFP