Early days of Manafort's fraud trial reveal his fashion crimes
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- The trial of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has been much anticipated, and a couple of days in, observers are relishing poring over his expensive taste in clothing.
- Apple becomes the first trillion-dollar company.
- Australia is taking steps to combat the illegal sports betting industry — which, as it turns out, is also worth about one trillion dollars.
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Paul Manafort is facing 18 charges of tax and bank fraud, but so far, it's his extravagant lifestyle that is being put on trail.
As proceedings against Donald Trump's former campaign manager enter their third day at a Virginia court, prosecutors from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office are trying to convince the judge that evidence of Manafort's lavish spending is crucial to the case.
"That Manafort had an expensive lifestyle that required lots of money to maintain is important proof as to why he would commit the bank frauds," prosecutors wrote in a filing this morning, noting that they are trying to establish a pattern of over-the-top spending that continued even after the lobbyist's declared income started to decline in 2014.
Prosecutors claim that Manafort has laundered more than $30 million US since 2006. Yesterday, they called a half-dozen witnesses to detail how more than $6 million of it was spent on property, renovations, cars and ultra-high-end designer clothing.
The revelation that got the most attention was the 69-year-old's purchase of a $15,000 jacket made from ostrich skin. But there was much more to digest in the details of his $1.3 million in clothing expenditures between 2010 and 2014.
Maximillian Katzman, the son of the owner of the now-defunct Alan Couture menswear boutique in Manhattan, went through a binder full of invoices for Manafort's $929,000 in purchases (including the ostrich coat) over four years. But it was his testimony that the ex-lobbyist was the only customer who paid via wire transfers from foreign bank accounts that might prove more significant.
According to a 2012 interview, Alan Couture told Leaders magazine that his suits started at $7,500 but ran as high as $45,000 for one made from pure vicuna wool. And he let it be known that his "custom-made clothing" — defined as the category above made-to-measure — was only for the most discerning and richest clientele, letting slip that the former chair of Bear Stearns, for example, was a client.
Another clothier took the stand yesterday to detail Manafort's $657,000 in purchases between 2010 and 2013. Ron Wald, the CFO of the House of Bijan, a by-appointment-only boutique in Beverly Hills, also noted how the lobbyist transferred money from a numbered account in Cyprus to pay for his luxury purchases, like a $21,000 "limited edition" black titanium and crystal watch.
Bijan, which has been in business since 1976, bills itself as the "most expensive men's store in the world." Its website doesn't provide prices for its "wearable art," but its special Bijan edition, bright-yellow Rolls-Royce Phantoms retail for between $850,000 and $1.6 million.
The judge at Manafort's trial, T. S. Ellis, doesn't seem to be enjoying all the vicarious shopping. "Let's move on, enough is enough," he snapped at one point yesterday. So far, he has prevented Mueller's team from submitting photos of the high-end clothes and luxury real-estate to the jury. "It is not a crime to be rich," Ellis reminded the court.
But the Special Counsel's office appears intent on trying Manafort in the court of public opinion as well.
Last night, they released 11 clothes photos to the media, including a shot of the black and white ostrich coat and some rather outré leisurewear.
And this morning, they made public copies of two Alan Couture invoices, showing that Manafort spent $18,500 for a "python jacket," along with $9,500 for an "ostrich vest." The one bill details an additional $29,850 for a suit and four sports jackets.
The clothier threw in a silk seersucker suit at no charge.
Apple's wild ride
In the decade between 2007 and 2017, Apple sold one billion iPhones worldwide.
But today, the California tech giant has reached a more significant milestone, becoming the first publicly traded U.S. company to hit $1 trillion US in market valuation.
Just before noon, Apple stock briefly hit a new all-time high of $207.05 on the NASDAQ exchange, the magic number needed to hit one trillion, based on yesterday's count of 4,829,926,000 outstanding shares. The stock price has risen more than $15 per share since Tuesday's announcement that the company's third-quarter earnings surpassed estimates.
Apple became the first American company to hit $900 billion just last November, when its stock reached $174.26.
(PetroChina was once, briefly, worth $1 trillion, but 80 per cent of its shares were owned by the Chinese government. Today, its market cap sits just under $206 billion US.)
Amazon, which hit $900 billion in market cap in July, could soon be the second to break a trillion, and Alphabet Inc., Google's parent company, is also in the mix, with a valuation of $853 billion.
Today, their market caps stand at $5.83 billion and $132.7 billion, respectively.
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Sending cheaters to jail
A probe into match-fixing and doping in Australian sport has handed down a series of sweeping recommendations designed to insulate athletes and fans from the tentacles of the $1 trillion US illegal sports betting industry.
The report, released yesterday, calls for the establishment of a "national sports integrity commission" to investigate corruption at all levels of Aussie sport, armed with the power to conduct electronic surveillance on athletes, coaches and administrators.
In addition, it recommends that the government set up a new sports court with the power to compel witnesses to appear and hand over documents in doping cases, even if they risk self-incrimination.
The commission also wants to see match-fixing made a federal crime, and is calling for a new law that would see athletes who pass inside information to bookies serve hard time in jail.
"Australia lacks a cohesive, well-resourced national capacity to confront and respond to domestic and international match-fixing and related corruption in sport," says the report, authored by James Wood, a prominent retired judge who oversaw a police corruption inquiry.
"The potential consequences of a loss of public confidence in sports integrity because of competition manipulation and doping are profound."
Australia is one of the heaviest betting nations on earth, having wagered about $9.7 billion on Aussie sports through legitimate and illegal bookmakers in 2015-2016, according to estimates provided by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission. The report notes that there are at least 2,600 offshore gambling sites that will take bets on Australian sporting events.
Australia has been forced to look deep into its sporting soul in recent months, after three members of the national cricket team were caught cheating during a test match in South Africa in March. Then in May, the Al-Jazeera television network aired a documentary that claimed to prove match-fixing had taken place during a series of Australia vs. India matches last year. The International Cricket Commission is still probing the Al Jazeera allegations.
The Australian Olympic Committee has endorsed the new report's recommendations.
"The threats to the integrity of sport are trans-national and Australia can no longer sit on the sidelines. We must be part of the global response," John Coates, the AOC president, said yesterday.
But the Australian government, which has had the report in hand for three months, doesn't seem quite so keen to beef up its anti-cheating efforts.
At an event in Canberra yesterday, Bridget McKenzie, the federal sports minister, told reporters that she needs more time to consider the full impact of the report's 52 recommendations.
"This report presents Australia with the opportunity to safeguard our sport for decades to come," she said. "It is a complex area and I'm taking advice from right across government."
A few words on …
A female orca's mourning for her dead calf.
Researchers on the west coast are keeping an eye on an endangered southern resident whale who has been pushing her dead calf around since it died on July 24. <a href="https://t.co/royXz5I7UA">https://t.co/royXz5I7UA</a> <a href="https://t.co/Nt4ah1roIN">pic.twitter.com/Nt4ah1roIN</a>—@CBCTheNational
Quote of the moment
"There is guilt behind every door. I am definitely aware of that. We can't do everything. The best we can do is make the best of it."
Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, on her return to work six weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Neve.
What The National is reading
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- Severed leg leads police to cult's 'chief apostle,' missing for 14 years (Washington Post)
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Today in history
Aug 2, 1959: Fidel Castro: after the revolution
Six years after Cuba's revolution, and a week after he returned to his job as prime minister to the cheers of a million in Havana's streets, Fidel Castro sits down for an exclusive interview with the CBC's Michael Maclear. Land reforms are coming, he says in his halting English, but he denies any plans to nationalize foreign-owned companies on the island. He adds that members of U.S. Congress who call him a Communist are lying. "We have no reason to forbid any kind of opinion. Free opinion is a part of democracy."
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