NY attorney general sues Trump, adult children for ‘fraud’

Published September 22, 2022
A Jan 11, 2017, file photo shows former US president Donald Trump with his children Eric (left), Ivanka and Donald Jr at Trump Tower in New York.—AFP
A Jan 11, 2017, file photo shows former US president Donald Trump with his children Eric (left), Ivanka and Donald Jr at Trump Tower in New York.—AFP

NEW YORK: Former US President Donald Trump and his adult children were sued on Wednesday for what New York state’s attorney general called numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation, accused of misstating the values of real estate properties to obtain favorable loans and tax benefits.

The lawsuit, filed in a New York state court in Manhattan, accused the Trump Organisation of wrongdoing in preparing Trump’s annual statements of financial condition from 2011 to 2021. It also named as defendants the Trump Organisation — a family company that manages hotels, golf courses and other real estate around the world — as well as the former president’s sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump.

Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, said her office uncovered more than 200 examples of misleading asset valuations, and the complaint mentioned 23 assets that she called “grossly and fraudulently inflated.” The lawsuit was civil, meaning it did not involve criminal charges. But James said she was referring allegations of criminal wrongdoing to federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the Internal Revenue Service for investigation.

“The pattern of fraud and deception that was used by Mr Trump and the Trump Organisation for their own financial benefit is astounding,” James said at a news conference.

“Claiming that you have money that you do not have does not amount to the ‘art of the deal,’ it’s the art of the steal,” James said, referring to the title of a 1987 book written by Trump.

The lawsuit marks one of the biggest legal blows for the Republican businessman-turned-politician since he left office in January 2021. Trump is considering running again for president in 2024.

The lawsuit accused Trump of inflating his net worth by billions of dollars to induce banks to lend money to his company on more favorable, to satisfy continuing loan terms, to coax insurers to provide coverage for higher limits at lower premiums, to gain tax benefits and other purposes.

James is seeking to permanently bar Trump and his three children named as defendants in the case from serving as an officer or director in any New York corporation, prohibit Trump and the Trump Organisation from entering into any New York real estate acquisitions for five years and award disgorgement of all financial benefits gained fraudulently — estimated to total $250 million.

James has been conducting a civil investigation into Trump’s business practices for more than three years.

“The Attorney General’s Office has exceeded its statutory authority by prying into transactions where absolutely no wrongdoing has taken place,” Alina Habba, a lawyer for Trump, said in a statement, calling the accusations “meritless.” Trump has denied any wrongdoing and described James’ probe as a politically motivated witch hunt.

James said her office rejected settlement offers submitted by the defendants, but said “our doors are always open” for future negotiations.

Wednesday’s lawsuit followed a contentious investigation in which James accused Trump, his company and some family members of using delay tactics to ignore subpoenas and avoid testifying.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2022

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