In yet another setback for former US President Donald Trump and his son, a judge ruled that the Republican leader committed fraud for years while building the real estate empire that catapulted him to fame and the White House. The judge ordered some of the former president’s companies removed from his control and dissolved.
Judge Arthur Engoron, ruling in a civil lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, found that Trump and his company deceived banks, insurers and others by massively overvaluing his assets and exaggerating his net worth on paperwork used in making deals and securing loans.
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Engoron ordered that some of Trump’s business licenses be rescinded as punishment, making it difficult or impossible for them to do business in New York, and said he would continue to have an independent monitor oversee Trump Organisation operations. If not successfully appealed, the order would strip Trump of his authority to make strategic and financial decisions over some of his key properties in the state.
What does Trump say about the new charges?
Trump, in a series of statements, railed against the decision, calling it “un-American” and part of an ongoing plot to damage his campaign to return to the White House. “My Civil rights have been violated, and some Appellate Court, whether federal or state, must reverse this horrible, un-American decision,” he wrote on his Truth Social site. He insisted his company had “done a magnificent job for New York State” and “done business perfectly,” calling it “A very sad Day for the New York State System of Justice!”
Trump’s lawyer, Christopher Kise, said they would appeal, calling the decision “completely disconnected from the facts and governing law.”
Engoron’s ruling, days before the start of a non-jury trial in James’ lawsuit, is the strongest repudiation yet of Trump’s carefully coiffed image as a wealthy and shrewd real estate mogul turned political powerhouse. Beyond mere bragging about his riches, Trump, his company and key executives repeatedly lied about them on his annual financial statements, reaping rewards such as favourable loan terms and lower insurance costs, Engoron found.
"That is a fantasy world, not the real world": Judge
Those tactics crossed a line and violated the law, the judge said, rejecting Trump’s contention that a disclaimer on the financial statements absolved him of any wrongdoing. “In defendants’ world: rent-regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air; a disclaimer by one party casting responsibility on another party exonerates the other party’s lies,” Engoron wrote in his 35-page ruling. “That is a fantasy world, not the real world.”
Manhattan prosecutors had looked into bringing criminal charges over the same conduct but declined to do so, leaving James to sue Trump and seek penalties that aim to disrupt his and his family’s ability to do business.
Engoron’s ruling, in a phase of the case known as summary judgment, resolves the key claim in James’ lawsuit, but several others remain. He’ll decide on those claims and James’ request for $250 million in penalties at a trial starting Oct. 2. Trump’s lawyers have asked an appeals court for a delay.
(With inputs from agency)