By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 19 January 2022 • 9:09
New York Attorney General Letitia James has told a court that they have uncovered significant evidence of fraud within the former president’s business, the Trump Organisation. She has requested the court compel Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jnr and Ivanka Trump to testify under oath in court.
James said in a tweet, “We have uncovered significant evidence indicating that the Trump Organisation used fraudulent and misleading asset valuations on multiple properties to obtain economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions for years.”
“Donald J. Trump, Ivanka Trump, and Donald Trump Jr… assert that they may have ignored lawfully issued subpoenas for sworn testimony because of what they contend is ‘an unprecedented and unconstitutional manoeuvre’ by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG)” the motion states. “But subpoenas to current and former top company officials, such as those at issue here, are routine in complex financial investigations and are amply warranted here.”
The documents lodged with the court show that that the Trump Organisation used intentionally wrong property valuations “to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions.”
Eric Trump, who had been subpoenaed last year, invoked the Fifth Amendment “repeatedly” to avoid testifying as to the valuations of multiple Trump Organisation properties, according to the memo.
Prosecutors note that while their office has not reached a final decision as to whether this evidence warrants any legal action, their grounds “for conducting the investigation are beyond reproach.”
“This game must end,” the AG’s office says in its court filing, which asks that a judge force Trump and his two adult children to testify, as well as compel the company to turn over key missing documents.
The filing states that the investigation into the Trump Organisation began in March 2019, when Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen testified before Congress. During his testimony, Cohen said Trump’s annual financial states inflated the values of the former president’s assets in order to obtain favourable loans and insurance coverage, while also deflating the value of some of his other assets to lower real estate taxes owed.
The Trump Organisation has insisted its executives were cooperating, however in reality it has only just handed over many of the documents that were ordered via subpoena in December 2019.
The memo details numerous schemes to allegedly inflate the value of Trump’s assets, including one in which the former president valued his own apartment in Trump Tower at $327 million, “based on the apartment having 30,000 square feet of space multiplied by a certain price per square foot.” But in 2017, the apartment shrank for the first time to its actual size of just over 10,000 square feet and its valuation shrank commensurately to $116.8 million.
Asked about this, Trump Organisation CFO Allen Weisselberg conceded that this amounted to a $200 million overstatement, “give or take.”
Details are also given on the Trump Organisation’s allegedly misleading and false statements about the value of at least six properties, including the Trump golf clubs in Scotland and Westchester, and several of the company’s iconic buildings, including Trump Park Avenue and 40 Wall Street.
The AG’s office believe the value of all these properties were adjusted to gain benefit with the IRS, lenders, and other insurers, as well as being “inflated as part of a pattern to suggest that Mr. Trump’s net worth was higher than it otherwise would have appeared.”
The filing also paints a gives better insight into the roles his two adult children play in the company. For example, Ivanka Trump was renting an apartment at Trump Park Avenue as if it were valued at $8.5 million, the memo notes. In Trump’s financial statements, however, value the apartment at $25 million.
Ivanka “was a key player” in many of the company’s transactions and “was able to ask for an access to financial summaries and projections covering properties or businesses in the Trump Organisation portfolio,” according to the memo, and also was a point person in its relationship with Deutsche Bank.
Donald Trump Jr., who joined the family firm in 2001, was likewise crucial to the organisation’s financial makeup.
“Moreover, evidence obtained by OAG confirms that Donald Trump, Jr. was involved with certain Trump Organisation properties that are valued on Mr. Trump’s Statement of Financial Condition, including 40 Wall Street, and was consulted in connection with the matters on the Statements of Financial Condition,” the memo states.
The attorney general’s office claims it has received more than 5 million pages of evidence from the company that show Trump lied about the most banal things: the amount of cash available for a deal, the use of so-called “outside professionals” to evaluate the value of assets, and even the actual size of the Trump Tower penthouse. In some instances, investigators say, they found that the Trump Organisation inflated the value of a property simply because it had his name on it, even though the financial documents explicitly indicated that wasn’t allowed.
The AG’s office has said that the Trump Organisation have gone to great lengths not to comply with the orders, so much so they have had to hire a private company to search the electronic records of the group.
The Trump Organisation’s top lawyer, Alan Garten, has according to the documents maintained that Trump was not involved that closely, even though company controller Jeffrey McConney told investigators in a sworn deposition that Trump would normally sit down to review asset values with chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg.
In the past, a source with direct knowledge of the company’s inner workings has told The Daily Beast that the Trump Organisation had an annual ritual in which Trump and Weisselberg would review company finances in private and fill in the blanks as they saw fit. (Weisselberg and the company were indicted last summer on tax fraud charges in the parallel criminal investigation that’s being run by the Manhattan district attorney with the AG’s help.)
With ‘Significant Evidence’ that the Trump Organisation has committed fraud it is likely that the court will issue judgements in favour of the AG, however it remains to be seen with all his money and his large legal team who understand how to work the system, whether they will indeed appear. Or will they as in the case of Eric Trump will they please the 5th.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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