Tax Fraud Trial of Trump Family Business Set to Begin in New York

Former President Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and son Donald Trump Jr (L) on January 4, 2021 || AFP Photo

Former President Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and son Donald Trump Jr (L) on January 4, 2021 || AFP Photo

The family business of former US president Donald Trump is facing potential fines of over $1.5 million if found guilty of fraud and tax evasion during a New York trial set to begin Monday, reports AFP.

Manhattan prosecutors have charged the Trump Organization, currently run by Trump's two adult sons, Donald Jr and Eric Trump, with hiding compensation it paid to some of its top executives between 2005 and 2021.

One of those executives, longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg, has already pleaded guilty to 15 counts of tax fraud and is expected to testify against his former company as part of a plea bargain.

A close friend of the Trump family, the 75-year-old Weisselberg admitted he schemed with the company to receive undeclared benefits such as a rent-free apartment in a posh Manhattan neighbourhood, luxury cars for him and his wife and private school tuition for his grandchildren.

According to his plea deal, Weisselberg has agreed to pay nearly $2 million in fines and penalties and complete a five-month prison sentence in exchange for testimony during the trial, for which jury selection begins Monday.

"This plea agreement directly implicates the Trump Organization in a wide range of criminal activity and requires Weisselberg to provide invaluable testimony in the upcoming trial against the corporation," Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said earlier in August.

Weisselberg has so far refused to give testimony directly implicating the former president in the scheme.

Loads of lawsuits

Two subsidiaries of the Trump family's sprawling real estate, golf and hospitality business are targeted by the suits.

While Donald Trump is not named in this case, he is facing charges along with three of his eldest children in another civil investigation led by New York's attorney general, Leticia James.

James, a Democrat, has accused the family of purposefully inflating and deflating the value of their properties to avoid tax liabilities and to get a more favourable loan and insurance deals.

Her office is seeking $250 million in fines against the former president, and that his family be barred from conducting business in the state.

The suit also calls for three of Trump's children -- Donald Jr, Eric and Ivanka -- to be barred from purchasing real estate in New York for five years.

The 76-year-old Trump, who has heavily hinted but not yet announced a 2024 White House run, is also facing legal action on several other fronts, which he has decried as "witch hunts."

He is at the centre of a Justice Department investigation into the handling of highly classified documents, which the FBI seized from his Florida home in a raid, as well as multiple state and federal probes into his involvement in the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

The congressional committee investigating the Capitol riot has issued a subpoena requiring the former president to submit documents by November 4 and give sworn testimony by mid-November.

Without confirming that Trump had received the subpoena, his lawyer David Warrington has said his team would "review and analyse" the document and "respond as appropriate to this unprecedented action."

Trump's compliance would mean testifying under oath and could result in him being charged with perjury were he to lie.

If he refuses to comply, the House of Representatives can hold him in criminal contempt in a vote recommending him for prosecution.

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