Ruling expected in Trump’s New York fraud trial

Ruling expected in Trump’s New York fraud trial
Ruling expected in Trump’s New York fraud trial

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - A New York judge is expected to issue a ruling today that could shatter Donald Trump’s business empire and force him to pay up to US$370 million over fraud allegations. — Reuters file pic

NEW YORK, Feb 16 — A New York judge is expected to issue a ruling today that could shatter Donald Trump’s business empire and force him to pay up to US$370 million over fraud allegations.

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He is accused of unlawfully inflating his wealth and manipulating the value of his properties to obtain more favourable bank loans or insurance terms.

As the case is civil rather than criminal, there is no threat of jail time.

If, as is widely expected, Trump is held liable, the amount to be paid by the former president and his companies will be revealed in the judge’s final order.

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Trump has seized on his legal woes to fire up his supporters and denounce Democratic opponent Joe Biden, reiterating claims that legal action was “just a way of hurting me in the election.”

This civil fraud trial is one of multiple cases Trump faces as he seeks to return to the White House, ranging from a hush money coverup allegation to conspiring to overturn the 2020 election result.

New York state attorney general Letitia James has sought US$370 million from Trump to remedy the advantage he is alleged to have wrongfully obtained, as well as having him barred from conducting business in the state.

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It was as a property developer and businessman in New York that Trump built his public profile which he used as a springboard into the entertainment industry and ultimately the presidency.

Mounting legal jeopardy

Trump repeatedly attacked James, calling her a “lunatic”, as well as smearing judge Arthur Engoron, who will decide the case without a jury, calling him “out of control.”

During highly technical testimony, the court heard that in one case Trump valued Mar-a-Lago, his exclusive Florida club, by using “asking prices,” rather than actual sales prices, for a comparison.

“From 2011-2015 defendants added a 30 per cent premium because the property was a ‘completed (commercial) facility,’” the prosecution said, arguing it unlawfully distorted its true value.

But Trump’s lawyer Chris Kise said that “there is no clear and present evidence establishing intent by Donald Trump.”

Kise acknowledged there could be errors in Trump’s corporate financial statements but none “lead to the conclusion there was fraud.”

The ruling would cap a whirlwind legal week for Trump.

In New York, Trump appeared in court ahead of a trial, where he faces charges of illegally covering up hush money payments, the first criminal trial of a former US president.

Trump’s lawyers were also representing him in Atlanta, Georgia, where he is accused of conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election, which he lost to Biden.

The prosecutor in that case responded with barely concealed outrage Thursday to efforts to have her removed from the case for inappropriate behaviour, testifying that her relationship with another lawyer on the case was above board.

Trump had been scheduled to go on trial in Washington in March for conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election, but that case has been postponed while Trump seeks to assert immunity in higher courts.

The twice-impeached former president is due to go on trial in Florida in May on charges of taking troves of highly secret documents in his personal belongings when he left the presidency and thwarting officials trying to recover them.

In January, a New York jury ordered Trump to pay US$83.3 million to compensate writer E. Jean Carroll, whom he was found to have sexually assaulted and defamed. — AFP

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