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BUSINESS FRAUD CASE

Trump testifies at NY fraud trial that valuation estimates of his properties were inaccurate

Trump testifies at NY fraud trial that valuation estimates of his properties were inaccurate
Former US President Donald Trump. (Photo: David Dee Delgado / Getty Images)

Former US president Trump decries ‘political warfare’ in New York business fraud case.

Donald Trump said on Monday that financial estimates of many of his properties were inaccurate as he testified in a civil fraud trial in New York that threatens to diminish the real estate empire that built his reputation.

But the former US president sought to minimise the importance of the valuation estimates that state lawyers said were inflated to win better financing terms.

“They just weren’t a very important element in the bank’s decision-making process, and we’ll explain that as this trial goes along, as this crazy trial goes along,” Trump said under questioning from New York state lawyer Kevin Wallace.

Judge Arthur Engoron has already ruled those estimates to be fraudulent. New York state lawyers argue that they misled lenders and insurers, earning him $100-million and exaggerating his wealth by $2-billion.

Trump has repeatedly said the case is a politically motivated “witch hunt.” On Monday he criticised Engoron and New York Attorney General Letitia James on social media and said outside the courtroom that the case was an attempt to undercut his 2024 presidential bid.

Evidence introduced at the trial so far has revealed that company officials, including Trump’s sons Eric and Donald Jr, were involved in efforts to manipulate the assessed value of trophy properties such as the Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

Donald Trump was sworn in to testify on Monday in a New York civil fraud trial that threatens to diminish the real estate empire that built his reputation before he entered politics.

The former US president, like his two adult sons who testified last week, is likely to face pointed questions about the questionable accounting practices that Judge Arthur Engoron has already ruled to be fraudulent.

New York state lawyers argue that those methods enabled him to win favourable financing terms by pumping up the value of his golf courses, apartment towers and other assets while many lenders refused to do business with him. They say such activity earned him $100-million and exaggerated his wealth by $2-billion.

Trump has repeatedly said the case is a politically motivated “witch hunt”.

“It’s political warfare, as you would call it, or political lawfare,” he said as he entered the courtroom.

James brushed aside the comments.

“At the end of the day, the only thing that matters are the facts and the numbers. The numbers, my friends, don’t lie,” James said outside the courthouse.

Unlike the four criminal cases the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination faces, this civil trial does not threaten to put him in prison as he mounts a comeback White House bid.

Fundraising pitch

Indeed, Trump has been leaning into the experience, using it to solicit campaign donations and argue that he is being targeted for his political views.

But it could undercut Trump’s image, cultivated over decades, as a glamorous billionaire who shuttles between elegant resorts and premium golf courses that bear his name.

James is seeking $250-million in fines, as well as restrictions that would prevent Trump and his sons, Eric and Donald Jr, from doing business in their home state.

Engoron has already cancelled business certificates for companies that control large portions of his enterprises, though that order is on hold during appeal.

One witness, his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, testified that Trump directed him to doctor financial statements to boost his net worth.

Trump’s anger has been clear throughout.

Though his presence until Monday has not been required in court, he has already appeared several times to glower at the proceedings from the defendant’s table and complain about the case to TV cameras outside the chamber.

That has earned him fines of $15,000 for twice violating a limited gag order that prevents him from criticising court staff. Trump’s lawyers have chafed at that order and indicated they might use it as the basis for an appeal, but Engoron expanded it on Friday to cover them as well.

Trump’s crowded legal calendar threatens to take him off the campaign trail for much of next year.

His election campaign has used the trial as a fundraising opportunity, writing at the outset on 2 October that he was defending his family and reputation from New York Democrats it called “corrupt tyrants”.

Republican voters do not seem to be bothered by his legal woes, as polls show he holds a commanding lead in the party’s presidential nominating contest.

The trial was originally scheduled to run until early December, but could wrap up sooner as the state calls its final witnesses this week. It is unclear how many witnesses the defence will call.

Trump’s daughter Ivanka is due to testify on Wednesday, though she is not a defendant in the case. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jon Quirk says:

    hy is such a swathe of America seemingly immune to the criminality and fraud that underpins the entire Trump empire?

    Our equivalent is the rotten, corrupt empire of Malema; but is America truly as naive as South Africa? Is the average American redneck, the bedrock of Trump’s support, really no different to the average, low IQ, Malema supporter?

    Is our global politics truly so polarised that huge swathes of people are incapable of proper analysis? nd if that truly is the case, is there any hope at all, for humanity?

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