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TRUMP TRIALS

Donald Trump must pay $354.9 million, barred from NY business for 3 years, judge rules

Donald Trump must pay $354.9 million, barred from NY business for 3 years, judge rules
Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump mocks US President Joe Biden while speaking during a Get Out The Vote rally at Coastal Carolina University on 10 February 2024 in Conway, South Carolina. (Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Donald Trump must pay $354.9 million in penalties for fraudulently overstating his net worth to dupe lenders, a New York judge ruled on Friday, handing the former U.S. president another legal setback in a civil case that imperils his real estate empire.

Justice Arthur Engoron also banned Trump from serving as an officer or director of any New York corporation for three years.

Engoron cancelled his prior ruling from September ordering the “dissolution” of companies that control pillars of Trump’s real estate empire, saying on Friday that this was no longer necessary because he is appointing an independent monitor and compliance director to oversee Trump’s businesses.

In the ruling, Engoron wrote that Trump and the other defendants in the case “are incapable of admitting the error of their ways.”

“Their complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological,” Engoron wrote. “Instead, they adopt a ‘See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ posture that the evidence belies.”

The lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James accused Trump and his family businesses of overstating his net worth by as much $3.6 billion a year over a decade to fool bankers into giving him better loan terms.

Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba said in a statement that the ruling was a “manifest injustice” and “culmination of a multi-year, politically fueled witch hunt” against him.

“This is not just about Donald Trump – if this decision stands, it will serve as a signal to every single American that New York is no longer open for business,” Habba said, adding that she plans to appeal.

Trump and his adult sons, Don Jr. and Eric, were defendants in the case. Don Jr. and Eric Trump were each ordered by the judge to pay $4 million.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and called the case a political vendetta by James, an elected Democrat.

The civil fraud case could deal a major blow to Trump’s real estate empire as the businessman turned politician leads the race for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 U.S. election.

During defiant and meandering trial testimony in November, Trump conceded that some of his property values were inaccurate but insisted banks were obligated to do their own due diligence.

Engoron criticized Trump for his behaviour during his trial testimony – and wrote that the testimony hurt his cause.

“Donald Trump rarely responded to the questions asked, and he frequently interjected long, irrelevant speeches on issues far beyond the scope of the trial,” the judge wrote. “His refusal to answer the questions directly, or in some cases, at all, severely compromised his credibility.”

Trump could be required to deposit his portion of the full judgment plus interest during an appeal, which is standard practice in similar cases.

Trump could also post a smaller amount with collateral and interest by securing a type of loan called an appeal bond. But he may have trouble finding a willing lender after Engoron found he lied to banks about his wealth.

It is unclear how much access to cash Trump has, and estimates of his fortune vary, with Forbes pegging his net worth at $2.6 billion. Trump testified in an April deposition that he had roughly $400 million in cash.

Contentious Trial

Friday’s ruling came after a contentious three-month trial in Manhattan. The case was decided by the judge without a jury.

Trump used his occasional court appearances as impromptu campaign stops, delivering incendiary remarks to reporters and insisting his enemies are using the courts to prevent him from retaking the White House.

Trump is leading by a wide margin in the race for the Republican nomination despite a host of other legal troubles.

He is under indictment in four criminal cases, including one in New York related to hush money payments he made to a porn star ahead of the 2016 election. The judge overseeing that case on Thursday set a March 25 trial date over the objections of Trump’s lawyers, who sought to delay it due to Trump’s crowded legal and political schedule.

Trump has also been charged in Florida for his handling of classified documents upon leaving office and in Washington and in Georgia for his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in all four cases.

During the New York civil case, Trump lashed out in the courtroom on Jan. 11 against both the judge and James while proclaiming his innocence. “You have your own agenda,” Trump scolded Engoron, who told Trump’s lawyer “control your client.” The judge during the trial had fined Trump $15,000 for twice violating a gag order against disparaging court staff.

Engoron ruled in September that Trump’s financial statements were fraudulent, leaving the focus of the trial on how much Trump should pay in penalties. James sought $370 million in penalties and a New York commercial real estate ban on Trump and Donald Jr. and Eric Trump.

The trial featured some dramatic testimony. Trump during a defiant appearance on the witness stand boasted about his business acumen and accused James and Engoron of partisanship. Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen testified for the state.

Cohen testified that he manipulated the values of Trump’s real estate properties to match “whatever number Mr. Trump told us.” Trump afterward called Cohen a “disgraceful fellow.” His lawyers grilled Cohen on his criminal record and accused him of lying to boost his book sales and podcast traffic.

Donald Jr., Eric and Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump also testified. They said they had little to no involvement in their father’s financial statements while running the Trump Organization, an umbrella company for Trump’s many business ventures. Unlike her brothers, Ivanka Trump was not a defendant. DM

(Reporting By Jack Queen and Luc Cohen, Editing by Noeleen Walder, Will Dunham and Alistair Bell)

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jon Quirk says:

    So it seems that everyone agrees that Trump is an inveterate liar, a fraudster, unfit to run any public company, and will lie, cheat, defraud, in fact do anything, to avoid liability and consequences of his actions; yet there are apparently some people, and not only within the Republican party, who still believe he is a fit and proper person to become President of the United States.

    This apparently, is based upon the belief that Biden is Lee Harvey Oswald, that he has received vast amounts of bribes from sources within Ukraine – now both debunked by the US Courts, and Sean Hannity clearly a delusions liar on a par with “the Donald”, and that lizards from outer space – “them” are out to get all honest and upright good old white, racist Americans, who were quite prepared to kill and burn down the White House because they believed, “The Donald” had been cheated by “them” out of the White House.

    And this collective madness, collective amnesia has even taken deep root here in South Africa; all blindly seeking to make the World a better place by ensuring Trump and Putin have their fingers on the nuclear buttons!!

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    “Their complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological,” Engoron wrote. “Instead, they adopt a ‘See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ posture that the evidence belies.”

    Straight out of the ANC and EFF playbook. Now, if only our judges would take the same approach to our criminal politicians.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    “culmination of a multi-year, politically fueled witch hunt”

    Another guilty sociopathic defense …just like our lovely chaps.

    The parallels are endless 😀

  • Johan Buys says:

    As we know only too well, nothing prevents the electorate from electing a politician that is riddled with scandals and legal problems.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    “Trump has denied wrongdoing and called the case a political vendetta by James, an elected Democrat”

    Um, you’ve been found guilty Donnie baby.

    Trumpworld and ZAworld where lie+fraud+steal = vendetta.

    Sorry, I just can’t stop laughing at this 😀

    • M Msimanga says:

      I am no Trump fan but it isn’t as if banks are exactly upstanding institutions. Trump is right banks do their own due diligence. When you apply for a loan you have to give consent for them to verify your information. If anything this will make Trump’s accusations about the establishment even sound more true.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    The really scary thing is that the millions of US Trump supporters appear blind to the harsh reality of this little man and the disaster they will unleash for themselves and our planet should he be elected. It’s like some weird mass hypnosis. Which will certainly break, but when, and after what cost to everyone.

  • Really Honestly says:

    Donald Trump is not a very pleasant man. That being said, clearly the Democrats and Biden, are abusing private prosecutions, by hiring prosecutors and judges to stop him running and becoming president. What a farcicle abuse of the legal system. America is showing that their legal system can be bought, to deliver whatever outcome is asked for, and that is more worrysome than anything Trump may or may not have done.

  • Rae Earl says:

    American Republicans are like our black voters who have welcomed the launch of tyhe MK party by Jacob Zuma. Like Trump, Zuma is corrupt to the core and yet, both he and Trump receive adulation from people who’s wealth they plundered. ???

  • Jeremiah Reggies Mubaiwa says:

    I like former President Donald Trump the way he presented his facts. But,l feel Judge Engoron’s harsh judgement,but former President has got room to appeal against the judgement

  • Luan Sml says:

    Truly the world is in a dangerous place when ardent supporters of Trump want to carry their politically dangerous, inherently devious and pathologically untruthful candidate into the White House… and that the American voter may be unable to stop this madness??
    I am ashamed to say that we have our own form of this political madness back here at home… 😔
    Gramsci had his finger on the pulse when he wrote “The old world is dying and the new world struggles to be born. In this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear“ or the more populat translate as “Now is the time of monsters.”

  • M Msimanga says:

    This ruling just strengthens Trump’s case about the “establishment” being out to get him. I am no Trump fan but this ruling is saying Trump lied to the banks to get more favourable loans. The same banks that caused the 2008 crash and now you expect the working man to feel sorry for the same banks that more often then not win. The banking system stinks and Trump lied to them is not particularly the most abhorrent thing I have ever heard. How many people applying for a loan will inflate their profits or minimise their spend so they qualify for a bigger loan. I am no Trump fan and I get frustrated with how reports don’t bother looking at the pros and cons of news.

  • Arno Stijlen says:

    A lot of people commenting here are watching too much CNN and the numerous other left supported media outlets reporting dirt and only negative news about Trump. Surely at least 50% of all US voters cannot all be wrong! He’s no angel for sure, but the world was a much better and safer place whilst he was president!

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