A jury has found former US President Donald Trump’s real estate company guilty of multiple charges of tax fraud and falsifying business records.
The New York jury found the Trump Corporation and Trump Payroll Corporation guilty on all 17 charges they faced, with the firm potentially facing fines of up to $US1.61 million in mid-January when sentencing is expected to be carried out.
The company’s felony conviction could also mean it would face difficulties carrying out business and securing contracts or loans in future, although it will not be forced to shut down as a result of the trial.
The organisation, which had pleaded not guilty, was accused of failing to report and pay taxes on benefits for top executives for at least 15 years.
No members of the Trump family were on trial, which Mr Trump had described as a politically motivated “witch hunt”. However, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass had argued in court that Mr Trump was aware of what had been happening within the firm.
“This whole narrative that Donald Trump is blissfully ignorant is just not true,” CNN reported Mr Steinglass as saying.
The former US president and his three eldest children, Ivanka, Donald Trump Jr and Eric, are also facing a separate civil legal battle which has the potential to see them barred from doing business in the state of New York.
Former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg pleaded guilty in August to hiding $US1.76 million in income from authorities, and testified against the company as the result of a plea deal which would only see him jailed for a maximum of five months.
‘Greed and cheating’
“This was a case about greed and cheating,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in the wake of the verdict, which was handed down after two days of deliberations in the city.
“The Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation got away with a scheme that awarded high-level executives with lavish perks and compensation while intentionally concealing the benefits from the taxing authorities to avoid paying taxes.
“Today’s verdict holds these Trump companies accountable for their long-running criminal scheme.”
Prosecutors had also hit out at the company’s “culture of fraud and deception” through the course of the trial, accusing the firm of running a scheme to allow top executives to understate their income, which meant their tax bills were “significantly less than the amounts that should have been paid”.
Major blow for Trump
The verdict has been seen as another significant setback for the 76-year-old, who announced on November 15 that he planned to contest the presidential election again in 2024.
But in recent weeks, Mr Trump has attracted even more controversy than usual, firstly after new Twitter owner Elon Musk announced he would be welcomed back on the platform after having his account previously deactivated in the wake of the January 6 insurrection, and then after hosting a dinner with rapper Kanye West and Holocaust denier and White nationalist Nick Fuentes last month.
And earlier this week, he caused widespread fury after he called for the US Constitution to be “terminated” over his false claim the 2020 election – in which he was defeated by Joe Biden by more than seven million votes after serving just one term – was “stolen”.
More to come
Story Credit: news.com.au