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Donald Trump found liable for fraud in New York civil case

September 26, 2023

The former US president is being sued by the New York attorney general for deceiving banks and insurers by over-valuating assets. The judge's decision narrows the parameters of a trial next week.

Donald Trump speaking outside his jet in August
Trump's lawyers have said they will appeal the judge's decision Image: Alex Brandon/ASSOCIATED PRESS/picture alliance

A judge on Tuesday found Donald Trump liable for fraud during his business dealings over the past decade, in a major victory for the New York attorney general's civil case against the former US president.

New York judge Arthur Engoron determined that Trump and his company deceived banks, insurers and creditors by "grossly" overvaluing his properties and exaggerating the real estate tycoon's net worth on paperwork that was used to make deals.

In his 35-page ruling, Engoron wrote that financial statements submitted by Trump "clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business."

"In defendants' world: rent regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air; a disclaimer by one party casting responsibility on another party exonerates the other party's lies," Engoron wrote.

"That is a fantasy world, not the real world." 

What is the New York civil case about?

New York Attorney General Letitia James brought the case against Trump in September 2022.

James says that Trump inflated his net worth by as much as $2.23 billion (€2.11 billion) on annual financial statements given to banks and insurers.

James claimed that Trump did this "to secure and maintain loans and insurance on more favorable terms."

Some of the assets that Trump was found to have overvalued were his Mar-a-Lago mansion in Florida, a number of office buildings and golf courses, and his penthouse apartment in Trump Tower, which he stated was three times its actual size.

The entrance of Trump Tower in New York City
The decision could affect Trump's business licences in New York Image: Ted Shaffrey/AP/picture alliance

"A discrepancy of this order of magnitude, by a real estate developer sizing up his own living space of decades, can only be considered fraud," the judge wrote in his ruling.

The lawsuit also names Trump's two eldest sons, Don Jr. and Eric, as defendants, as well as the Trump Organization.

It seeks a fine of approximately $250 million as well as blocking members of the Trump family from leading the Trump Organization.

What's next?

Engoron's decision narrows down the issues that will be heard at a trial next week. It effectively declares the core of James' case to be valid, the New York Times reported.

In the meantime, the judge ordered that some of Trump's business licenses be rescinded as punishment, making it harder for him to do business in New York.

An independent monitor would continue to oversee the Trump Organization's operations, he added.

Christopher Kise, a lawyer for Trump, said in a statement that the decision was "outrageous" and  "completely disconnected from the facts and governing law." He added Trump would appeal the decision. 

On X, formerly known as Twitter, Eric Trump said the decision was "an attempt to destroy" his father and "kick him out of New York."

"Today, I lost all faith in the New York legal system," the younger Trump wrote. 

Judge slams Trump

Engoron said Trump's defenses during his deposition were "wholly without basis in law or fact."

"He claims that if the values of the property have gone up in the years since the [financial statements] were submitted, then the numbers were not inflated at that time," the judge wrote.

"He also seems to imply that the numbers cannot be inflated because he could find a 'buyer from Saudi Arabia' to pay any price he suggests." 

Trump faces a number of other criminal indictments over his role in the Capitol Hill riots, alleged election interference in the state of Georgia, improper handling of classified documents, and hush money paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels, as well as an upcoming civil defamation case regarding comments made about E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of raping her in the 1990s. 

zc/wmr (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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