After more than a year’s investigation, the state of New York on Monday began the trial of a former President of the United States, Donald Trump, his sons, and his company for lying about his wealth in financial statements.
The case, though civil, is being handled on behalf of the state by the Attorney General, Letitia James.
Trump who appeared in court in person however calls his trial a “witch hunt”.
The Attorney General is seeking at least $250m in fines from Trump and a ban against his sons Donald Jr and Eric, from running businesses in New York.
Last week, Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that Trump had committed fraud and that had deceived banks, insurers and others by exaggerating the value of assets.
While Trump is not expected to testify in the civil case for several weeks, his appearance on Monday marks a significant change to his past practices.
Last year, when his company was convicted of tax fraud, Trump didn’t come to court as either a witness or a spectator, nor did he appear during a sexual assault trial in another civil case.
But this trial has higher stakes for Trump because it could shift control of some of his companies to a court-appointed receiver and force him to give up iconic properties such as Trump Tower in New York.
A representative of the New York state Attorney General’s office, Kevin Wallace said that “They [the Trump Organization] were lying year after year after year,” adding that “every estimate [of real estate values] was determined by Mr Trump”.
Today is the first day of the trial of Trump, his two adult sons and the Trump Organization in a lawsuit brought by the attorney general of New York state.
New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron last week found that Trump, sons Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, and the Trump Organization fraudulently exaggerated the value of his assets, lying to tax collectors, lenders and insurers.
The trial, which is expected to last for weeks if not months, will delve into allegations of conspiracy, falsifying business records and insurance fraud. This is a non-jury trial, and the judge will decide Trump’s fate.
Upon his arrival at the Manhattan courthouse, Trump called the case a “continuation of the single greatest witch-hunt”, but Attorney General Letitia James insists: “No one is above the law.”
Source: Al Jazeera
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