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Trump ordered to pay more than $350mn in New York fraud case

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A New York judge has ordered Donald Trump and several business associates to pay a total of $364mn in penalties for persistent fraud committed by the real estate empire that brought the former US president fame and fortune.

Justice Arthur Engoron also banned Trump from conducting further business for three years in the state, but stopped short of ordering the dissolution of his existing businesses in New York.

Trump and his company, The Trump Organization, were ordered to pay the vast bulk of the penalties, approximately $355mn, while his sons Donald Jr and Eric were ordered to pay more than $4mn each. Allen Weisselberg, The Trump Organization’s former chief financial officer who served jail time for tax fraud, was ordered to pay a further $1mn.

The decision came following the conclusion of a weeks-long civil fraud trial in which lawyers for New York attorney-general Letitia James detailed numerous instances in which the Trumps vastly overstated the value of their residential and office buildings, hotels and golf courses.

Doing so allowed them to obtain loans on more favourable terms from the likes of Deutsche Bank, among other benefits, the court found.

Trump and his associates’ “complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological”, Engoron wrote. “Defendants did not commit murder or arson. They did not rob a bank at gunpoint. Donald Trump is not Bernard Madoff. Yet, defendants are incapable of admitting the error of their ways.”

He added that Trump, who testified during the trial and had several ill-tempered exchanges with the court, “severely compromised his credibility” by refusing to answer questions directly and delivering “long, irrelevant speeches”.

During his testimony, “Donald Trump insisted that he believed Mar-a-Lago is worth ‘between a billion and a billion five’ today,” Engoron wrote, “which would require not only valuing it as a private residence, which the deed prohibits, but as more than the most expensive private residence listed in the country by approximately 400 per cent”.

Chris Kise, an attorney for Trump, said: “The court today ignored the law, ignored the facts, and simply signed off on the attorney-general’s manifestly unjust political crusade against the front-running candidate for president of the United States.”

He added that it was “hard to imagine a more unfair process and hard to believe this is happening in America”, before confirming that Trump would appeal against the decision.

The judgment from Engoron comes a day after a judge in a neighbouring Manhattan criminal court refused to dismiss or delay the “hush money” case brought against Trump, in which he is accused of paying off a porn star in the run-up to the 2016 election and then covering up the payments in his business. A trial has been set for March 25.

It is also the second large financial penalty against the former president. A jury last month awarded writer E Jean Carroll $83.3mn in damages from Trump for defamation. That came on top of a separate $5mn award last year for her after he was found liable for battery and defamation.

 

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