Trial into fraud allegations against former U.S President, Donald Trump opened on Monday, October 2, 2023.
The civil case, was brought by New York Attorney General, Letitia James.
Based on a three-year investigation, James has accused Trump of inflating his net worth up by hundreds of millions of dollars and raising the value of his assets on financial statements. Trump used these financial statements to obtain favorable loans and make his net worth appear higher than it actually was.
She said that Trump made false and misleading financial statements from 2011 to 2021 to make himself and his businesses wealthier.
James argues that Trump should pay up at least $250m in fines and be banned from doing business in New York.
The New York Attorney General was in attendance for the first day of the trial.
The trial is expected to take several weeks and determine the amount of damages the former President and his children will have to pay.
In brief remarks as he arrived at the Manhattan courthouse, Donald Trump said that his financial statements were “phenomenal.”
“This is a continuation of the single greatest witch-hunt of all time,” Trump said.
He added that the trial was tied to “election interference, plain and simple.”
“It’s a scam, it’s a sham,” he iterated.
Inside the court, Trump sat between his lawyers, Christopher M. Kise and Alina Habba.
Representing the New York Attorney General’s office, Kevin Wallace, asserted in his opening statement that Trump described his finances to banks and insurers in a “materially inaccurate way” for a decade.
“They [the Trump Organization] were lying year after year after year,” he said, before adding that “every estimate [of real estate values] was determined by Mr Trump.”
Wallace says that Trump made an astronomical sum from his overvaluation of his real estate portfolio, saying that the former President was able to leverage that into better loan terms and lower insurance premiums, illegally generating more than $1bn.
“This isn’t business as usual, and this isn’t how sophisticated parties deal with each other,” the lawyer says.
Trump’s lawyers countered the argument from the state Attorney General’s office.
In his opening statement, Christopher Kise, one of Trump’s lawyers said that the financial statements were true, and he suggested the proof was in the outcome of Trump’s business career.
“It [the Trump Organization] is one of the most highly successful brands in the world, and he has made a fortune literally being right about real estate investments.
“There was no intent to defraud, there was no illegality, there was no default, there was no breach, there was no reliance from the banks, there were no unjust profits, and there were no victims.”Christopher Kise
Lawyer Alina Habba also said argued that Trump’s holdings are “Mona Lisa properties” that can command top dollar.
“That is not fraud. That is real estate,” she emphasized, accusing the attorney general’s office of “setting a very dangerous precedent for all business owners in the state of New York.”
Judge Arthur Engoron To Be The Sole Decider
The damages in Donald Trump’s fraud trial will not be determined by a jury, but by Supreme Court Judge, Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the case.
Because this is a civil trial, Trump will not be sent to prison if he’s found guilty nor does he have to make an appearance in court.
Trump showed up voluntarily for Monday’s trial.
The punishment in civil fraud cases generally involves the defendant being ordered to compensate the person or party that has been wronged.
That would not have been the case in a criminal fraud trial.
If a criminal fraud case is being pursued, state prosecutors are ones who bring charges against the accused. In addition to jail time, defendants can face other punishments, such as fines.