Donald Trump liable for $354.9 million, judge in New York civil fraud case rules

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Former U.S. President Donald Trump. File.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump. File.
| Photo Credit: Reuters

Donald Trump must pay $354.9 million (more than ₹2900 crore) in penalties for fraudulently overstating his net worth to dupe lenders, a New York judge ruled on Friday, handing the former U.S. President another legal setback in a civil case that imperils his real estate empire.

The lawsuit brought by New York Attorney-General Letitia James accused Trump and his family businesses of overstating his net worth by as much $3.6 billion a year over a decade to fool bankers into giving him better loan terms.

Mr. Trump has denied wrongdoing and called the case a political vendetta by James, an elected Democrat. Trump is expected to appeal Friday’s ruling by New York state judge Arthur Engoron.


Also read: Donald Trump defies judge, gives courtroom speech on tense final day of New York civil fraud trial

The civil fraud case could deal a major blow to Mr. Trump’s real estate empire as the businessman turned politician leads the race for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 U.S. election.

Engoron ruled in September that Mr.Trump had engaged in fraud and ordered his business empire be partially dissolved. The full implications of that order are still unclear, and Mr.Trump is appealing.

Friday’s ruling came after a contentious three-month trial in Manhattan.

During defiant and meandering testimony in November, Mr.Trump conceded that some of his property values were inaccurate but insisted banks were obligated to do their own due diligence.

He used his occasional court appearances as impromptu campaign stops, delivering incendiary remarks to reporters and insisting his enemies are using the courts to prevent him from retaking the White House.

Mr.Trump is cruising to the Republican nomination despite a host of other legal troubles.

He is under indictment in four criminal cases, including one in New York related to hush money payments he made to a porn star ahead of the 2016 election. The judge overseeing that case on Thursday set a March 25 trial date over the objections of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, who sought to delay it due to Mr.Trump’s crowded legal and political schedule.

Mr.Trump has also been charged in Florida for his handling of classified documents upon leaving office and in Washington and in Georgia for his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss.

Mr.Trump has pleaded not guilty in all four cases.

During the New York civil case, Mr.Trump lashed out in the courtroom on Jan. 11 against both the judge and James while proclaiming his innocence. “You have your own agenda,” Mr.Trump scolded Engoron, who told Mr.Trump’s lawyer “control your client.” The judge during the trial had fined Mr.Trump $15,000 for twice violating a gag order against disparaging court staff.

Engoron ruled in September that Mr.Trump’s financial statements were fraudulent, leaving the focus of the trial on how much Mr.Trump should pay in penalties. James sought $370 million in penalties and a New York commercial real estate ban on Mr.Trump and his two adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric Trump.

The trial featured some dramatic testimony. Mr.Trump during a defiant appearance on the witness stand boasted about his business acumen and accused James and Engoron of partisanship. Mr.Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen testified for the state.

Cohen testified that he manipulated the values of Trump’s real estate properties to match “whatever number Mr. Trump told us.” Trump afterward called Cohen a “disgraceful fellow.” His lawyers grilled Cohen on his criminal record and accused him of lying to boost his book sales and podcast traffic.

Donald Jr., Eric and Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump also testified. They said they had little to no involvement in their father’s financial statements while running the Trump Organization, an umbrella company for Mr. Trump’s many business ventures. Unlike her brothers, Ivanka Trump was not a defendant.

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