Trump liable for $355m and barred from New York business for 3 years, judge rules

Judge's decision likely to have major implications for former president's real estate empire

Former US president Donald Trump attends closing arguments in his civil fraud trial in New York. AP
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A New York judge on Friday ruled that Donald Trump must pay about $355 million in penalties for fraudulently overstating his net worth to dupe lenders, in a decision that is likely to have major ramifications for the former president's real estate empire.

New York Attorney General Letitia James had accused Mr Trump and his businesses of inflating his net worth by as much as $3.6 billion over the course of a decade.

Ms James had sought penalties amounting to $370 million and to have Mr Trump and the other defendants banned from conducting business in New York.

Two of his sons, Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, who were also named in the case, have been barred from serving as officers or directors of any New York corporation for two years. They were ordered to pay $4 million each.

The stiff penalty was a victory for Ms James, a Democrat, who sued Mr Trump over what she said was not harmless bragging but years of deceptive practices, as he built the multinational collection of skyscrapers, golf courses and other properties that catapulted him to wealth, fame and the White House.

By making himself seem richer, Mr Trump was able to qualify for better loan terms, saved on interest and was able to complete projects he might otherwise not have finished, New York state lawyers said.

Mr Trump's legal team had said even before the verdict was announced that they would appeal.

Judge Arthur Engoron had already ruled in a pretrial hearing that Mr Trump had committed fraud. During that ruling, Mr Engoron had ordered Mr Trump's business licences to be cancelled.

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Mr Engoron cancelled his prior ruling ordering the “dissolution” of companies that control pillars of Mr Trump's real estate empire, saying on Friday that this was no longer necessary because he is appointing an independent monitor and compliance director to oversee the businesses.

In the ruling, Mr Engoron wrote that Mr Trump and the other defendants in the case “are incapable of admitting the error of their ways”.

“Their complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological,” the judge wrote.

“Instead, they adopt a 'See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' posture that the evidence belies.”

After the verdict was announced, Ms James told reporters: "There cannot be different rules for different people in this country, and former presidents are no exception.

"This decision is a massive victory for anyone who believes in that simple but fundamental pillar of our democracy, that the rule of law applies to all of us equally, fairly and justly."

The former president attended several hearings, using the televised proceedings as a de facto campaign stop in which he proclaimed his innocence and said the case was politically motivated.

Friday's ruling comes during a critical week for Mr Trump, seen as the likely Republican nominee in the 2024 US election.

A separate judge in New York gave the go-ahead for Mr Trump's federal hush-money trial to begin as scheduled on March 25.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, where he faces dozens of racketeering charges related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 electoral results in Georgia, his lawyers are seeking to disqualify the lead prosecutor in the case.

Mr Trump faces two additional federal cases in Florida and Washington related to his mishandling of classified documents since leaving office and for his efforts to overturn his 2020 electoral defeat.

Donald Trump zips his lips after testifying in civil case - video

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Updated: February 16, 2024, 11:06 PM