United States: Trump Organization and CFO indicted for tax evasion

The Trump Organization, the company of former US President Donald Trump, and its chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg on Thursday pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of tax evasion, a blow to the affairs of the former Republican president who called the entire dossier a “witch hunt.” .

Allen Wesselberg, 73, a loyalist of former President Donald Trump, arrived at the court at around 2:15 p.m. (6:15 p.m. GMT), with his hands tied behind his back.

After pleading not guilty to 15 counts and surrendering his passport, he was released, pending a new hearing on September 20, to prepare for his trial.

According to one of the attorneys general, Carrie Dunn, the company of Donald Trump and this very conservative man, since 2005, have created “a vast and audacious system of illegal payments.”

According to the indictment published after the hearing, Mr Weiselberg and this unlisted company “systematically acted” in a way that undervalued the wages of the latter and other employees not mentioned, in order to pay taxes “significantly less” than the amounts actually owed.

Mr Weisselberg – who has worked in the Trump family since 1973 – is privately accused, between 2005 and 2021, of deliberately withholding about $1.7 million in benefits in kind from the tax authorities. These benefits include her apartment on the upscale Upper West Side of Manhattan, which she rents Leasing Two Mercedes cars for him and his wife or cash in return for his vacation.

This invisible man, who officially earned about $940,000 annually between 2011 and 2018, is also accused of lying by claiming he is not a resident of New York City, to reduce his taxes.

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According to legal experts, the most serious charges could lead to up to 15 years in prison.

‘It’s dividing our country’

After the hearing, one of the Trump Organization’s lawyers, Alan Wouterfas, dismissed the entire case as “politically motivated.”

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has again accused the two attorneys general heading the case — Manhattan Attorney General Cyrus Vance and New York State Attorney General Letitia James, both Democrats — of “continuing a witch hunt,” a term he has used throughout his tenure toward his critics. “This is dividing our country like never before,” said the former Republican president, who maintains ambiguity about the possibility of a new presidential candidacy for 2024.

His allegations were refuted by Attorney General Carrie Dunn. “Contrary to what the company claims, these are not standard business practices,” Dunn told the hearing. It was organized by executives at the highest level in the company, who benefited financially by getting secret raises. “

Democratic President Joe Biden, in an interview during a trip to Florida, declined to comment on this issue regarding his predecessor’s affairs.

Trump survived, for now

The indictments announced Thursday are the first fruits of an investigation launched more than two years ago by Cyrus Vance, then joined by Letitia James.

Mr. Vance struggled for months to get the tax returns of the former New York magnate, the first US president since the 1970s not to publish them.

However, at this point, neither the former president, nor any of his family members were involved. But Letitia James cautioned after the hearing, but “the investigation will continue, and we will follow the facts wherever they take us.”

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Trump’s critics make no secret of their hope that he will be personally challenged. Like his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018 and who has since cooperated with investigators against his former boss. The object of this investigation is not Allen Weiselberg […] “It’s Trump himself,” he told CNN Thursday.

Even if Trump himself was not targeted, the indictments would be a blow to his company, Beverly Moran, a law professor at Vanderbilt University, told AFP.

She explained that when a company is charged, the banks that finance it usually rush to ask them to pay their debts. According to Beverly Moran, the Trump Organization – which brings together golf clubs, luxury hotels and other real estate – is heavily indebted, and may “put her in a difficult financial position”.

Donald Trump was, in 2016, the first billionaire to enter the White House. When he left for Washington, he refused to give up his business, as ethics experts recommended, simply handing the reins to Allen Weissberg and his two oldest sons, Donald Jr and Eric Trump.

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