In the fraud trial that threatens former President Donald Trump’s business empire, the Judge has already ruled that Mr Trump and the other defendants were liable for fraud based on the evidence put before the court.
The trial stems from a lawsuit brought by New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, which accuses Mr Trump and other defendants, including his companies and sons Donald Jr and Eric, of fraudulently inflating the value of assets, including his golf courses and hotels, to the tune of $2 billion (£1.65 billion) to obtain favourable loans and insurance deals.
Mr Trump and his sons have denied the accusations and claim that they delegated the financial statements at the heart of the case to accountants, though evidence introduced in the trial shows they were all involved to some extent.
Indeed, the evidence so far has proved to Justice Arthur Engoron, that Mr Trump and 10 of his businesses committed persistent fraud. However, the Judge’s ruling covered only one of the seven fraud counts the former President faces.
Throughout the trial, Mr Trump’s lawyers have argued that the assets had no objective value and that differing valuations are standard in real estate. In fact, in his testimony, Mr Trump suggested that his assets were undervalued in the statements.
However, he also distanced himself from the documents, blaming instead the former controller of the Trump Organization, Jeff McConney, along with Allen H. Weisselberg, its former chief financial officer, and his accountants, Mazars USA.
The documentary evidence includes spreadsheets and emails as well as the financial statements.
These have undermined testimony, including emails showing Eric Trump’s active participation in the appraisal of the Trump Organisation’s assets and a letter in which Donald Trump Jr’s signature is said to evidence his responsibility for the financial statements.
Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “It is true that the valuation of businesses and properties can be subjective and there is often a range of values that can reasonably be attributed to any particular asset.
“However, one occasionally sees valuations that fall outside or even far outside the limits of such reasonable ranges. Based on what has so far been reported in relation to this litigation, not only were the property values inflated but the extent of the inflation was so large as to constitute an alleged fraud.
“No doubt the professional advisers who were once likely to have boasted of having the former President as a client will now be regretting the day they ever accepted his instructions.”
Sources: BBC News, Reuters