Verdict expected in fraud trial which could see Trump fined millions of dollars

16 February 2024, 08:34

Donald Trump
Verdict expected in Trump fraud trial. Picture: PA

The former US president is being sued over claims that he exaggerated his wealth in order to make deals and secure loans.

A verdict is expected on Friday in Donald Trump’s New York civil fraud trial, adding to a consequential week on the former president’s legal calendar.

Mr Trump could be hit with millions of dollars in penalties and other sanctions in the decision by Judge Arthur Engoron, who has already ruled that the former president inflated his wealth on financial statements that were given to banks, insurers and others to make deals and secure loans.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking 370 million US dollars (£294 billion) and a ban on Mr Trump and other defendants from doing business in the state.

A penalty like that could potentially wound the real estate empire that helped Mr Trump craft his image as a savvy billionaire businessman and vaulted him to fame and the White House.

Judge Engoron is set to rule after two and a half months of testimony from 40 witnesses, including Mr Trump. Closing arguments were held on January 11.

The judge is deciding the case because juries are not allowed in this type of lawsuit and neither Ms James’ office nor Mr Trump’s lawyers asked for one.

Judge Engoron is expected to release his decision on Friday, barring unforeseen circumstances that would necessitate a delay, court officials said.

It has already been a big week in court for Mr Trump.

Trump Fraud Lawsuit
Former president Donald Trump, centre, in the courtroom as closing arguments were heard in January (Michael Santiago/Pool Photo via AP)

On Thursday, a different New York judge ruled that he will stand trial on March 25 on charges that he falsified his company’s records as part of an effort to buy the silence of people with potentially embarrassing stories about alleged infidelity. Mr Trump says he is innocent.

If the schedule holds, it will be the first of his four criminal cases to go to trial.

Also on Thursday, a judge in Atlanta heard arguments on whether to remove Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis from Mr Trump’s Georgia election interference case because she had a personal relationship with a special prosecutor she hired.

Ms James’ office has estimated that Mr Trump exaggerated his wealth by as much as 3.6 billion dollars (£2.86 billion).

State lawyers contend the former president used the inflated numbers to get lower insurance premiums and favourable loan terms, saving at least 168 million dollars (£133 million) on interest alone.

Mr Trump has denied wrongdoing and his lawyers have said they will appeal if Judge Engoron rules against him.

The Republican presidential front-runner testified on November 6 that his financial statements actually understated his net worth and that banks did their own research and were happy with his business.

During closing arguments in January, he decried the case as a “fraud on me”.

Judge Engoron is deciding six claims in Ms James’ lawsuit, including allegations of conspiracy, falsifying business records and insurance fraud.

Before the trial, Judge Engoron ruled on Ms James’ top claim, finding that Mr Trump’s financial statements were fraudulent.

As punishment, the judge ordered some of his companies removed from his control and dissolved. An appeals court has put that on hold.

Because it is a civil case, not a criminal one, there is no possibility of prison time.

By Press Association

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