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Trump executive pleads guilty to tax fraud

2022-08-19 HKT 00:54
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  • Weisselberg served as CFO of the Trump Organisation from 2005 to 2021. Photo: AP
    Weisselberg served as CFO of the Trump Organisation from 2005 to 2021. Photo: AP
Allen Weisselberg, the long-time chief financial officer of the Trump Organisation, pleaded guilty on Thursday to tax fraud and agreed to testify at an upcoming criminal trial of the former US president's real estate company.

The 75-year-old Weisselberg, who served as CFO of the Trump Organisation from 2005 to 2021, pleaded guilty to 15 counts of tax fraud, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement.

Weisselberg admitted his involvement in a 15-year scheme with co-defendant the Trump Organisation to defraud federal, New York State and New York City tax authorities, Bragg said.

Weisselberg is to serve five months in prison contingent on his testifying truthfully at the October criminal trial of the Trump Organisation on tax fraud charges, Bragg said.

Weisselberg has steadfastly refused to deliver testimony against Donald Trump personally. The 76-year-old Trump served as president and owner of the Trump Organisation until 2017, when he entered the White House.

But the former Trump Organisation executive could face additional prison time if he fails to testify at the criminal trial of the real estate company.

Jury selection in the Trump Organisation trial on tax fraud charges is scheduled to begin October 24, Bragg said.

In the plea agreement, Weisselberg admitted evading payment of taxes due on US$1.76 million in unreported income. He will be required to repay nearly US$2 million in taxes, penalties and interest.

"Today Allen Weisselberg admitted in court that he used his position at the Trump Organisation to bilk taxpayers and enrich himself," Bragg said.

"Weisselberg had the Trump Organisation provide him with a rent-free apartment, expensive cars, private school tuition for his grandchildren and new furniture – all without paying required taxes," he said.

"This plea agreement directly implicates the Trump Organisation in a wide range of criminal activity and requires Weisselberg to provide invaluable testimony in the upcoming trial against the corporation," he said. "We look forward to proving our case in court against the Trump Organisation."

Trump's business practices are the subject of a separate probe by New York Attorney General Letitia James and the former president was questioned for more than four hours last week in connection with that investigation.

According to US press reports, Trump, who is weighing another White House run in 2024, invoked his legal right not to answer questions more than 400 times during his deposition with James.

James suspects the Trump Organisation fraudulently overstated the value of real estate properties when applying for bank loans, while understating them with tax authorities to pay less in taxes.

The New York cases are among myriad legal battles facing the former president.

FBI agents searched his palatial Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida on August 8 and seized documents marked "Top Secret," "Secret" and "Confidential."

The search warrant for the raid, which was personally approved by Attorney General Merrick Garland, directed the FBI to seize documents and records "illegally possessed" in violation of three criminal statutes, including one falling under the Espionage Act, which makes it a crime to illegally obtain or retain national security information.

Trump vehemently denounced the FBI raid on his home as a "witch hunt" and claimed that all of the material confiscated during the search had been previously "declassified."

Trump is also facing legal scrutiny for his efforts to overturn the results of the November 2020 election and the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters. (AFP)

Trump executive pleads guilty to tax fraud