Donald Trump found liable for fraud in New York civil case

AFP

A New York judge found Donald Trump and his family business fraudulently inflated the value of his properties and other assets, in a major defeat for the former US president that could severely hamper his ability to do business in the state.

The scathing decision by Justice Arthur Engoron of New York state court in Manhattan will make it easier for state Attorney General Letitia James to establish damages at a scheduled October 2 trial.

Engoron also ordered the cancellation of certificates that let some of Trump's businesses, including the Trump Organisation, operate in New York, and ordered the appointment of a receiver to manage the businesses' dissolution.

The judge described how Trump, his adult sons Donald Jr. and Eric, the Trump Organisation and other defendants made up valuations and inflated Trump's net worth to suit their business needs.

"That is a fantasy world, not the real world," Engoron wrote.

The judge also sanctioned the defendants' lawyers for making "preposterous" legal arguments and fueling their clients' "obstreperous" conduct.

Trump and the other defendants have argued that they never committed fraud, and that the challenged transactions were profitable. They plan to appeal Engoron's decision.

"Today's outrageous decision is completely disconnected from the facts and governing law," Christopher Kise, a lawyer for Trump, said in a statement. "Trump and his family will seek all available appellate remedies to rectify this miscarriage of justice."

James said she looks forward to presenting the rest of her case at trial.

"It's a devastating ruling," said Bill Black, distinguished scholar in residence for financial regulation at the University of Minnesota Law School. He said cancelling business certificates could hurt Trump's ability to make money.

"If the decision is upheld, they have to liquidate the LLCs which actually hold the enormous bulk of the assets," Black said, referring to limited liability companies.

Trump is seeking the Republican presidential nomination for 2024 and has maintained a commanding lead in the race despite the criminal charges he faces in multiple cases.

In a post on his Truth Social platform, Trump called accusations that he committed fraud "ridiculous and untrue," and blasted Engoron as a "deranged" judge doing the bidding of James, a Democrat.

"This is Democrat Political Lawfare, and a Witch Hunt at a level never seen before," Trump wrote. "If they can do this to me, they can do this to you!"

Trump has repeatedly asserted without evidence that indictments he faces are "witch hunts".

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