The New York attorney general's office today told a court that its investigators had uncovered evidence that Former US President Donald Trump's company used "fraudulent or misleading" asset valuations to get loans and tax benefits.
The court filing said state authorities haven't yet decided whether to bring a civil lawsuit in connection with the allegations, but that investigators need to question Trump and his two eldest children as part of the probe.
Trump and his lawyers say the investigation is politically motivated.
In the court documents, Attorney General Letitia James' office gave its most detailed accounting yet of its investigation into allegations that Trump's company repeatedly misstated the value of assets to get favourable loan terms or slash its tax burden.
The Trump Organisation, it said, had overstated the value of land donations made in New York and California on paperwork submitted to the IRS to justify several million dollars in tax deductions.
The company misreported the size of Trump's Manhattan penthouse, saying it was nearly three times its actual size — a difference in value of about US$200 million, James' office said, citing deposition testimony from Trump's long-time financial chief Allen Weisselberg, who was charged last year with tax fraud in a parallel criminal investigation.
James' office detailed its findings in a court motion seeking to force Trump, his daughter Ivanka Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr to comply with subpoenas seeking their testimony.
Investigators, the court papers said, had "developed significant additional evidence indicating that the Trump Organisation used fraudulent or misleading asset valuations to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions."
New York Attorney General Letitia James. Photo / AP
Messages seeking comment were left with lawyers for the Trumps.
Trump's legal team has sought to block the subpoenas, calling them "an unprecedented and unconstitutional manoeuvre." They say James is improperly attempting to obtain testimony that could then be used in the parallel criminal investigation, being overseen by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
Trump sued James in federal court last month, seeking to put an end to her investigation. In the suit, his lawyers claimed the attorney general, a Democrat, had violated the Republican's constitutional rights in a "thinly-veiled effort to publicly malign Trump and his associates."
In the past, the Republican ex-president has decried James' investigation and Bragg's probe as part of a "witch hunt."
In a statement today, James's office said that it hasn't decided whether the evidence outlined in today's court papers merits legal action, but that the investigation should proceed unimpeded.
"For more than two years, the Trump Organisation has used delay tactics and litigation in an attempt to thwart a legitimate investigation into its financial dealings," James said. "Thus far in our investigation, we have uncovered significant evidence that suggests Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organisation falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefit."
Although James' civil investigation is separate from the criminal investigation, her office has been involved in both, dispatching several lawyers to work side-by-side with prosecutors from the Manhattan DA's office.
One judge has previously sided with James on other matters relating to the probe, including making another Trump son, Trump Organisation executive Eric Trump, testify after his lawyers abruptly cancelled a scheduled deposition.
Last year, the Manhattan district attorney brought tax fraud charges against the Trump Organisation and Weisselberg, its long-time chief financial officer.
Weisselberg pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he and the company evaded taxes on lucrative fringe benefits paid to executives.
Both investigations are at least partly related to allegations made in news reports and by Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, that Trump had a history of misrepresenting the value of assets.
- by Michael R Sisak