Former US President Donald Trump’s family real estate company has been found guilty of tax crimes. The Trump Organization was convicted on all counts on Tuesday after two days of jury deliberations in New York.
The business is synonymous with the former president, but neither Mr Trump nor his family members were personally on trial. Vowing to appeal the verdict, Mr Trump said he was “disappointed” and again described the case as a “witch hunt”.
The company was convicted of enriching its top executives with off-the books benefits for more than a decade.
Untaxed perks included luxury cars and private school fees, prosecutors said, which made up for lower salaries and therefore reduced the amount of tax the business was required to pay. The company is expected to face a fine of around $1.6m and may also face difficulty in securing loans and financing in the future.
Mr Trump previously criticised the trial as being politically motivated. He also attacked his long-serving former chief financial executive Allen Weisellberg after he pleaded guilty in August and testified against the business. In his most recent statement, attacking the verdict, the former Republican leader asked why the Trump Organization should be prosecuted for Mr Weisselberg’s “personal conduct” – accusing him of “committing tax fraud on his personal tax returns”.
“There was RELIANCE by us on a then highly respected and expensive accounting firm, and law firm, to do this work,” Mr Trump said in the statement issued by his office.
“This case is unprecedented and… is a continuation of the Greatest Political Witch Hunt in the History of our Country,” he said, adding that New York City was now a “hard place to be a Trump”.
Prosecutors accused the Trump Organization – which operates hotels, golf courses and other properties around the world – of having a “culture of fraud and deception” during the six-week trial.
They said it ran a scheme that allowed some executives to “understate their compensation” so that their taxes “were significantly less than the amounts that should have been paid”.
“The smorgasbord of benefits is designed to keep its top executives happy and loyal,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told the jury during closing arguments.
Two subsidiaries of the Trump Organization – Trump Corp and Trump Payroll Corp – were convicted on all 17 charges of tax fraud and falsifying business records.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg praised the verdict on Tuesday, saying the case was “about greed and cheating”.
“For 13 years the Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation got away with a scheme that awarded high-level executives with lavish perks and compensation while intentionally concealing the benefits from the taxing authorities,” he said.
Mr Weisselberg, 75, testified against the company as part of a plea deal he struck with prosecutors that will mean he spends no more than five months in jail. He will be jailed at the notorious Rikers Island prison and must pay back more than $1.7m in concealed income.
Following the verdict, the judge set a sentencing date of 13 January.
Mr Trump and his three eldest children are facing a seperate civil lawsuit which could see them banned from doing business in the state.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is leading that civil case, issued a statement hailing Tuesday’s verdict as a “big victory”. “It shows that we will hold individuals and organisations accountable when they violate our laws to line their pockets,” she said.