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The Financial Express

New York state opens criminal probe into Trump’s company

| Updated: May 22, 2021 21:49:56


Trump Tower entrance is pictured amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City in January this year –Reuters file photo Trump Tower entrance is pictured amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City in January this year –Reuters file photo

The New York attorney general’s office said on Tuesday it has now opened a criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump’s company, increasing the legal risk for Trump and his family.

Attorney General Letitia James has been investigating whether the Trump Organization falsely reported property values to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits.

The latest announcement marked another escalation of the legal jeopardy Trump faces four months after leaving office, taking to three the number of known criminal investigations of the former Republican president.

 “We have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the organisation is no longer purely civil in nature,” Fabien Levy, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said in a statement.

 “We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan DA,” he said.

The Trump Organization, the former president’s family-owned business, could not immediately be reached for comment. Trump has said that the investigation overseen by James, a Democrat, is politically motivated.

James has been investigating whether the Trump Organization inflated the values of some properties to obtain better loans, and lowered their values to obtain property tax breaks.

Separately, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has been investigating Trump’s pre-presidency business dealings for more than two years.

In February, prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia, opened a criminal investigation into Trump’s attempts to influence the state’s 2020 election results, after he was recorded in a Jan. 2 phone call pressuring Georgia’s secretary of state to overturn the outcome of voting based on unfounded claims of tampering.

Vance’s probe began after Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen paid hush money to silence two women before the 2016 election about extramarital sexual encounters they claimed to have had with Trump.

James has said she opened her inquiry after Cohen testified before Congress that Trump’s financial statements were manipulated to save money on loans or reduce his real estate taxes.

Cohen, who once said he would take a bullet for Trump, pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign finance violations and other crimes and is currently serving his three-year sentence under home confinement.

TAX BREAK

“As more documents are reviewed by the NYAG and NYDA, it appears that the troubles for Donald Trump just keep on coming! Soon enough, Donald and Associates will be held responsible for their actions,” Cohen said in a text message on Tuesday night.

Two people familiar with Vance’s probe have said that Cohen has been interviewed by the district attorney’s investigators.

Trump’s ambitions to build a championship golf course there were derailed by local opposition, and he shelved another plan to build luxury homes.

But the property did become a vehicle for a tax break, according to property records and court filings. 

The attorney general’s office said in a court filing that an appraiser hired by Trump before the conservation agreement set the property’s value at $56.5 million and the easement’s value at $21.1 million - an amount Trump claimed as an income tax deduction.

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