Politics

Trump Organization: Top executive charged with tax crimes

Former US President Donald Trump’s company and its finance chief have been charged with tax-related crimes.

Allen Weisselberg, 73, turned himself in to New York authorities on Thursday. He was later charged with concealing $1.7m (£1.2m) worth of income.

Prosecutors say the 15-year-long scheme helped executives evade taxes by giving benefits, such as rent and school fees, that were hidden from the authorities.

Lawyers for the firm and Mr Weisselberg have pleaded not guilty to tax fraud.

No charges were brought against Mr Trump personally, though prosecutors said the former president had signed some of the cheques at the centre of the case.

The Trump Organization is a family holding company that owns hotels, golf clubs and other properties – and the cornerstone of a global brand that encompassed book deals, TV shows and Trump-emblazoned skyscrapers.

The criminal charges are the first to arise from long-running investigations into alleged fraud by both the Manhattan district attorney and the state attorney general.

The inquiry by District Attorney Cyrus Vance focused on whether Mr Weisselberg and other company executives received benefits such as apartment rentals or leased cars without reporting them properly on their tax returns.

The charges announced on Thursday include tax fraud and falsifying business records.

At the hearing at Manhattan’s criminal court, prosecutor Carey Dunne said this was a “sweeping and audacious” scheme involving “off-the-books payments”.

“It was orchestrated by the most senior executives who were financially benefiting themselves and the company, by getting secret pay raises at the expense of state and federal taxpayers,” he said.

Mr Weisselberg “is prepared to fight these charges in court,” his lawyers said.

‘Not about politics’

Mr Trump and his allies have said the investigations are politically motivated. The indictment was served as Mr Trump has been discussing a potential comeback run for president in 2024.

The ex-president issued a statement slamming the announcement: “The political witch hunt by the radical left Democrats, with New York now taking over the assignment, continues.

“It is dividing our country like never before,” he said.

Earlier on Thursday, the Trump Organization said Mr Vance was using Mr Weisselberg, who has worked for Trump’s business for nearly 50 years, “as a pawn in a scorched earth attempt to harm the former president”.

“This is not justice; this is politics,” the company said.

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