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A New York judge on Thursday ordered Donald Trump, his daughter Ivanka and his son Don Jr. to testify under oath on March 10 about potential fraudulent tax practices by his group. The former American president can always choose not to answer questions in the context of this civil investigation.
A New York judge on Thursday (February 17) ordered Donald Trump and two of his children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, to testify under oath as part of the civil investigation into the tax practices of his group led by the prosecutor of the New York State Letitia James, who suspects fraud.
Donald Trump, 75, can however still challenge the judge’s decision and could, in any case, choose not to answer questions from Letitia James.
After a videoconference hearing on Thursday, Judge Arthur Engoron denied the Trump camp’s motion to quash the request for testimony made by Democratic prosecutor Letitia James.
As a result, the judge ordered the 45th President of the United States to “come and testify within 21 days of this ruling,” which is March 10. An order which also applies to his two children, also in the crosshairs of Letitia James, and to a request to provide accounting documents for the investigation.
“Justice has prevailed,” immediately welcomed the New York State prosecutor in a statement. “No one will be allowed to stand in the way of justice, no matter how powerful. No one is above the law,” added Letitia James.
For the former president’s lawyer, Thursday’s decision “confirms what we have already known for some time: Donald Trump cannot benefit from a fair decision in New York State”. “The court clearly had a preconceived idea and had no desire to engage in an impartial debate on this critically important issue,” Alina Habba said in a statement sent to AFP.
“Power of decision”
The civil investigation was accelerated in January when Letitia James announced that she had gathered “significant evidence that suggests that Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued a number of assets” in order to obtain profits. economic.
These proceedings are taking place in parallel with a separate investigation, criminal this time and carried out by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, in which the Trump Organization and its faithful chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, have been charged with tax evasion. They have pleaded not guilty and the trial is due to open in mid-2022.
For her part, Letitia James had asked to hear Donald Trump and her two children in early December. On January 18, she had substantiated her suspicions in a court document of more than 100 pages. She suspects the Trump Organization of having “fraudulently” overstated the value of certain properties when applying for loans from banks and of having undervalued these same properties with the tax authorities in order to pay less taxes.
According to her, Donald Trump had “decision-making power over a wide range of practices at the Trump Organization, including misrepresentations to third parties, including financial institutions and the US tax authorities (IRS)”.
The Trump family has for months accused Prosecutor James of “political” motivations, an argument that did not convince Judge Engoron. To refrain from conducting investigations or asking Donald Trump to testify “would have been a flagrant breach of duty” on the part of the prosecutor, he wrote Thursday, also sweeping away any argument about “personal animosity by Letitia James.
Donald Trump’s lawyers also stressed during the hearing the risk for their client to testify in this civil investigation, while a criminal investigation is open in parallel, accusing the prosecutors of working hand in hand to feed their files.