The tax evasion trial of the Trump Organization, Donald Trump’s family business, began Monday in New York with jury selection, a process slowed by the divisive political weight of the former president who is not on trial but could testify.
Even if he is not personally targeted, Donald Trump, from the start, thundered on his Truth Social social network, accusing his political opponents, President Joe Biden’s Democrats, of pursuing a two-way “witch hunt”. weeks of the midterm legislative elections.
According to television channels and the washington post, press access to the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan was made difficult by Judge Juan Merchan, who warned the 130 jury candidates that their selection could take a week in order to dismiss the supporters and opponents of the former Republican president. The trial could then last a month and a half.
Ex-CFO pleads guilty
It concerns accusations of irregularities since 2005 in the accounts of the Trump Organization and of compensation received by leaders having been hidden from the tax authorities. The former financial director of the family group, Allen Weisselberg, 75, reached an agreement with justice in August and pleads guilty to 15 counts of fraud and tax evasion relating to 1.76 million dollars of undeclared income between 2005 and 2021.
This close friend of Donald Trump, who is therefore not being prosecuted but is appearing as a witness, admitted to having benefited from undeclared benefits in kind: an apartment in an upscale neighborhood of Manhattan, the rental of two Mercedes for him and his wife, or cash for vacation.
He will be one of the key witnesses in the trial against the company, currently run by two of the former president’s sons — Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump — which owns real estate investments, hotels and golf courses. Two subsidiaries, Trump Corporation and Trump Payroll Corp, are targeted. Donald Trump in person, his two sons and their sister Ivanka could be called as witnesses, according to the judge.
On Truth Social, the Republican billionaire accused the Democratic camp of years of “torturing” and threatening a longtime Trump Organization executive, alluding to his stalwart, Allen Weisselberg.
“Allen Weisselberg admitted in court to having used his position at the Trump Organization to defraud taxpayers and enrich himself personally,” Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg said in August, when the ex-director financier pleaded guilty. “The agreement reached with justice directly links the Trump Organization to a wide range of criminal activities,” he added.
According to the agreement, Weisselberg must pay nearly two million dollars in taxes, with penalties and interest, and testify at the trial. He has so far always refused to testify against Donald Trump personally.
The Trump Organization, which pleaded not guilty, is accused of having kept parallel accounts, under the supervision of Weisselberg, to conceal the salary supplements that he and other leaders received.
Donald Trump targeted in civil in New York
If the facts are proven, the company could be fined around $1.7 million. Donald Trump, who has not officially announced his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election but does not hide his ambitions, is on the other hand targeted personally by the civil component of this sprawling investigation by the State of New York against the Trump Organization.
These civil proceedings also relate to suspicions of tax evasion within the family group and have been conducted vigorously since 2019 by the Attorney General of New York State, Democrat Letitia James. She announced in September lawsuits against Donald Trump and his children and claims $ 250 million in reparations.