Donald Trump sued for fraud over family business
Donald Trump and three of his children have been hit by a fraud lawsuit after a New York investigation into their family business.
It alleges that Trump Organization committed “numerous” acts of fraud between 2011 and 2021.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is asking a court to bar Mr Trump and his children from serving as officers or directors in any New York business.
The Trump Organization has denied any wrongdoing.
Mr Trump and the Trump Organization are accused of misstating the value of real estate to get banks to lend on more favourable terms.
“With the help of his children and senior executives at the Trump Organization, Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and cheat the system,” Ms James said in a statement.
Ms James, who is New York’s most senior lawyer, is pushing for the Trump Organization to be barred from engaging in any future real estate transactions in the state.
She added that she is referring several criminal charges to federal prosecutors and to the Internal Revenue Service.
In addition to Donald Trump, Ms James named his three eldest children – Donald Trump Jr, Ivanka and Eric – as allegedly complicit in the fraud.
She specified several instances in which the valuations of properties were allegedly misrepresented. Among them was his own apartment in Trump Tower, which was valued at $327m (£288m).
“No apartment in New York City has ever sold for close to that amount,” Ms James added.
The announcement comes after Ms James rejected at least one offer to settle the long-running civil investigation into the company’s business practices.
The attorney general said she is aiming to recover an estimated $250m (£220m) that she said was the result of the fraud.
In the past, Mr Trump has criticised the investigation and characterised it as a politically motivated witch hunt by Ms James, a Democrat who is up for re-election in November.
In a statement following Ms James’ announcement, Alina Habba, an attorney for Mr Trump, said that the lawsuit “is neither focused on the facts nor the law – it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda.”
“We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the Attorney General’s meritless claims,” Ms Habba added.
On Twitter, Donald Trump Jr also accused Ms James of “weaponising her office to go after her political opponents”.
On 11 August Mr Trump declined to answer questions during an interview at the attorney general’s office. Ms James said he repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not self-incriminate whether he was aware of false or misleading statements while president.
Ms James said that Eric Trump did the same more than 500 times in his 2020 deposition.
Tristan Snell, a lawyer and former prosecutor who worked on a separate case against Trump University, told the BBC that the lawsuit could take as much as a year to go to trial.
But the potential of such a trial could severely restrict Mr Trump’s ability to do business in New York and profit from his marquee real estate holdings in New York City. It could trigger a series of financial consequences that would make it harder for him to raise capital and maintain credit, Snell said.
“It definitely could be ruinous for him,” Snell said.
The lawsuit is one of a number of legal issues facing the former President.
On 8 August, the FBI conducted a search warrant at his home in Mar-a-Lago as part of an investigation into his handling of classified records. He is also being investigated in Georgia in relation to efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
He has also denied any wrongdoing in those investigations.