Donald Trump calls Mar-a-Lago the “Mona Lisa” of properties, but how much is it actually worth? The question is at the centre of the civil fraud trial which threatens his family business.
It’s the magic number no-one can agree on, from a tax assessment of $18m (£14.3m) to a courtroom witness saying it would sell for more than $1bn (£797m).
Throughout the 10-week trial in New York, the prosecution and defence have contested the value of Mr Trump’s private club in Florida – as well as the line between legitimate real estate valuations and fraud.
Mr Trump, his two adult sons and the Trump Organization are accused of bloating the value of assets – which also include properties such as Trump Tower and various golf resorts – to the tune of $2bn so they could get better deals on interest rates for loans.
These friendly rates saved Mr Trump’s businesses more than $150m over the course of a decade, according to New York Attorney General Letitia James. She is seeking to ban him from conducting business in the state.
The trial is now coming to a close, but before it even started, Judge Arthur Engoron, a Democrat, ruled the financial documents at the core of these allegations “clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business”.
“That is a fantasy world, not the real world,” he concluded, finding them liable for fraud.
Mr Trump has already appealed that pre-trial ruling on one count. Now the judge – there is no jury in this trial – must decide on six more counts of fraud, all of which require evidence of intent.
The former president had been expected to return to the witness stand on Monday, but announced in a social media post on Sunday evening that he had nothing more to say in a case he describes as politically motivated.
Once again, it was the specific allegation he inflated the worth of Mar-a-Lago that seemed to offend him most: “They claimed that Mar-a- Lago was worth only $18,000,000, when it was worth 50 to 100 times that amount”.