Prosecutors in Manhattan are expected to unveil criminal charges against former US President Donald Trump’s namesake company and its chief financial officer on Thursday, a person familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
The charges, which were filed on Wednesday but remained sealed, are the first to arise from a nearly three-year probe by New York prosecutors of Trump and his business dealings. Trump himself is not expected to be charged this week, his lawyer has told Reuters, though he said prosecutors had told him their investigation was continuing. But blowback from the case could complicate Trump’s political future as he considers a possible 2024 White House run.
The charges are expected to focus on whether the Trump Organisation’s CFO Allen Weisselberg and other executives received perks and benefits such as rent-free apartments and leased cars without reporting them properly on their tax returns, people familiar with the probe have said. They stem from the investigation into the company’s business dealings by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
Grand jury convened in investigation into Trump’s businesses:
Weisselberg and the company are expected to be arraigned on Thursday, said the person familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity. Trump’s lawyer Ronald Fischetti told Reuters on Monday that prosecutors suggested the charges would be related to taxes and fringe benefits and that Trump himself would not be charged in the indictment. “This will be their first blow,” Fischetti said of the prosecutors, adding that they had said in a meeting last week that they were still pursuing their investigation.
Mary Mulligan, a lawyer for Weisselberg, has declined to comment on possible charges. In a statement on Monday, Trump called prosecutors biased and said his company’s actions were “in no way a crime.” The Trump Organisation could face fines and other penalties if convicted.
Focus on perks, gifts
Charges could increase pressure on Weisselberg to cooperate with prosecutors, which he has resisted. Weisselberg is a close Trump confidant, making his cooperation potentially crucial to any future case against the former president.
A private family-run business, the Trump Organisation operates hotels, golf courses, and resorts around the world. The indictment, by itself, could undermine the Trump Organisation’s relationships with banks and business partners.
Trump, a Republican, was elected president in November 2016. Before entering the White House in January 2017 – he put his company into a trust overseen by his adult sons and Weisselberg, a family friend who maintained tight control over company finances.
Court filings, public records and subpoenaed documents have shown that Weisselberg and his son Barry have received perks and gifts potentially worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, including many benefits related to real estate.
The case could be charged as a scheme by the company to pay people off the books in order to hide assets over many years. Prosecutors in Vance’s office accelerated their focus on the Trump Organisation’s use of perks and benefits last fall.
The office of New York state Attorney General Letitia James, which had also been looking into the Trump Organisation, said in May that its probe had turned into a criminal investigation and that it had joined forces with Vance’s office.
Vance, a Democrat, has examined an array of potential wrongdoing, including whether Trump’s company manipulated the value of its real estate to reduce its taxes and secure favourable loan terms. It is unclear what role Trump now has at the company.