New York (AFP), Jun 30 – Former president Donald Trump’s company and its long-serving chief financial officer are to be charged on Thursday with tax-related crimes, US media reported.
They would mark the first criminal charges in a more than two-year investigation by the Manhattan district attorney into alleged fraud at the Trump Organization.
The New York Times and The Washington Post said that a New York grand jury had indicted the company and Allen Weisselberg on Wednesday, although the specific charges have not been disclosed.
The Wall Street Journal said Weisselberg and the Trump Organization are expected to be charged with the evasion of taxes on fringe benefits when the indictment is unveiled on Thursday.
The paper was the first to report the imminent charges and cited people familiar with the matter.
Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance and New York state Attorney General Letitia James have been investigating whether Weisselberg and other executives avoided paying taxes on perks from the Trump Organization.
The perks included private school tuition, luxury cars and apartments, US media say.
Weisselberg, a loyal Trump lieutenant often described as the keeper of the company’s secrets, is expected to turn himself into Vance’s office on Thursday morning, the Post said, citing two people familiar with the plan.
He is then expected to be arraigned later in the day in front of a judge. Lawyers for the Trump Organization will also appear in court, the newspapers said.
Trump himself is not expected to be charged, according to the reports, although a criminal indictment would deal a major blow to the Republican ex-president who has suggested he could run for the White House again in 2024.
– Possible tax evasion –
Trump, 75, has condemned the probe as politically motivated, describing it as “a continuation of the greatest witch hunt in American history.”
The Trump Organization is an unlisted family holding company that owns golf clubs, hotels and luxury properties.
Trump handed over the reins of the business to his two eldest sons and to Weisselberg when he went to the White House in early 2017.
New York prosecutors have been trying to get Weisselberg, 73, to cooperate with their broad investigations into the Trump Organization’s finances.
The indictment would increase the pressure on him to cooperate.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is probing whether the company regularly overvalued or undervalued its assets, particularly several properties in New York state, to either get bank loans or reduce their taxes.
Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen has alleged that they did, allegations that could constitute possible tax evasion or insurance fraud.
The investigations also center on eight years of Trump’s tax returns, obtained by the prosecutors in February after a long legal battle that went to the Supreme Court.
Vance’s probe initially focused on hush payments made to two women who allege they had affairs with Trump — before the investigation was expanded.
Cohen, jailed for tax evasion and violating campaign finance laws, was one of the real estate mogul’s closest henchmen before turning against his former boss and deciding to cooperate with prosecutors.