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‘Not involved’ in papers at heart of NY fraud case: Don Trump Jr

NEW YORK (AFP) – Donald Trump Jr, the former president’s eldest son, on Wednesday told the judge in the civil fraud trial that threatens the family real estate business in New York that he had not been involved in the financial documents at the centre of the prosecution.

Don Jr, 45, is the first member of the Trump family to testify in the case in which the Trump Organization is accused of inflating the value of its assets by billions of dollars to obtain more favourable bank loans and insurance terms.

Don Jr’s younger brother, Eric Trump, 39, is also expected to testify and the former president himself may be questioned on Monday, a day shy of one year before the November 5, 2024 presidential election that he hopes will sweep him back into the White House.

In a dark blue suit, light-coloured shirt and pink tie, Don Jr confirmed his role at the top of the Trump Organization, a myriad of companies managing residential and office skyscrapers, luxury hotels and golf courses around the world.

State attorney Colleen Faherty asked him who took over the Trump Organization once his father entered the White House in January 2017.

Donald Trump Jr waits to testify in New York Supreme Court in New York, United States. PHOTO: AP

“A combination of myself, my brother (Eric) and Allen Weisselberg,” the former chief financial officer who was sentenced in 2022 to time served for tax fraud, Don Trump replied, appearing at ease.

But he also presented himself as unfamiliar with accounting principles in the annual financial statements since 2016 that offer a snapshot of the family business, and are the heart of the state attorney’s case. Trump Jr explained that he had put his trust in their accounting firm.

“I wasn’t involved in the compilation of this statement,” he said. “The accountants worked on it. That’s what we paid them to do.”

If the 77-year-old Trump takes the stand in the Manhattan courtroom where the trial is taking place it will be the first time he testifies publicly in any of the various civil and criminal cases facing him. The former president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who left the Trump Organization in 2017 to become a White House advisor to her father, is not a codefendant in the case but has also been ordered to testify. She has appealed the subpoena.

The former president and his sons do not risk going to jail in the fraud case brought by New York state attorney general, but face up to USD250 million in penalties and potential removal from management of the family company.

Prior to his son’s testimony, Trump lashed out at Judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the case, and told him to “leave my children alone”.