Donald Trump and his adult children are being sued for fraud by New York state’s attorney general, who for more than three years has conducted a civil investigation into the former US president’s business practices, court records showed.
The lawsuit, filed in a New York state court in Manhattan, accused the Trump Organization of engaging in “numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation” in preparing Mr Trump’s annual statements of financial condition from 2011 to 2021.
It also named the Trump Organization, the former president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and his daughter Ivanka Trump as defendants.
The investigation by Attorney General Letitia James has focused on whether the Trump Organization misstated the values of its real estate properties to obtain favourable loans and tax benefits.
Ms James said that the investigation uncovered “significant evidence” that Mr Trump and the company fraudulently valued many of its assets.
The Republican former president has denied any wrongdoing and described Ms James’ probe as a politically motivated witchhunt. Ms James is a Democrat.
The Trump Organization has called Ms James’ allegations “baseless”.
Liz Harrington, a spokeswoman for Mr Trump, said: “A tale of two justice systems – yes where criminals go free, and the Democrats only go after their political opponents!”. She made the comment on the former president’s online platform Truth Social.
Today’s lawsuit followed a contentious investigation in which Ms James accused Mr Trump, his company and some family members of using delay tactics to ignore subpoenas and avoid testifying.
On 10 August, Mr Trump declined to answer questions in a lengthy, closed-door deposition at the office of the attorney general, invoking his constitutional right against self-incrimination more than 400 times.
Donald Trump Jr and Ivanka Trump agreed to sit for depositions only after court decisions required it.
Another of Mr Trump’s children, Eric Trump, invoked the right against self-incrimination more than 500 times in a 2020 deposition.
The lawsuit marks one of the biggest legal blows for Mr Trump since he left office in January 2021.
Mr Trump is considering running for president again in 2024.
The FBI conducted a court-approved search of Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on 8 August as part of a criminal investigation into his handling of presidential records including classified material.
Mr Trump also faces a criminal investigation in Georgia over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.
He has denied wrongdoing in the various probes.
Ms James’ civil probe is separate from a criminal tax fraud probe against the Trump Organization by Manhattan’s district attorney, Alvin Bragg.
The company is scheduled to stand trial in October, accused of paying off-the-books benefits to employees.
Its former longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, has pleaded guilty and will testify against the company.
Ms James is assisting Mr Bragg in his criminal probe.