Trump organisation faces new grand jury in Manhattan

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – Manhattan prosecutors have convened a second grand jury to continue probing the financial practices of former president Donald Trump’s sprawling real estate business and to weigh possible criminal charges, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The new grand jury was assembled by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance to examine whether the Trump Organisation manipulated the value of its assets for loans and tax breaks, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing the matter because it isn’t public.

An earlier grand jury handed down an indictment against the company and its former longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, for alleged tax violations tied to executives’ luxury perks.

The Manhattan-based company and Weisselberg pleaded not guilty in that case, which is at an early stage.

The new grand jury was convened only because the first one expired after six months, according to the person familiar with the matter.

Mr Alan Garten, the Trump Organisation’s general counsel, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

The convening of the second grand jury was reported earlier by The Washington Post. That report, citing people familiar with the matter, said the grand jury would be meeting three times a week for the next six months.

Mr Vance has been investigating the Trump Organisation in cooperation with New York Attorney-General Letitia James, who in 2019 began issuing a series of subpoenas to the company over the valuations of several properties.

Ms James’s civil probe triggered an ongoing court case after the company initially refused to comply. The company’s compliance is still a matter of contention.

Ms James and Mr Vance then joined their efforts, ultimately leading to the earlier criminal charges. Their offices continue to cooperate.

Mr Vance, like Ms James a Democrat, is leaving office after deciding not to run for a fourth term. That almost certainly means incoming district attorney Alvin Bragg, also a Democrat, will handle the resolution of the current Mr Trump case and any additional ones that might be filed.

Ms James announced last week that she was running for governor of New York.

The Trump Organisation has long argued the investigations are politically motivated.

In May, Mr Trump issued a statement accusing Ms James and Mr Vance of being “possessed, at an unprecedented level, with destroying the political fortunes of President Donald J. Trump.”

A major focus of Ms James’s probe has been the Trump Organisation’s appraisal of Seven Springs, a 212-acre (85.8ha) estate in Westchester County, New York.

Her office has been trying to determine whether the company gave an accurate valuation for the property when it served as the basis for about US$21.1 million (S$28.51 million) in tax deductions for donating a conservation easement for the 2015 tax year.

Mr Trump’s 40 Wall Street skyscraper and his Chicago hotel are among the other properties being scrutinised in the Attorney-General’s probe, which overlapped with Mr Vance’s broad investigation of possible bank, mortgage and tax fraud.

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