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US: NY attorney general seeks to hold Trump in contempt over fraud probe

NEW York state Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday asked a judge to hold former president Donald Trump in contempt for failing to turn over documents related to her investigation of possible fraud in the Trump family’s business dealings.

Since 2019, James has pursued a civil probe into the former president and the Trump Organization and has sought to question the 75-year-old for months.

In February, a judge ordered Trump and his children Don Jr and Ivanka to submit to questioning under oath. So far, that order is under appeal.

But Trump was also ordered to turn over a series of Trump Organization accounting and tax documents, which he has so far failed to do despite his lawyers saying he would.

“Trump is in violation of the court’s order to turn these docs over to us by March 31,” James’s office said in a statement.

In a memorandum filed with the state supreme court, James argues that Trump should be held in civil contempt for violating the order.

“Instead of obeying a court order, Mr Trump is trying to evade it. We are seeking the court’s immediate intervention because no one is above the law,” James said in a statement.

The attorney general is seeking imposition of a fine of $10,000 a day for each day Trump fails to produce the documents in question.

An attorney for Trump, Alina Habba, told AFP in an email: “We are prepared to adamantly oppose the frivolous and baseless motion filed by the Attorney General’s office today.”

In January, James said her investigation had uncovered evidence suggesting the fraudulent valuing of multiple assets and misrepresentation of those values for economic benefit.

Among the assets listed was Trump’s penthouse in Manhattan’s Trump Tower, which was claimed to be three times bigger than it actually was, overestimating its value by $200 million.

The Trumps have claimed that James, who was elected to her position and is a member of the Democratic Party, is running a politically motivated probe.

James’ probe is one of several legal battles in which the former president is embroiled.

The Trump Organization is also under investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for possible financial crimes and insurance fraud.

In July last year, the Trump Organization and its long-serving finance chief, Allen Weisselberg, pleaded not guilty in a New York court to 15 felony fraud and tax evasion charges.

His trial is due to begin in the middle of this year.

Bragg issued a statement saying his criminal probe was ongoing, but that he would not be divulging any details until its conclusion, as required by law.

Doubts had been raised about the future of the investigation after the resignation of two prosecutors on the case.

“I pledge that the Office will publicly state the conclusion of our investigation — whether we conclude our work without bringing charges, or move forward with an indictment,” he said.

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