Trump Organization and finance chief Allen Weisselberg plead not guilty to tax charges

Donald Trump and Alan Weisselberg
Allen Weisselberg has worked for Donald Trump and his father Fred, since the 1970s. Credit: AP/Press Association Images

The Trump Organization and long-standing finance chief Allen Weisselberg have pleaded not guilty to tax-related crimes.

Weisselberg, 73, turned himself in to New York authorities on Thursday, where he was charged for avoiding taxes on $1.7 million (£1.2 million) worth of income.

According to the indictment, from 2005 until this year, Weisselberg and the company cheated the state and city out of taxes by conspiring to pay senior executives off the books.

It is the first criminal case - arising from a two-year investigation into former president Donald Trump’s company - that the New York authorities’ investigation has yielded.

Cyrus Vance Jr Credit: John Minchillo/AP

The Trump Organization operates hotels, golf courses and resorts around the world.

No charges were brought against the former president personally at this stage of the investigation, which was jointly pursued by New York district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr and attorney general Letitia James.

Both Democrats attended Thursday's arraignment in Manhattan criminal court.

Prosecutor Carey Dunne described a 15-year scheme “orchestrated by the most senior executives”, including Chief Financial Officer Weisselberg, that was “sweeping and audacious”.

Mary Mulligan and Bryan Skarlatos, Weisselberg's lawyers, said in a statement before his appearance that the executive would “fight these charges in court”.

Weisselberg, who has worked for Mr Trump and his father Fred before him for 48 years, has intimate knowledge of the former president's business deals.

The case could give prosecutors the means to pressure him into co-operating with an ongoing probe into other aspects of the company’s business.

On Thursday, Mr Trump and his allies described the investigations as being politically motivated and said the charges were being used by Mr Vances' office as “a pawn in a scorched-earth attempt to harm the former president”.

Mr Dunne insisted politics played no role in the decision to bring charges.

Earlier in the week, he blasted New York prosecutors as “rude, nasty, and totally biased” and said his company’s actions were “standard practice throughout the US business community, and in no way a crime”.

Mr Vance, who leaves office at the end of the year, has been conducting a wide-ranging investigation into a variety of matters involving Mr Trump and the Trump Organization.

He has been examining hush money payments made to women who said they had sexual encounters with Mr Trump, as well as truthfulness in property valuations and tax assessments.

Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg after arraignment in the Manhattan Criminal Court building. Credit: PA

Mr Vance fought a long battle to get Mr Trump’s tax records and has been subpoenaing documents, interviewing company executives and other Trump insiders.

Weisselberg came under scrutiny of Mr Vance’s investigators in part because of questions about his son’s use of a Trump apartment at little or no cost.

Barry Weisselberg, who managed a Trump-operated ice rink in Central Park, testified in a 2018 divorce deposition that the Trump Parc East apartment was a “corporate apartment, so we didn’t have rent”.

His ex-wife, Jen Weisselberg, has been co-operating with both inquiries and given investigators reams of tax records and other documents.

In March, she told the New Yorker that some compensation for Trump Organization executives came in the form of apartments and other items and that “only a small part of your salary is reported”.