Donald Trump’s company fined $1.6 million after executives found to be dodging taxes
Donald Trump’s company has been fined $1.6 million (around £1.3 million) on Friday for a scheme in which the former president’s top executives dodged personal income taxes on lavish job perks.
The fine - which was the maximum allowed by law - was the only penalty a judge could impose on the Trump Organisation after its conviction last month for 17 tax crimes, including conspiracy and falsifying business records.
Judge Juan Manuel Merchan gave the company 14 days to pay. However, a person convicted of the same crimes would've faced years in prison, AP reports.
Trump himself was not on trial and denied any knowledge that a small group of executives were evading taxes on extras including rent-free apartments, luxury cars and private school tuition.
Prosecutors said such items were part of what they dubbed the Trump Organisation’s “deluxe executive compensation package."
The company has denied wrongdoing and said it would appeal.
In a statement after the fine was announced, the company said: “These politically motivated prosecutors will stop at nothing to get President Trump and continue the never ending witch-hunt which began the day he announced his presidency."
Neither the former president nor his children, who helped run the Trump Organisation, were in the courtroom.
While the fines - less than the cost of a Trump Tower apartment - aren't big enough to impact the company’s operations or future, the conviction is a black mark on Trump's reputation as a savvy businessman as he mounts a campaign to regain the White House.
Outside the courtroom, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg - who is a Democrat - said he wished the law had allowed for a more serious penalty.
“I want to be very clear: we don’t think that is enough,” he said. "Our laws in this state need to change in order to capture this type of decade-plus systemic and egregious fraud.”
Besides the company, only one executive was charged in the case.
Former Trump Organisation Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty last summer to evading taxes on $1.7 million in compensation, was sentenced on Tuesday to five months in jail.
The criminal case involved financial practices and pay arrangements that the company halted when Trump was elected president in 2016.
Over his years as the company's chief moneyman, Weisselberg received a rent-free apartment in a Trump-branded building in Manhattan with a view of the Hudson River.
He and his wife drove Mercedes-Benz cars, leased by company. When his grandchildren went to an exclusive private school, Trump paid their tuition. A handful of other executives received similar perks.
Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass had told jurors Trump had a role, showing them a lease that the Republican signed himself for Weisselberg’s apartment.
“Mr. Trump is explicitly sanctioning tax fraud,” Steinglass had argued.
Weisselberg also attempted to take responsibility on the witness stand, saying nobody in the Trump family knew what he was doing.
He choked up as he told jurors, “It was my own personal greed that led to this.”
At the trial, Trump Organisation lawyers repeated the mantra, “Weisselberg did it for Weisselberg."
But in a statement on Friday, the company took a different tone. It said: “Allen Weisselberg is a victim.
"He was threatened, intimidated and terrorised. He was given a choice of pleading guilty and serving 90 days in prison or serving the rest of his life in jail. All of this over a corporate car and standard employee benefits.”
Last month, the House January 6 committee voted to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department for Trump’s role in sparking the violent insurrection at the US Capitol.
The FBI is also investigating Trump’s storage of classified documents.
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