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Former President Donald Trump

Photo: Artie Walker Jr. / AP

Former U.S. President Donald Trump has suffered a major legal defeat in a New York fraud case. Judge Arthur Engoron ruled Tuesday that the businessman and his family business can be held liable for fraud. According to him, Trump has been manipulating the goodwill of his Trump Organization for years, thereby committing fraud. He also ordered the cancellation of business certificates for the Trump Organization and other defendant companies and imposed penalties on Trump's lawyers. They had contributed to the "unruly" behavior of their clients and had put forward "absurd" legal arguments during the trial.

With the decision, the main proceedings, which are scheduled for Monday, are likely to be essentially limited to the question of the sentence.

The Republican has denied the allegations in this and his other proceedings.

Assets of up to $3.6 billion

New York Attorney General Letitia James had sued the now 77-year-old and the family business named after him for fraud in September 2022. According to the Democrat, Trump is said to have inflated his fortune by up to 3.6 billion dollars in order to get loans more cheaply. The manipulations are said to have continued for over a decade.

For example, Trump had given the size of his apartment in Trump Tower for years as around 2800 square meters, although it was only a good 1000 square meters. As a result, the property was overvalued by up to 200 million US dollars. The value of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida is said to have been inflated by as much as 2300 percent in the financial documents.

James' civil lawsuit sought to permanently bar Trump and his children, Donald Junior, Eric, and Ivanka, from running businesses in upstate New York. In addition, the Trumps are expected to repay at least $250 million.

It is still unclear whether the main proceedings can actually begin as planned on 2 October. Three months ago, a state appeals court ruled that some of the allegations were now time-barred. Trump has accused Engoron and James of ignoring this verdict and has requested a postponement of the proceedings. A decision by the Court of Appeal was expected later this week. Regardless of this and the other proceedings against him, Trump is by far the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination before the election in early November 2024.

aeh/cop/Reuters/dpa