New York, Jul 1 (EFE).- The Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, pleaded not guilty here Thursday to felony charges for ostensibly conspiring to commit tax fraud.
Weisselberg, who turned himself in to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office early Thursday before the unsealing of the grand jury indictment, appeared in court in handcuffs, but was released on his own recognizance after surrendering his passport.
He was joined in front of the judge by other senior executives of the business owned by former United States President Donald Trump.
“The charges relate to the alleged failure by Weisselberg to pay New York state and federal income taxes on approximately $1.7 million in compensation,” the office of New York state Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement.
The investigation, initiated by Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. and joined by the AG’s office, “will continue, and we will follow the facts and the law wherever they may lead,” the statement said.
Though the former president has not been charged in connection with the alleged misconduct by his company, he was quick to denounce the indictment.
“The political Witch Hunt by the Radical Left Democrats, with New York now taking over the assignment, continues. It is dividing our Country like never before!,” Donald Trump said in a statement.
Observers suggest that prosecutors will seek to use the charges against Weisselberg to pressure the 73-year-old accountant into providing damaging information about Trump.
But insiders describe Weisselberg, who joined the company in 1973, as very loyal to the former president, and the attorney for the Trump Organization, Alan Futerfas, said that the charges would be “vigorously contested by people who are experts in the field and know this law very, very well.”
The indictment contends that between 2005 and June 2021, Weisselberg received $1.76 million in under-the-table compensation from the Trump Organization in the form of lodging and tuition payments for members of his family, among other benefits.
By failing to declare that compensation, Weisselberg evaded more than $900,000 in federal, state and municipal taxes, prosecutors say.
The Trump Organization accused Vance of using Weisselberg as “a pawn in a scorched earth attempt to harm the former president.”
“The district attorney is bringing a criminal prosecution involving employee benefits that neither the IRS (Internal Revenue Service – the US tax agency) nor any other district attorney would ever think of bringing. This is not justice; this is politics,” the Trump Organization said. EFE mvs/dr