New York state's attorney-general on Friday said Donald Trump may have fraudulently inflated his fortune by far more than previously thought, her latest salvo in preparation for trial in her civil lawsuit against the former US president and his family business.
In a filing with a New York state court in Manhattan, Attorney-General Letitia James said her valuation and accounting experts believe Trump falsely boosted his net worth by between US$1.9 billion (RM8.89 billion) and US$3.6 billion (RM16.84 billion) a year over a decade.
That's higher than the US$812 million to US$2.23 billion range she estimated last week based on what she called "undisputed" evidence – which Trump disputes.
James said a "mountain of evidence" shows how Trump and his associates lied about his assets and net worth to obtain better terms on loans and insurance, justifying a ruling even before the Oct 2 trial that his financial statements were fraudulent.
The attorney-general wants a US$250 million fine, and to bar Trump and his sons Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump from leading their family business, the New York City-based Trump Organization.
Lawyers for Trump, who wants the entire case dismissed, fired back six minutes after James' filing.
They said Trump was "without question, worth many billions of dollars," and had even made "substantial sums of money" for the companies that financed and insured the real estate properties in his "phenomenal corporate empire."
"There was no fraud. There are no victims," the lawyers said.
Trump's lawyers also maintained that statutes of limitations bar most of James' claims, and accused her of having "maligned, demeaned, and libelled Trump and his entire family via an opportunistic lawsuit filed for political gain."
James is a Democrat, while Trump holds a dominant lead in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
The judge, Arthur Engoron, has scheduled a Sept 22 hearing on both sides' motions for summary judgment.
His rulings could narrow the scope or, if Trump wins, eliminate the need for a trial, which could run until just before Christmas.
The case is separate from four criminal indictments that Trump faces, including two for attempting to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden. Trump has pleaded not guilty in all four criminal cases.
James' lawsuit disputes how Trump valued several of his properties, including his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and his penthouse triplex atop Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan.
Citing her experts, James said Trump may have inflated his net worth by US$3.5 billion to US$3.6 billion every year from 2014 to 2019, the last three while Trump was in the White House.
Trump's fortune, as reflected in his financial statements, peaked at US$6.1 billion in 2015, 2018 and 2019, James said.
On Wednesday, Engoron rejected Trump's bid to delay the trial until at least three weeks after he ruled on the summary judgment motions.
The New York civil case is New York v Trump et al, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 452564/2022.