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Trump's defence lawyer tells jurors he was unaware of tax fraud at his company

New York Edited By: Anamica SinghUpdated: Dec 02, 2022, 05:01 AM IST
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If convicted on all nine counts it faces, the company faces up to $1.6 million in fines. Trump, however, has not been charged. Photograph:(Reuters)

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She also said that Donald Bender, an accountant with the firm Mazars USA, did not pay heed to Weisselberg's wrongdoing and chose to stay silent. 

As the criminal trial of Donald Trump's real estate company nears its end, defence lawyer Susan Necheles told the 12-member jury in a New York state court in Manhattan that the former US president knew nothing about a greedy former senior executive's years-long tax fraud. "We are here today because of one reason and one reason only - the greed of Allen Weisselberg," Necheles said. "The purpose of Mr. Weisselberg's crimes was to benefit Mr. Weisselberg."

Weisselberg had earlier pleaded guilty to tax fraud and other charges under an agreement with prosecutors, and is expected to serve five months in jail.

She also said that Donald Bender, an accountant with the firm Mazars USA, did not pay heed to Weisselberg's wrongdoing and chose to stay silent. 

"President Trump relied on Mazars, he relied on Donald Bender to be the watchdog," Necheles said. "Bender failed."

Closing arguments by the prosecutors in the case are expected to be delivered on Thursday afternoon and Friday, with jury deliberations beginning on Monday.

The entire matter revolved around the Trump Organization which was charged in July 2021 with paying personal expenses for some executives without reporting the income. The were also compensated as if they were independent contractors, in a 15-year scheme to cheat tax authorities.

The prosecutors need to prove that Weisselberg and other executives acted as "high managerial agents" of the company when they carried out tax fraud, and that they intended to benefit the company in some way.

If convicted on all nine counts it faces, the company faces up to $1.6 million in fines. Trump, however, has not been charged.

Weisselberg had earlier testified his greed motivated him to cheat on taxes, and described the company's modest payroll tax savings as a "byproduct." He also said that he improperly received bonus payments as non-employee compensation. Other payments from the company,  such as his rent, car leases and other personal expenses were hid from tax authorities. 

Necheles told jurors, "The issue here is not whether as a byproduct the company saved some money...You see what he said. His intent was to benefit himself, not the company."

Meanwhile, Bender, who was the main defence witness, testified that he trusted Weisselberg to give him accurate financial information for the company's tax returns, and had no obligation to investigate further. Mazars cut ties with the Trump Organization in February.

(With inputs from agencies)

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