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US: Trump family business fraud trial begins

Google Oneindia News

Washington, Oct 25: The trial of Donald Trump's company on charges of fraud and tax evasion began in New York on Monday and the first big task was picking a jury who didn't have a strong opinion about the former United States president.

The Trump Organization — currently run by Trump's older sons, Donald Jr and Eric Trump — has been charged with hiding compensation it paid to top executives between 2005 and 2021 by prosecutors in Manhattan.

Donald Trump

Trump's family business and its then-chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, were charged last year by the Manhattan district attorney's office.

The trial is among several of Trump's piled up legal concerns as he mulls another shot at the presidency in 2024.

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The former president — who is not named in the case — dismissed the trial as a political stunt and denounced the charges as a "witch hunt" by rivals.

"The highly partisan Democrat Witch Hunt goes on, this time in New York... right during the important Midterm Elections, of course," he said on social media, ahead of congressional elections on November 8.

Jury selection

The process of selecting a 12-member jury has begun, with Justice Juan Merchan presiding over a trial.

He has said the trial could last six weeks.

About half of an initial pool of 132 prospective jurors didn't mae the jury before formal questioning started, with some telling the media outside the courtroom that they know they couldn't be fair in a trial related to Trump.

Trump himself is not on trial and is not expected to testify.

But Merchan and the lawyers in the case were looking to keep individuals off the jury if they have strong feelings about the Republican.

Questioning of the first group of prospective jurors was scheduled to continue on Tuesday, with lawyers from each side allowed to ask questions for half an hour.

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Once a sufficient number of prospective jurors have been screened, lawyers will be permitted to exclude more individuals from the panel to reach the final twelve.

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The trial is expected to focus on the actions and testimony of longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty in August to 15 counts of tax fraud.

He also admitted concealing $1.76 million (€1.78 million) in income.

According to his plea deal, Weisselberg — a close friend of the Trump family — has agreed to pay nearly $2 million in fines and complete a five-month prison sentence in exchange for testimony during the trial.

So far, he has refused to give testimony directly implicating the ex-president in the scheme.

"This plea agreement directly implicates the Trump Organization in a wide range of criminal activity and requires Weisselberg to provide invaluable testimony in the upcoming trial against the corporation," Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg had said in August.

If found guilty, the Trump Organization faces potential fines of over $1.5 million.

dvv/jsi (AFP, AP, Reuters)

Source: DW

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