NEW YORK - Donald Trump’s children did not discipline the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg and even raised his salary after learning in 2017 he cheated on taxes for more than a decade, Weisselberg testified on Friday at the company’s criminal tax fraud trial.
Weisselberg testified that the real estate company cleaned up its tax practices in anticipation of additional scrutiny after Trump became president and his children, Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump, took over in 2017.
Neither Trump nor his children have been accused of wrongdoing. The company has pleaded not guilty. Weisselberg, who has admitted to avoiding taxes on some US$1.76 million (S$2.42 million) of income, pleaded guilty in August as part of a plea deal that required him to testify at trial.
During the cleanup, both Trump children became aware that the company had paid Weisselberg for personal expenses, additional income that he did not report to tax authorities, Weisselberg said. He added that they also learned he and other executives received bonuses as if they were independent contractors.
When Susan Hoffinger, a prosecutor with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, asked whether the Trump Organization demoted or disciplined him, Weisselberg said no.
“Were you in fact given a raise ... that totaled approximately US$200,000?“ Hoffinger said.
“Correct,” said Weisselberg, who is now on paid leave. He has said his salary and bonus this year exceeded US$1 million, and he hopes to receive another bonus in January.
Weisselberg added that the company also did not fire or otherwise discipline two other executives who had engaged in similar practices. He said he had little interaction with Trump himself about the company after he became president.
To prove the Trump Organization is guilty, prosecutors must show Weisselberg and other executives acted in their official capacities with the company when they allegedly cheated on taxes.
Lawyers for the company have argued that Weisselberg acted for his own benefit. Susan Necheles, a lawyer for the company, said that Weisselberg and the other executives had stood by the company when it went through financial difficulties in the 1990s, and now Trump was standing by him in the “worst time of your life.”
“You don’t take that to mean that he approves of what you did?“ Necheles asked Weisselberg on cross-examination.
“No,” Weisselberg replied. REUTERS