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Will Trump deliver half a billion?

Donald Trump is said to have deposited around $464 million as bail in a fraud case – and after initial difficulties he actually wants to have raised the sum. Where the money comes from is unclear.

Antje Passenheim, WDR

New York's Attorney General threatens that she has Donald Trump's tower in her sights every day. “40 Wallstreet” is the name of the historic high-rise, diagonally opposite the stock exchange, not far from her office. Letitia James says she has everything in place to seize this and other properties owned by the Trump Organization as soon as the deadline expires.

“We will use every tool to enforce the judge’s ruling,” James said on ABC. “We will ask the judge to seize the property.” The New York justice system could get started immediately if the ex-president, who was convicted of fraud, did not cash in around half a billion dollars in time. That's how high the deposit for his fine is, plus interest.

New York judge Arthur Engoron sentenced Trump and two of his sons to this sentence in February. For inflating the assets of their family holding company in financial reports to deceive banks and insurers. The Trumps appealed. But until a decision is made, the deposit must be in the full amount of the penalty – in cash or with collateral.

“Nobody has that much cash freely available”

That is “impossible,” say Trump’s lawyers. They explained last week that their client did not have the money. That doesn't surprise anyone, says former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Adam Kaufmann. “Nobody has that much cash freely available on an ad hoc basis,” he told the ARD-Studio New York. “Not even America's biggest multi-billionaires.”

According to his lawyers, Trump also received rejections from 30 bail companies in his search for the money. “Trump's assets are largely tied to real estate. And the bail companies don't accept that as security,” said Kaufmann.

How much money does Trump have?

What the businessman Trump actually has remains a mystery. The US magazine “Forbes” currently estimates it at around 2.6 billion US dollars. However, he does not have this available in cash or shares. Most of it is in the form of real estate. But it is also questionable what Trump actually owns in these buildings and properties. Many are heavily indebted or have long since been sold and now only bear his name.

The tower at Wall Street number 40 is also called the “Trump Building”. But formally, a German shipping family and their business partners own the property and the building from 1930. According to court documents, Trump is only a tenant. And his declared rental income of over $660 million was also exposed as inflated in the fraud proceedings.

Its landmark, the black Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, is no easy feat either. It is unclear how much of it still belongs to the Trumps. Experts agree: The verdict is one thing. It still won't be easy to seize Trump's property on a large scale. Especially since the Trump Organization's business also ran through many sub-companies.

Seizure – also abroad?

Nevertheless, Attorney General James has already filed the necessary papers. “She initially targeted the Trump Organization’s property in New York State,” says lawyer Kaufmann. “But she can also extend the ruling to other states. Maybe even to other countries.”

Trump's golf resort in Scotland could also be affected. But speculation that the law arm could reach out to Trump's Mar-a-Lago property in Florida cannot be answered so easily, says Kaufmann. Under current Florida law, a citizen's private primary residence cannot be seized. And Mar-a-Lago is a mix of private and commercial property.

Use the verdict for the election campaign

But no matter what happens after the deadline – it will affect the Republican presidential candidate's account. CNN saw Trump already in “panic mode”. But while his lawyers want to persuade the court to reduce the bail, Trump is diligently using the spectacle for his election campaign. The Republican, who likes to project the image of a successful businessman, sees once again proof that the Democrats were after his property and were waging a “witch hunt” against him.

With the call “Keep your dirty hands off Trump Tower,” his campaign team asked supporters for donations. Amounts from $20 to $3,300 to get together the deposit. On Friday, Trump surprised everyone with a stock market deal: his media company merged with a corporate shell and thus quickly reached the trading floor. The deal is expected to give Trump a share package worth a good three billion dollars. But he doesn't get any money for the deposit. He is only expected to sell the shares six months after the IPO.

Credit from unknown source

Nevertheless, shortly before closing time, Trump announced that he had half a billion in cash for the bail. He ranted on NBC on Friday: “They just want to take the money away from me so that I can't use it for the election campaign.” This is a “corrupt group of people” who wanted to intervene in the election. However, Trump did not reveal where the cash injection came from. And he shouldn't have to, experts say.

Given Trump's credit history, hardly any ordinary major US donor or creditor should be willing to donate money, says lawyer Kaufmann, who specializes in fraud and corruption: “His – to put it kindly – interesting business practices of the past are now falling on Trump's feet.”

There is increasing speculation that the cash-strapped former president may have asked Russia or Saudi Arabia for financial help. In an interview with Fox News, Trump's lawyer Alina Habba did not dispel this suspicion. When asked by the moderator whether there were such moves by Trump's team, Habba replied: “Well, there are rules and regulations that are public.” She couldn't talk about the strategy. “That requires certain things and we have to follow those rules.”

Antje Passenheim, ARD New York, tagesschau, March 25, 2024 4:50 a.m

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