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Attorney general initiates criminal probe into Trump Organization

NEW YORK, USA: The New York attorney general’s office has said it had begun a criminal investigation into former US President Donald Trump’s company, going beyond what was initially a civil probe.

Attorney General Letitia James has been investigating whether the Trump Organization falsely reported property values to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits.

“We have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the organization is no longer purely civil in nature,” Fabien Levy, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan DA,” he said.

The Trump Organization could not immediately be reached for comment. Trump has said that the investigation overseen by James, a Democrat, is politically motivated.

James has been investigating whether the Trump Organization inflated the values of some properties to obtain better loans, and lowered their values to obtain property tax breaks.

Separately, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has been investigating Trump’s pre-presidency business dealings for more than two years.

Vance’s office has said in court filings it was investigating “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct” at the former president’s Trump Organization, including tax and insurance fraud and falsification of business records.

Vance’s probe began after Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen paid hush money to silence two women before the 2016 election about claimed sexual encounters with Trump.

That probe has accelerated since Republican Trump lost his bid for a second term to President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

James launched a civil inquiry in March 2019 into claims that Trump had inflated the value of his assets to banks when seeking loans, and understated them to lower his taxes.

Her office has also been seeking documents on four Trump Organization properties in Manhattan, upstate New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr said in court documents last August that his office was investigating alleged “protracted criminal conduct” at the Trump Organization.

Vance’s legal filing cited newspaper articles about purported bank and insurance fraud at the company.

The Manhattan district attorney has also been investigating whether any of Trump’s financial records were doctored to cover up hush-money payments to two women in 2016 who say they had affairs with him.

Vance’s office said in February it had obtained Trump’s tax returns as part of the investigation, after a long legal battle.

Throughout his presidency, Trump resolutely refused to reveal his tax returns, despite coming under great pressure to do so.