Former US president Donald Trump is to be fined $10,000 per day after a judge in New York found that he was in contempt of court.
The court accepted that Mr Trump failed to produce documents ordered as part of a civil investigation into business practices at his company which is being carried out by the office of the attorney general of New York state.
“I believe that civil contempt is appropriate,” New York state court judge Arthur Engoron said at a Monday hearing.
“Mr Trump, I know you take your business seriously, and I take mine seriously. I hereby hold you in civil contempt,” the judge said.
The former president, who was not in court for the hearing on Monday, was fined $10,000 per day until he complied with the order to produce the documentation.
The attorney general of New York state had urged a judge to hold the former president in contempt for not producing documents subpoenaed in an investigation into whether the Trump Organisation, his family company based in New York city, misstated the values of its real estate properties to obtain favourable loans and tax deductions.
A lawyer for the state’s attorney general told the court that New York was likely to bring an enforcement action against Mr Trump’s company “in the near future”.
New York state attorney general Letitia James has said her investigation has found “significant evidence” suggesting that for more than a decade the company’s financial statements “relied on misleading asset valuations and other misrepresentations to secure economic benefits”.
Mr Trump some time ago lost a bid to quash a subpoena from Ms James’s office for documents relating to the investigation. He was ordered to hand over the material by early March which was later extended until March 31st.
However, lawyers representing the attorney general’s office told the judge in New York state court in Manhattan on Monday that it had received “zero documents” from Mr Trump by the deadline.
Mr Trump has argued that he did not have any additional documentation relating to the case.
The judge called the lack of an affidavit from Mr Trump confirming he had no more records relating to the subpoenas the “800-pound gorilla in the room”.
Mr Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, said she would be willing to amend a response she had filed with the court to affirm that she personally searched filing cabinets outside her client’s office at Trump Tower in Manhattan, reviewed records stored in closets and off-site and interviewed him about the records in person in Florida. She said all the records had been turned over.
“President Trump does not email, he does not text-message and he has no work computer at home or anywhere else,” Ms Habba said.
“Why don’t we have an affidavit from him?” the judge pressed Ms Habba. “You flew down to make sure he didn’t have anything else. Why don’t we have an affidavit from him?”
Ms Habba said Mr Trump would sign such an affidavit if she asked him to do so.
“How do you know that he will swear to that under oath?” the judge asked.
“My client is an honest person, much to the dismay of some of the people in this room,” Ms Habba said.
Mr Trump intends to appeal the contempt ruling. Ms Habba said. “We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision.”