Trump and the other defendants in the case, Engoron wrote in the ruling, “are incapable of admitting the error of their ways”,

“Their complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological,” Engoron wrote. “Instead, they adopt a ‘See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ posture that the evidence belies.”

Former US President Donald Trump and Justice Arthur Engoron listen to opening arguments during the civil fraud trial in New York in October 2023. Courtroom sketch: Jane Rosenberg via Reuters

The lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James accused Trump and his family businesses of overstating his net worth by as much as US$3.6 billion a year over a decade to fool bankers into giving him better loan terms. Trump, who faces criminal charges in four other cases, has called the lawsuit a political vendetta by James, a Democrat.

In posts on his social media platform, Trump called Engoron “crooked”, James “corrupt”, and the case against him “ELECTION INTERFERENCE” and a “WITCH HUNT”.

“This ‘decision’ is a Complete and Total SHAM,” Trump wrote. “We cannot let injustice stand.”

Engoron, who decided the case without a jury, also barred Trump and his companies named in the suit from applying for loans from any financial institution chartered in New York for three years, which could curtail his ability to obtain credit from major US banks.

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The judge said Trump and his companies’ past run-ins with the law were part of the reason for the stiff penalties. The Trump Organization was found guilty of criminal tax fraud in 2022. Two other entities Trump ran previously settled allegations of wrongdoing brought by New York state.

Trump and his adult sons, Don Jnr and Eric, were defendants in the case. The judge ordered them to pay US$4 million apiece. Their lawyer Clifford Robert called the decision a “gross injustice” and said he believes it will be overturned on appeal.

Former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, who previously pleaded guilty to tax fraud in a separate criminal case, was ordered to pay US$1 million and barred for life from managing any New York company’s finances.

James said the penalties paid by all defendants totalled more than US$450 million, including interest.

“Donald Trump is finally facing accountability for his lying, cheating and staggering fraud,” James said in a statement. “Because no matter how big, rich or powerful you think you are, no one is above the law.”

03:15

Trump gained over US$100 million through fraud, New York says as civil trial starts

Trump gained over US$100 million through fraud, New York says as civil trial starts

The judge’s decision could deal a major blow to Trump’s real estate empire even as the businessman-turned-politician leads by a wide margin in the race for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the November 5 US election.

During defiant and meandering trial testimony in November, Trump conceded that some of his property values were inaccurate but insisted banks were obliged to do their own due diligence.

Engoron criticised Trump for his behaviour during his testimony – and wrote that the testimony hurt his cause.

“Donald Trump rarely responded to the questions asked, and he frequently interjected long, irrelevant speeches on issues far beyond the scope of the trial,” the judge wrote. “His refusal to answer the questions directly, or in some cases, at all, severely compromised his credibility.”

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Trump could be required to deposit his portion of the full judgment plus interest during an appeal. Trump could also post a smaller amount with collateral and interest by securing a type of loan called an appeal bond. But he may have trouble finding a willing lender after Engoron found he lied to banks about his wealth.

It is unclear how much access to cash Trump has, and estimates of his fortune vary, with Forbes pegging his net worth at US$2.6 billion. Trump testified in a deposition last year that he had roughly US$400 million in cash.

Trump’s stake in the parent of his social media app Truth Social is now worth about US$4 billion, based on how the shares of a black-check acquisition vehicle that has agreed to merge with it trade. Trump will be allowed to sell shares in the combined company six months after the merger is completed, according to a regulatory filing. US financial regulators gave the deal the green light this week.

While Trump could also sell of parts of his real estate portfolio to satisfy the judgment, it is unclear how much his holdings are worth, and selling them could take time. Trump will not be able to use campaign funds to pay the judgment because the case was not related to his campaign or his conduct as a president or political candidate, according to some legal experts.

Trump Tower is seen in New York on Friday. Photo: Bloomberg

Trump is under indictment in four criminal cases, including one in New York related to hush money payments he made to a porn star ahead of the 2016 election. The judge overseeing that case on Thursday set a March 25 trial date.

Trump has also been charged in Florida for his handling of classified documents upon leaving office and in Washington and in Georgia for his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in all four cases.

During the New York civil case, Trump lashed out in the courtroom on January 11 – the day of closing arguments – against the judge and James while proclaiming his innocence.

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“You have your own agenda,” Trump scolded Engoron, who told Trump’s lawyer “control your client”.

The judge during the trial had fined Trump US$15,000 for twice violating a gag order against disparaging court staff.

Engoron ruled in September that Trump’s financial statements were fraudulent, leaving the focus of the trial on how much Trump should pay in penalties.