The Trump Organisation and its long-time finance chief have pleaded not guilty to tax charges arising from a two-year investigation into former president Donald Trump's company.
It is the first criminal case the New York authorities' investigation has yielded. According to the indictment filed on Wednesday and unveiled yesterday, from 2005 until this year Allen Weisselberg and the company cheated the state and city out of taxes by conspiring to pay senior executives off the books.
Prosecutor Carey Dunne described a 15-year scheme "orchestrated by the most senior executives", including chief financial officer Weisselberg, that was "sweeping and audacious".
Mr Trump was not charged at this stage of the investigation, which was jointly pursued by New York district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr and attorney general Letitia James, both Democrats, and Mr Dunne insisted politics played no role in the decision to bring charges.
Weisselberg (73), was photographed walking into a building that houses the criminal courts and the Manhattan district attorney's office. He was led into court later with his hands cuffed behind his back. His lawyers, Mary Mulligan and Bryan Skarlatos, said in a statement before his appearance that the executive would "fight these charges in court".
A lieutenant to generations of Trumps, Weisselberg has intimate knowledge of the former president's business dealings and the case could give prosecutors the means to pressure him into co-operating with an ongoing probe into other aspects of the company's business.
So far there's no sign that the man regarded by Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka as a "fiercely loyal" deputy, who has "stood alongside my father and our family" for decades, will suddenly turn on them. The Trump Organisation defended Weisselberg, saying he was being used by Mr Vance's office as "a pawn in a scorched-earth attempt to harm the former president".
"This is not justice; this is politics," the Trump Organisation said.
Mr Trump did not respond to reporters' questions about the case as he visited Texas on Wednesday. Earlier in the week, he blasted New York prosecutors as "rude, nasty, and totally biased" and said his company's actions were "standard practice throughout the US business community, and in no way a crime".