It looks like the Trump Organization may have managed to deceive and defraud yet another business partner.
Yet another court filing brings to light that the Trump Organization did something shady. This time, it involves mismanaging a hotel, lying about its financial condition, and evading taxes in Panama.
The first two seem like run-of-the-mill Trump failings, but the third, if true, would mean that a company owned by the president of the United States was defrauding a foreign government.
For the past 18 months, Trump's company has been in the midst of a well-publicized fight with Orestes Fintiklis, whose companies control a majority of the property formerly known as the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Panama.
Fintiklis alleged that the Trump Organization had so severely mismanaged the property that profits had plummeted and that it was "virtually empty." The dispute spilled into the public eye in a spectacularly high-profile way in March 2018, when Fintiklis ousted the Trump Organization from its management role and then had the Trump name taken off the property with a crowbar.
The latest accusations, though, go far beyond whether the Trump Organization was incompetent at running a hotel. Fintiklis alleges that the Trump Organization — specifically Eric Trump — said that the Trump property was outpacing the market in Panama, thanks to Trump's operation of the hotel. Fintiklis says that is part of what induced him to buy a majority of the rooms and that it was also entirely false.
But it doesn't stop there.
Fintiklis also alleges that Trump failed to pay income taxes to Panama on the fees they got from managing the property, that Trump under-reported employee salaries to Panama, and under-reported the amount of management fees it took.
The complaint against Trump says this all came to light when the Panamanian tax authorities audited the property, and found that the Trump Organization wasn't withholding and paying income taxes on those management fees. Instead, the complaint says, the organization just paid itself and its affiliates.
There's also an allegation that Trump's company was lying to the Panamanian social security agency about how much employees made. The complaint says that in at least one confirmed instance the amount the employee earned was higher than what was reported to the tax authorities — which would have the result of Trump paying less in employment-related taxes.
Now, says Fintiklis, he's on the hook with Panama for a potentially multimillion-dollar tax penalty. And, thanks to Trump's misrepresentations about the hotel, he now owns a property that Trump said was in great shape but is instead "dirty and mismanaged" and was in dead last for occupancy rates by 2017.
Misrepresentation, mismanagement, and tax evasion. By now, this is a depressingly familiar story about Trump, his family, and his company.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.