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Steve Bannon surrenders to authorities in fraud case over wall on Mexican border

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onald Trump’s longtime ally Steve Bannon has surrendered to face fresh charges that he duped donors who gave money to build a wall on the US-Mexico border.

The former White House chief strategist handed himself in to the Manhattan district attorney on Thursday, the AP news agency reports.

Bannon is facing state charges relating to alleged fraud, having previously faced similar charges on a federal level.

The attempted federal prosecution ended abruptly before trial however, when Trump pardoned Bannon on his last day in office.

Presidential pardons apply only to federal crimes, not state offences.

Bannon, 68, arrived at the Manhattan district attorney’s office shortly after 9am on Thursday.

It came after he acknowledged in a statement on Tuesday that he would soon be charged.

Bannon said District Attorney Alvin Bragg “has now decided to pursue phony charges against me 60 days before the midterm election,” accusing the Democratic prosecutor of targeting him because Bannon and his radio show are popular among Trump’s Republican supporters.

Bannon said federal prosecutors “did the exact same thing in August 2020 to try to take me out of the election,” referring to his arrest months before Trump’s re-election loss. “This is nothing more than a partisan political weaponization of the criminal justice system,” he said.

In August 2020, federal agents pulled Bannon from a luxury yacht off the Connecticut coast and arrested him on charges he pocketed more than $1 million in wall donations.

Prosecutors alleged thousands of investors were tricked into thinking all of their donations would go toward the border wall project, but Bannon instead paid a salary to one campaign official and personal expenses for himself.

Bannon served as White House chief strategist under Donald Trump

/ AFP

While the wall Bannon’s group proposed was to be built on America’s southern border, more than 1,000 miles from the Big Apple, Manhattan prosecutors have jurisdiction to pursue charges against Bannon because some donors to the effort lived in New York.

Federal prosecutors, in the trial of a former Bannon co-defendant, noted that some residents of the New York City area had donated to the wall-building project. One witness that testified was an official with the charities bureau of the New York attorney general’s office who said that a charity backing the wall project had filed paperwork to accept donations in the state. The attorney general’s office is also involved in Bannon’s state criminal case.

Bannon, who had pleaded not guilty to the federal charges, was dropped from the federal case when Trump pardoned him.

Two other men involved in the “We Build the Wall” project pleaded guilty in April. They had been scheduled to be sentenced this week, but that was recently postponed to December.

A third defendant’s trial ended in a mistrial in June after jurors said they could not reach a unanimous verdict.

In another case not covered by Trump’s pardon, Bannon was convicted in July on contempt charges for defying a congressional subpoena from the House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. He is scheduled to be sentenced in October and faces up to two years in federal prison.

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