22:09 GMT26 November 2020
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    Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is standing trial on charges of fraud and extortion, according to court documents.

    NEW YORK (Sputnik) — Prosecutors alleged during opening arguments that Silver used "his official capacity as Speaker of the Assembly" to provide "benefits to himself and his family," court documents filed on Tuesday revealed.

    Silver, who became a member of the State Assembly in 1976 and a Speaker in 1994, allegedly collected nearly $4 million in bribes and kickbacks related to real estate, healthcare and "referral fees" — all of which were misrepresented as outside legal fees, the charges against him show.

    "We allege that Sheldon Silver… was on retainer to a mammoth real estate developer at the very same time that the chamber he dominates was considering and passing legislation vitally affecting the bottom line of that developer," US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement in January.

    At the same time, Bharara added, "he was hearing out lobbyists paid by that developer and at the very same time that he was deliberately keeping secret from the public any information about this lucrative side-deal, in violation of the law."

    Attorneys for Silver have labelled the federal charges "meritless," and vowed that the former Speaker would exonerate himself in court.

    Silver stepped down as Speaker in February 2015, but still remains an active New York State assemblyman representing lower Manhattan.


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