Scottish group seeks source of Trump funds for golf courses
LONDON – A Scottish judge on Wednesday paved the way for a possible investigation into the purchase of Donald Trump’s two golf courses in Scotland, in a move that could force the former president to explain how he financed the deals.
The Scottish government had resisted pressure to demand financial details from Mr Trump through an “unexplained wealth order,” a powerful legal instrument typically deployed against figures in organized crime or drug trafficking.
But on Wednesday, a judge ruled that Avaaz, an online campaign group, should have the right to challenge the government’s rejection of calls for such a ruling.
Dubbed “McMafia Orders,” unexplained makeshift orders were introduced in 2018 to bolster the government’s arsenal against organized crime. Those who are subject to it may ultimately be forced to give up their assets if they are unable to satisfactorily explain how they were purchased.
While it is far from clear that such an investigation will ever be opened in this case, Wednesday’s court ruling is nonetheless a setback for Mr. Trump, whose financial and fiscal operations are under investigation. in the USA.
“It was a hurdle we had to get over, and now we can get to the bottom of it,” said Nick Flynn, Avaaz General Counsel, welcoming the decision.
“If you think there is no reasonable suspicion about these purchases, I think you haven’t paid attention,” he added. “It is the collective responsibility of Scottish ministers to act on this.”
Mr Trump bought a golf course near Aberdeen in 2006. But activists focused their questions more on buying the larger and more prestigious Turnberry property for $ 60 million in 2014 – a time when he reported substantial losses on his tax returns. . Despite the Trump Organization’s nearly $ 300 million investment, none of the Scottish properties have made a profit.
Although Eric Trump once said that most of the company’s funding came from Russia in those years, he has since said that golf course investments are funded by company funds. Mr. Trump himself has denied that the money came from Russia.
Sarah Malone, executive vice president of Trump International Scotland, on Wednesday described the attempt to investigate funding for the organization’s golf courses as “a political game at its height and a terrible waste of taxpayer money. which further damages Scotland’s reputation as a serious country in which to invest and do business.
“We have developed and operated two world-renowned and multiple award-winning tourist destinations in Scotland and make a significant contribution to the Scottish leisure and tourism economy. This latest attempt to undermine this investment is a complete disgrace, ”Ms. Malone said in a statement.
Scottish ministers initially rejected the idea of issuing an unexplained wealth order, and there has been a dispute over who is responsible for allowing such an investigation. In February, the Scottish Parliament voted against a motion, brought forward by the Scottish Green Party, which would have asked for more details on the source of the Trump Organization’s money.
But on Wednesday before the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest civil court, judge Lord Sandison sided with Avaaz, saying his legal claim “had real prospects of success” and that he There was “a reasonable legal argument to be made on the issues raised by the petition. He also rejected the Scottish government’s arguments that the petition was filed too late to proceed.
The move was welcomed by Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie, who said in a statement he was “happy that we have taken a step forward to clarify why Trump’s trade relations in Scotland have failed. not investigated. It should never have come to the stage of a legal challenge by a non-governmental organization for the Scottish government to confirm or deny whether it will seek a ‘McMafia order’.
In a statement, the Scottish Government said “it would be inappropriate for us to comment on an ongoing legal action”.