Scottish government challenged over refusal to investigate Donald Trump's purchase of golf resorts

Former US president bought Aberdeenshire and Turnberry estates for more than $300 million

The Scottish Parliament in February voted against a motion to investigate Donald Trump's cash deals for two golf resorts. Reuters
The Scottish Parliament in February voted against a motion to investigate Donald Trump's cash deals for two golf resorts. Reuters

The Scottish government is under mounting pressure over its decision not to investigate former US president Donald Trump's all-cash purchasing of two golf resorts in the country.

A judicial review has been sought over the failure to issue an unexplained wealth order against the Trump Organisation after a parliamentary vote in February.

Mr Trump bought the Aberdeenshire and Turnberry estates for more than $300 million in 2006 and 2014 respectively.

Some senior politicians in the US and Scotland questioned how Mr Trump managed to raise the money to buy these courses outright.

In the US, the New York state prosecutor last week said it was investigating the business dealings of The Trump Organisation in a “criminal capacity”. Mr Trump denies any wrongdoing.

The real estate mogul was known to leverage huge amounts of debt to finance global property deals, but his purchases of Scottish land were an exception.

In 2018, the UK government introduced unexplained wealth orders in a bid to stamp out money laundering. Those who are subject to such non-criminal proceedings must prove the money used to finance deals was earned legitimately.

In February, the Scottish Parliament voted by 89 to 32 against the motion to investigate the deals, which was brought by the minority Scottish Green Party.

Before the vote, Humza Yousaf – the Justice Minister and a member of the ruling Scottish National Party – called Mr Trump “deplorable” but said unexplained wealth orders should be instigated by authorities rather than politicians.

“There must not be political interference in the enforcement of the law," he said.

A 13-page petition states that the politicians who voted against the motion did so based on a flawed legal interpretation.

"Such a continued misapplication of the law would be contrary to the rule of law," it said.

A view of the hotel at the Turnberry Golf Resort, bought by The Trump Organisation in 2014. Reuters.
A view of the hotel at the Turnberry Golf Resort, bought by The Trump Organisation in 2014. Reuters.

Scotland's highest court will rule on whether its government has sole responsibility for issuing unexplained wealth orders, or if it lies within the remit of law enforcement officials.

The group said the legal standard for issuing the wealth order to Mr Trump was met and that Scotland's leaders failed to perform their duty.

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie told The National it was unclear why the Scottish Government "have dragged their heels" on the matter.

"It should never have got to the stage of a legal challenge from an NGO for them to confirm or deny whether they will seek a McMafia order on Trump's business dealings in Scotland," he said.

“The fact is there is now a criminal investigation under way in the US. Scotland’s reputation is at stake, and it is entirely within the powers of ministers to defend it. An unexplained wealth order would be a clear signal that business in Scotland must be transparent and accountable, no matter the individual involved.”

A Scottish government spokesman said it was "inappropriate for us to comment on an ongoing legal action".

Updated: May 25, 2021 05:25 PM

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