LONDON – A Scottish judge on Wednesday opened the way for a possible investigation into the purchase of Donald Trump’s two golf courses in Scotland in a ruling that could force the former president to explain how he financed the deal.
The Scottish government had resisted pressure to require Trump to provide financial details through an “unexplained property regime,” a powerful legal instrument normally used against leaders in organized crime or drug trafficking.
But on Wednesday a judge ruled that Avaaz, an online campaign group, should be given the right to challenge the rejection of the government’s request for such a move.
Nicknamed “McMafia Orders,” inexplicable property orders were introduced in 2018 to strengthen the government’s armory against organized crime. Those affected can ultimately be forced to forfeit their property if they cannot adequately explain how they were acquired.
While it is far from clear that such an investigation will ever come into this case, Wednesday’s court ruling is nonetheless a setback for Mr Trump, whose financial and tax affairs in the United States are under investigation.
“This was a hurdle that we had to overcome and we can now get down to business,” said Nick Flynn, Avaaz’s legal director, welcoming the verdict.
“If you think there is no reasonable suspicion in these purchases, I don’t think you were paying attention,” he added. “It is the collective responsibility of Scottish Ministers to respond.”
Mr Trump bought a golf course near Aberdeen in 2006. But activists have focused more on buying the larger and more prestigious Turnberry estate for $ 60 million in 2014 – a time when he was reporting significant losses on his income tax return. Despite the Trump Organization’s nearly $ 300 million investment, none of the Scottish properties has made a profit.
Although Eric Trump once said that most of the company’s funding came from Russia during those years, he has since said that the golf course investments were funded from company funds. Trump himself has denied that the money came from Russia.
On Wednesday, Sarah Malone, executive vice president of Trump International Scotland, described the attempt to investigate funding for the organization’s golf courses as “a political game at its worst, and a terrible waste of taxpayers’ money that undermines Scotland’s reputation as a serious country in.” that you can invest and do business. “
“We have developed and operated two globally recognized, award-winning Scotland visitor destinations and are a major contributor to the Scottish leisure and tourism industry. This recent attempt to undermine that investment is an absolute shame, ”Ms. Malone said in a statement.
The Scottish Ministers initially rejected an inexplicable property warrant and there was a dispute over whose responsibility it was to authorize such an investigation. In February, the Scottish Parliament voted against a motion by the Scottish Green Party that would have asked for more details on the source of the Trump organization’s money.
But on Wednesday, Judge Lord Sandison in the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest civil court, sided with Avaaz, saying that his legal claim had “a real chance of success” and that there was “a reasonable legal argument on the matter” raised by the petition . “He also rejected the Scottish Government’s arguments that the petition was too late to proceed.
The decision was welcomed by Scottish Greens co-chief Patrick Harvie, who said in a statement that he was “glad we are taking a step forward to clarify why Trump’s dealings in Scotland have not been investigated. There should never have been a legal challenge by a non-governmental organization on behalf of the Scottish Government to confirm or deny whether they will apply for a ‘McMafia order’. “
In a statement, the Scottish Government said it would be “inappropriate for us to comment on an ongoing legal process”.