Judge opens door to investigating Trump’s golf resorts in Scotland

‘I grant permission for the petition to proceed without condition or restriction,’ Lord Sandison writes, paving the way for potential investigations

Nathan Place
New York
Wednesday 11 August 2021 21:34
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Donald Trump waves to screaming protesters at Turnberry in Scotland

Prosecutors still have a path to investigating Donald Trump’s two golf courses in Scotland, thanks to a new ruling by a judge in that country.

Lord Sandison of the Court of Session made the decision on Wednesday, allowing an appeal of the government’s previous decision not to launch the probe.

“I grant permission for the petition to proceed without condition or restriction,” the judge wrote.

Since February, a group of members of the Scottish Parliament have sought to investigate where Mr Trump got the cash to buy his two resorts, Trump Turnberry and Trump International Golf Links, Scotland. As the basis for that probe, the MPs sought an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO), a tool for investigating potential money laundering.

“This is not someone who inspires confidence in sound finances and sound business,” MSP Patrick Harvie, who has led the effort, told Mother Jones. “The fact that there are many allegations floating around that the US authorities have investigated, whether it’s in relation to Russia or his political dealings domestically – you don’t have to sniff the air very long to see there’s something that smells.”

The Trump Organization has denied any wrongdoing, and Eric Trump, the company’s executive vice president, has hit back particularly hard at Mr Harvie.

“Patrick Harvie is nothing more than a national embarrassment with his pathetic antics that only serve himself and his political agenda,” the former US president’s son told The Scotsman.

In any case, the Scottish government refused the request for an UWO – a victory for the Trumps.

On Wednesday, Lord Sandison paved the way to reverse that victory. Under his ruling, a judicial review can appeal the government’s decision not to issue the UWO – an appeal that the judge believes has “real prospects of success.”

The Trump Organization vehemently denounced the decision.

“This is political game-playing at its worst and a terrible waste of taxpayers’ money which further damages Scotland’s reputation as a serious country to invest in and do business,” Sarah Malone, executive vice president of Trump International, Scotland, told The Independent. “We have developed and operate two globally acclaimed, multi-award winning visitor destinations in Scotland and make a significant contribution to the Scottish leisure and tourism economy. This latest attempt to undermine that investment is an utter disgrace.”

Avaaz, the activism non-profit that sought Lord Sandison’s permission, will pursue the appeal. Scotland’s High Court will probably hear the case later this year.

Among the considerations behind Wednesday’s ruling were the Trump Organization’s recent legal troubles in New York, where its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, was indicted on 15 criminal charges. Lawyers for Avaaz argued that this gave even more reason to investigate the Trump resorts in Scotland.

“It’s evident from the matters set out in the petition that there are real and substantial concerns about financial arrangements of the Trump Organization, of which Mr Trump is the sole or principal owner,” Avaaz attorney Kay Springham told the judge.

That argument apparently proved persuasive.

On Wednesday, Mr Harvie welcomed the new ruling.

“I’m glad we are a step forward in getting some clarity over why Trump’s business dealings in Scotland haven’t been investigated,” the MSP told Insider. “An unexplained wealth order would be a clear signal that business in Scotland must be transparent and accountable, no matter the individual involved.”

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