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Scotland could pursue a money-laundering investigation into Trump's golf courses, a judge ruled after lawyers cited the Trump Organization criminal cases in New York

Business Insider logo Business Insider 8/11/2021 tcolson@businessinsider.com (Thomas Colson)
Donald Trump holding a pair of people wearing costumes: Donald Trump in Scotland. Getty © Getty Donald Trump in Scotland. Getty
  • Scottish lawmakers and campaigners have pushed for a probe into how Trump funded his golf resorts.
  • The Scottish government rejected the inquiry, known as an unexplained wealth order, in February.
  • But on Wednesday, a judge said a campaign group could appeal that rejection.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Scotland could pursue a so-called McMafia investigation into former President Donald Trump's Scottish golf courses after a judge heard that there were "real and substantial concerns" about the Trump Organization and its finances.

Opposition lawmakers in the Scottish Parliament and campaigners have been pushing since January for an investigation into how Trump funded the all-cash purchases of his two Scottish golf resorts, Turnberry and Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire.

Turnberry, the more expensive resort, cost more than $60 million in 2014, and Trump claimed to have spent another $150 million refurbishing it.

Campaigners have argued that the purchases were suspicious because Trump had financed large-scale purchases with debt before purchasing both resorts in a $400 million spending spree.

In February, the Scottish government decided not to pursue an unexplained wealth order, also known as a "McMafia" order, against the Trump Organization. UWOs were introduced in the UK in 2018 to crack down on money laundering and have in some cases led to the confiscation of assets purchased using suspicious funds.

But on Wednesday, Lord Sandison of the Court of Session in Scotland gave permission for a judicial review to appeal the government's decision not to pursue the investigation.

"I grant permission for the petition to proceed without condition or restriction," he wrote.

He said that the review had "real prospects of success" and that "there was a sensible legal argument to be had on the matters raised by the petition."

The appeal was brought by the campaign group Avaaz.

The case is likely to be heard later this year at Scotland's High Court. Avaaz hopes it could overturn the Scottish government's opposition to a UWO into the Trump Organization.

Kay Springham, the attorney who represented Avaaz during the permission hearing, argued that ongoing criminal and civil investigations into the Trump Organization in New York were proof that the former president's business dealings in Scotland should be investigated, The Scotsman reported.

She said criminal charges filed in July against Allen Weisselberg, the organization's chief financial officer, who retains a leadership position at Trump's Turnberry resort, provided further grounds for investigation.

Parliament rejected calls for a UWO in February, saying that only legal officers - rather than ministers - had the power to initiate such investigations. The motion, brought by the Scottish Green Party leader Patrick Harvie, was defeated 89-32.

At the time, Trump's son Eric dismissed Harvie's allegations against the Trump Organization and called him a "national embarrassment."

Harvie welcomed Wednesday's 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," he said in a statement.

"It should never have got to the stage of a legal challenge from an NGO for the Scottish Government to confirm or deny whether they will seek a McMafia order.

"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."

The Scottish government and the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.

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