A bid by campaigners to secure a ‘McMafia’ wealth order to force Donald Trump to explain where he got $60million to buy his flagship Scottish golf course has failed.
Edinburgh’s Court of Session was considering the Scottish government’s decision not to investigate Trump’s all-cash purchase of golf resort Turnberry, south of Glasgow.
Trump, an avid golfer whose mother was Scottish, bought Turnberry for $60million in 2014, while the Trump Organization also owns the Trump International Golf Links in Balmedie.
Company filings in the UK show that after the initial purchase of Turnberry, Trump’s company spent another $100million on course upgrades and other expenses.
In February, the Scottish government rejected a call to investigate how Trump funded the purchase of the luxury golf resort, prompting to advocacy group Avaaz to instruct lawyers to bring the case to Scotland’s top civil court.
But on Thursday, the campaigners’ bid was quashed as the court ruled ministers are not responsible for bringing unexplained-wealth orders (UWOs) against individuals, Business Insider reported.
Edinburgh’s Court of Session was considering the Scottish government’s decision not to investigate Trump’s (pictured) all-cash purchase of golf resort Turnberry, south of Glasgow
Trump, an avid golfer whose mother was Scottish, bought Turnberry for $60million in 2014, while the Trump Organization also owns the Trump International Golf Links in Balmedie
Britain introduced UWOs, also known as ‘McMafia’ orders after the BBC crime series by the same name, in 2018 to help authorities target the illicit wealth of foreign officials suspected of corruption and those involved in serious crimes.
They compel an individual to explain the source of their wealth but can pave the way for authorities to seize assets.
Bringing the case to the Court of Session, Avaaz argued a ‘towering cloud of suspicion’ hung over Trump’s purchase of Turnberry, but the court ruled it was not ministers’ responsibility to file a UWO against him.
Senior judge Craig Sandison agreed with the government’s decision not to probe the purchase, saying the responsibility to bring a UWO could be delegated to Scotland’s chief legal officer Dorothy Bain.
He said: ‘I do not find it possible to discern from section 396D any implicit Parliamentary intention that the Lord Advocate may not hold portfolio responsibility as the Scottish minister concerned with applying for a UWO, whether in relation to a politically exposed person or otherwise.’
Lord advocate Bain, who was appointed in June, could still put a McMafia order in action against the US businessman, 75, but she has not made any indication that she plans to do so.
In February, the government rejected a call to investigate how Trump funded the purchase of Turnberry, leading to advocacy group Avaaz bringing the case to Scotland’s top civil court
The court ruling has taken the responsibility for deciding whether to file a UWO against Trump away from Scottish ministers, but Avaaz have called on Bain to start an investigation.
Avaaz’s legal director Nick Flynn said: ‘The law may have been clarified, but a cloud of suspicion still hangs over Trump’s purchase of Turnberry.’
He added: ‘The Lord Advocate should take urgent action in the interest of the rule of law and transparency, and demand a clear explanation of where the $60m used to buy Turnberry came from.’
The court ruling comes after the Scottish government rejected a call to investigate how Trump funded the purchase of Turnberry and Trump International Golf Links in Balmedie.
The opposition Green Party brought forward a motion calling on ministers to seek a UWO against Trump but it was defeated by a vote of 89 to 32 in February.
Trump’s son Eric, the executive vice president of The Trump Organization, slammed the opposition party’s request as ‘pathetic’ at the time.
The court agreed with the government’s decision ministers are not responsible for applying for unexplained-wealth orders against individuals. Pictured: Donald Trump at Turnberry
Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie argued there were longstanding concerns about Trump’s financial conduct, but Eric said politicians should be focused on saving lives.
‘Patrick Harvie is nothing more than a national embarrassment with his pathetic antics that only serve himself and his political agenda,’ Eric Trump said in a statement before the vote.
Scottish ministers have the power to ask that a UWO be ordered by the Court of Session, Scotland’s top civil court.
However, UWOs have only been used sparingly by the National Crime Agency (NCA), which tackles serious crime, proving a legally difficult tool to wield.
‘If we have evidence that there were illicit funds involved … we could look at one,’ a spokesman for the NCA said earlier this year regarding the possibility of it seeking a UWO against the former US president.