Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Following the money - Scotland seeks ‘unexplained wealth order’ for Donald Trump resorts

Scots ministers told to seek ‘unexplained wealth order’ for Donald Trump resorts

’The Scottish Government has been urged to apply for an unexplained wealth order to investigate Donald Trump’s deals to acquire his Scottish properties.“ This was reported by Martyn McLaughlin back in Thursday, 27th February 2020. I got the tip from Aldous J Pennyfarthing at Daily Kos: Scotland may look at ‘serious and long-standing concerns about Trump’s business activities’ who remarked ”And, man oh man, if Scotland seized his golf courses, I might have to start believing in God again."

Patrick Harvie MSP, co-leader of the Scottish Greens, said there were reasonable grounds for suspecting that the US president, or people he is connected with, “have been involved in serious crime.”

He has called on ministers to apply to the Court of Session to seek answers as to how Mr Trump’s bankrolled his multimillion acquisitions of land and property in his mother’s homeland.

Responding at First Minister’s Questions, Nicola Sturgeon stressed she was “no defender” of Mr Trump, but said any allegations of criminality were a matter for Police Scotland and the Crown Office.

An UWO is a relatively new - and rarely used - power which has been designed to target suspected corrupt foreign officials who have potentially laundered stolen money through the UK.

The mechanism, introduced in 2018, is an attempt to force the owners of assets to disclose their wealth. If a suspected corrupt foreign official, or their family, cannot show a legitimate source for their riches, then authorities can apply to a court to seize the property.

Mr Trump and the Trump Organisation have always stressed that they did not require any outside financing for their Scottish resorts.

George Sorial, the Trump Organisation’s former chief compliance counsel, told The Scotsman in 2008 that it had £1bn “sitting in the bank and ready to go” for its inaugural Scottish course, located in Aberdeenshire.

Scotland on Sunday later revealed how the same year, Mr Trump asked the Bank of Scotland for a 15 year mortgage worth £23m, and a £15m construction loan, as part of his efforts to establish a “landmark” hotel at St Andrews in Fife, the home of golf. The bank refused, and Mr Trump’s plans were never realised.

Mr Harvie, an avowed critic of Mr Trump and his administration, said that an UWO was “designed precisely for these kinds of situations.”

He told MSPs: “Trump’s known sources of income do not explain where the money came from in these huge cash transactions. There are reasonable grounds for suspecting that his lawfully obtained income was insufficient.

“Trump is a politically exposed person in terms of the law, and there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that he, or people he is connected with, have been involved in serious crime. Some of them have pleaded guilty.”

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