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Avaaz Wins — Judge gives go ahead for legal challenge to Scottish Government's refusal to investigate Trump's suspect Turnberry deal

(August 11th, 2021) —A judge has given the green light for a legal challenge against Scottish Ministers over their failure to seek an order to investigate Donald Trump's highly suspicious $60m purchase of the Turnberry golf course.

Today, Avaaz - the global campaigning organisation - won permission for a judicial review in a hearing in the Court of Session. Lord Sandison gave permission for the case to proceed, highlighting “the general and continuing public importance of the legal questions raised” among other things.

Nick Flynn, Legal Director at Avaaz, commented: "Today’s win means Scottish Ministers will now be challenged in court over their ongoing failure to seek an Unexplained Wealth Order (“UWO”) to investigate Trump's suspicious Turnberry purchase. Armed with a proper understanding of the law, we hope that Ministers agree that Trump’s purchase demands the transparency that only a UWO can bring. Scotland’s reputation for upholding the rule of law and combating money laundering depends on it.”

In April 2019, Avaaz sent Scottish Ministers a detailed briefing on the suspicion surrounding Trump’s $60m cash purchase of Turnberry in 2014

The briefing set out Trump’s long history of massive debts, bankruptcies and close association with money launderers and fraudsters, making the case for Scottish Ministers to seek a UWO, which would force Trump to clarify where the purchase money for Turnberry came from.

Trump’s finances are notoriously opaque and are the subject of ongoing federal and state criminal investigations in the United States. Scottish Ministers have the power to apply to Court for a UWO if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that Trump’s lawfully obtained income was insufficient to fund the $60m in cash he paid for Turnberry.

The granting of a UWO would force Trump to explain the source of the cash or risk confiscation of the golf course.

In February of this year, the Scottish Green Party brought forward a motion calling on Ministers to seek a UWO against Trump over his acquisition of Turnberry. The SNP and Conservatives voted together (by 89 votes to 32) to amend and water down the motion, which let the government off the hook and prolonged the uncertainty and doubt about Turnberry.

Nick Flynn added:  “Scottish Ministers have been turning a blind eye to the cloud of suspicion hanging over Trump Turnberry for far too long. The vote in Parliament in February was the perfect chance for Scottish Ministers to bring an end to two years of dithering but the SNP and Tories refused to take it.”

The judicial review is expected to start later this year at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Note to editors

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The funding for Trump’s Scottish golf resorts has been a mystery.

Despite Trump’s self-proclaimed fondness for relying on debt, the Trumps Organization has repeatedly claimed that it used its own money for most of its golf resort acquisitions and upgrades. In 2013 Trump’s son Eric reportedly told a journalist that the company’s golf properties were funded by Russians.

Trump's Scottish golf courses were raised in a US Congress inquiry as possible money laundering vehicles. Turnberry was the biggest in a $400m cash spending spree (at a time when most major banks shunned him) for which the source of the money remains unexplained.

The Trump Organisation and its Chief Financial Officer, Alan Weisselberg, are now under criminal investigation into tax fraud in the United States. Alan Weisselberg is registered at Companies House as a person with significant control of the Trump entity, Golf Recreation Limited, that owns Turnberry and, on 8 July 2021, was removed from the same role at Trump International Golf Club Scotland Ltd, the entity owning Balmedie golf course,

A paper put together by Aidan O’Neill QC earlier this year, on behalf of Avaaz, confirms that Scottish Ministers are collectively responsible for the decision to apply for one of the so-called 'McMafia' orders and may not lawfully abdicate that responsibility to anyone else.