A Scottish court rejected efforts to compel the government to examine former President Donald Trump’s purchase of two golf properties in the country on Thursday, leaving the subject in the hands of the country’s top prosecutor.
In Scotland, like in the United States, where legislators have failed to hold Trump responsible and it has devolved to local prosecutors to conduct separate investigations, the onus is now firmly on Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain to act.
First Minister @NicolaSturgeon has met with the newly appointed Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC and Solicitor General Ruth Charteris QC. It is the first time both posts have been held by women simultaneously.
The FM said: "I believe together they will make a formidable team.” pic.twitter.com/0oKgYhs1Un
— ScotGov Justice (@ScotGovJustice) June 18, 2021
The Scottish government has been encouraged to conduct a long-awaited financial probe into Trump’s dodgy golf resort real estate agreements, but Lord Sandison’s 44-page legal judgment means that authorities may continue to drag their feet.
There has long been speculation about how Trump came up with the reputed $60 million cash in 2014 to purchase Trump Turnberry, a golf club in the windswept, green hills of the Scottish county of Ayrshire.
When the New York-based watchdog group Avaaz demanded that the Scottish government investigate, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon deflected the blame by putting it entirely on the nation’s chief prosecutor. Regrettably, authorities also declined to clarify whether or not they were taking action.
Avaaz filed a lawsuit earlier this year, arguing that ministers should be required to use a new anti-money laundering instrument known as a “unexplained wealth order.” Targeting him with a UWO is a civil, not a criminal, concern. However, Trump would still be forced to explain how he obtained the money—or risk having it taken. The complaint also attempted to place blame on government officials who are under political pressure to take action against Trump.
Craig Sandison, the judge, convened a hearing in October during which a government counsel argued that the work should be left to the country’s senior prosecutor and that the whole process should be kept as secret as possible.
By attempting to “neither confirm nor deny” any inquiry, the government even stole the CIA’s notorious “Glomar response.”
The judge’s decision on Thursday was totally in favor of the government, leaving the case to Bain, who is basically the nation’s attorney general. Sandison also declined to say if he felt a hypothetical probe had any merit.
“I wish to make it clear that I express no view whatsoever on the question of whether the [criminal law] requirements were or appeared to be met in the case of President Trump,” he wrote.
And he made it plain that the government may still move on and seek a judge’s authority to investigate Trump’s finances.
“Further, for aught yet seen the Scottish Ministers may still make a UWO application in relation to President Trump’s Scottish assets,” Sandison wrote.
However, he emphasized that government ministers had “wide discretion” in deciding whether or not to employ this anti-money laundering instrument.
Avaaz legal director Nick Flynn published a statement demanding action from Bain shortly after the judgment.
“The law may have been clarified, but a cloud of suspicion still hangs over Trump’s purchase of Turnberry. By any measure, the threshold to pursue a UWO to investigate the purchase has easily been crossed. 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,” he said.
According to a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization’s corporate organization in London, “Lord Sandison’s decision to reject this ridiculous petition is unsurprising.” Trump International Scotland executive vice president Sarah Malone earlier made a statement slamming the action for “clogging up the courts with this ridiculous charade.”
The Scottish government released a statement simply stating that a court judgement had been made.
Trump’s two Scottish golf properties continue to raise eyebrows. Financial papers reveal that they’ve been losing money year after year, totaling millions of dollars in losses—yet they continue to operate.