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Nicola Sturgeon did not abdicate responsibility over failure to probe Donald Trump’s golf dealings, say ministers

THE FIRST Minister did not abdicate collective responsibility in connection with a failure to commission investigations into how former president Donald Trump financed the purchase of his Scottish golf courses, ministers have said.

The assertion came as Avaaz, a US-based international human rights organisation takes up a judicial review over what it alleges is an unlawful failure to pursue the probe, saying the Scottish Government “failed to understand their role and responsibilities” and “misdirected” itself.

They say that the failure to act has wider implications in risking the country being seen as a safe haven for the proceeds of crime, especially when Scottish Ministers have both the power and the responsibility to investigate.

Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament the government could not launch a probe in relation to Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO), also known as a McMafia order, and the responsibility for the investigation lay with the Crown Office’s Civil Recovery Unit.

Avaaz argue that as Scottish ministers were collectively responsible for sanctioning the investigation it was “incompatible” to have the Lord Advocate, the chief legal officer of the Scottish Government and the Crown in Scotland, to have sole control as the designated minister.

Ruth Crawford QC for the Scottish Government dismissed a claim that there was any failure.

She said that under the Scotland Act, responsibility for seeking a UWO is conferred on Scottish ministers and not on the First Minister alone.

She added that the fact the First Minister may allocate the responsibility to an individual Scots minister – in this case the Lord Advocate is “not an act of derogation or abdication” of collective responsibility.

She said there was “nothing unlawful” in Lord Advocate, having the minister with portfolio responsibility over unexplained wealth orders.

“There is nothing inconsistent if the First Minister allocates portfolio responsibility to the Lord Advocate and those reasons are firmly rooted in the constitutional settlement, set out in the Scotland Act,” she said.

The Scottish Government was asked last year to investigate how the Trump Organisation managed to pay for golf course developments in Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament the government could not launch a probe and the responsibility for the investigation lay with the Crown Office’s Civil Recovery Unit.

Avaaz launched a judicial review to appeal the Scottish government”s failure to look into any potential hidden source of funding for Donald Trump’s golf courses.

Avaaz is pursuing ministers in relation to how Mr Trump, 75, was able to finance the purchase of golf courses at Turnberry, Ayrshire, in 2014 and Menie, Aberdeenshire, in 2006.

The group argue the ministers had acted unlawfully in failing to make an application for an Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO), also known as a McMafia order, in relation to Mr Trump”s assets in Scotland.

The UWO mechanism was introduced in 2018 to help authorities fight money laundering and target the illicit wealth of foreign officials.

The Trumps have said that claims the golf courses were acquired by illegal means have “no basis in fact”.

The group argue the ministers had acted unlawfully in failing to make an application for an Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO), also known as a McMafia order, in relation to Mr Trump”s assets in Scotland.

The UWO mechanism was introduced in 2018 to help authorities fight money laundering and target the illicit wealth of foreign officials.

The Trumps have said that claims the golf courses were acquired by illegal means have “no basis in fact”.

The Scottish Greens, who have a govenment power-sharing deal with the SNP have also disputed Nicola Sturgeon’s interpretation of Holyrood’s powers and urged her to investigate Mr Trump’s investments.

Aidan O’Neill QC for Avaaz has previosuly told the Court of Session that Ms Sturgeon was wrong when she said the Scottish Government could not launch the money laundering probe.

He said under the law Scottish ministers were collectively responsible for sanctioning the investigation and that it was “incompatible” to have the Lord Advocate, the chief legal officer of the Scottish Government and the Crown in Scotland, to be the designated minister.

He insisted that there did not need to be a hint or suspicion of criminality to carry out the probe.

The case continues.



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