- Lawmakers in Scotland are exploring whether to investigate the Trump Organization’s finances.
- Lawyers cited NYC prosecutors’ investigation of the company and its CFO as a reason to move forward.
- A judge is weighing whether lawmakers can use a “McMafia” order to open an investigation.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
As prosecutors in Manhattan continue their investigation into the Trump Organization’s finances, attorneys in Scotland are citing its progress to advocate for opening a parallel investigation into how the former US president’s company financed golf courses in the country.
At a virtual court hearing in Scotland Thursday, the attorney Kay Springham asked a judge to allow the government to issue an “unexplained wealth order” (UWO), also known as a “McMafia order,” The Scotsman reported. The order would force the Trump Organization to open up its books and explain how it financed the acquisition of its two Scottish resorts.
In trying to persuade the judge, Springham pointed to the criminal proceedings in New York, where the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has filed tax-fraud charges against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg.
Weisselberg played roles in operating the company’s two golf courses in Scotland. Insider first reported several days after the New York indictments were filed that Weisselberg was terminated from his role as director of Trump International Golf Club Scotland, the holding company that owns Trump’s Aberdeenshire golf resort, the Trump International Golf Links.
Springham said the charges against Weisselberg illustrated why the Scottish government should be concerned about whether the Trump Organization concealed the sources of its wealth.
She suggested a UWO may extend to Weisselberg, as well as to former President Donald Trump.
“It’s evident from the matters set out in the petition that there are real and substantial concerns about financial arrangements of the Trump Organization, of which Mr. Trump is the sole or principal owner,” Springham said, according to The Scotsman.
She added: “Since the petition has been lodged, there have been further developments … the charges laid against the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer [Allen] Weisselberg.”
Representatives for the Trump Organization didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
In January, Patrick Harvie, the Green Party cofounder and a member of the Scottish Parliament, called for a UWO investigation into how the Trump Organization financed its all-cash purchase of the golf courses.
But Nicola Sturgeon, who leads the Scottish government, said the Scottish Parliament didn’t have that power and only law officers – or independent prosecutors – could issue such an order.
Harvie and Avaaz, a nonprofit group, are challenging Sturgeon’s claim. Avaaz hired Springham to convince a judge that Sturgeon was wrong about her interpretation of the law and that Scotland’s elected ministers could invoke its powers.
The UWO is a relatively new legal instrument – the UK introduced it in 2018 as a way to help investigate money laundering and other financial crimes.
Both of Trump’s Scottish golf resorts have posted losses continuously since Trump has run them and owe millions of pounds to creditors. Harvie in February questioned how Trump was able to purchase both resorts between 2006 and 2014. Avaaz said Trump purchased both as part of a $US400 ($AU541) million spending spree, which raised questions about how he had financed the deals.
In July, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office brought a 15-count indictment against Weisselberg and the Trump Organization, accusing the chief financial officer of dodging taxes on $US1.7 ($AU2) million worth of income. Weisselberg and attorneys for the company pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Lord Sandison, who is ruling on Avaaz’s appeal, said he would decide on the case shortly.
If the high court rules the Scottish government misinterpreted the law, Scottish lawmakers will have a chance to decide whether to initiate a UWO investigation into the Trump Organization.