Are Trump’s Scottish Golf Courses a Front for Money Laundering?


If you’ve been keeping up with the post-presidential life and times of Donald Trump, you know that unlike Barack Obama and George W. Bush, who left office and threw themselves into memoir-writing and painting, respectively, Trump spends his days telling people the election was stolen from him and amassing a list of legal problems that would make the Manson family blush. There are, of course, the 29 lawsuits and four criminal investigations against him and now, we can add a potential probe into his Scottish golf courses to the docket.

Reuters reports that Avaaz, a human rights group, has filed a petition in Scotland’s highest civil court seeking a judicial review of the government’s decision to reject an “unexplained wealth order” on Trump’s local golf courses. In February, Scottish Parliament voted 89-32 against the motion, which was brought by the Scottish Green Party and would have sought information on the source of the money the ex-president’s business used to buy property in Aberdeenshire, where he built a golf course and hotel, and Turnberry, a seaside course purchased for $60 million. After decades of financing property purchases with debt, Trump dropped more than $300 million in cash buying and developing the Scottish courses; according to Reuters, neither of them have turned a profit.

All of which has apparently struck some Scots as quite to very shady. Per Reuters:

[Patrick] Harvie, the Greens’ leader, has expressed concerns in Scottish Parliament over how the courses were funded. “Big questions remain over Trump’s business dealings in Scotland,” he said in February 2020. The purchase of the two courses, he said, “were part of Trump’s huge cash spending spree in the midst of a global financial crisis, while his son was bragging about money pouring in from Russia.” Harvie was referring to a comment attributed to Eric Trump by veteran golf writer James Dodson, who relayed a conversation with Trump’s son in a 2017 interview with National Public Radio. Dodson said Eric Trump told him the courses were financed with money from Russia.

The British government introduced unexplained wealth orders in 2018 to help authorities fight money laundering and target the illicit wealth of foreign officials. The orders do not trigger a criminal proceeding. But if the Trump Organization couldn’t satisfy the court that the money was clean, the government, in theory, could seize the properties.

When Parliament voted against Avaaz’s motion in February, Humza Yousaf, the justice minister and a member of the ruling Scottish National Party, argued that wealth orders should be brought by law enforcement, not politicians, saying, “There must not be political interference in the enforcement of the law,” according to Reuters. He added that the Civil Recovery Unit, an enforcement agency that reports to Scotland’s most senior legal officer, should “undertake the investigatory role.” Avaaz has challenged that argument, asking the Court of Session in Edinburgh to rule that Scotland’s ministers have sole responsibility to decide to apply for an unexplained wealth order and should not pass that responsibility to other people or institutions. It also insists that the legal standard for issuing a wealth order against Trump has already been met.

A spokesman for Trump did not respond to Reuters’s request for comment. Eric Trump said in February that Scottish politicians who supported the unexplained wealth order were “advancing their personal agendas,” while claiming the Trump Organization had “made an overwhelming contribution to the leisure and tourism industry.” He also denied making the comment about Russia money to Dodson. Donald Trump insists he did not use Russia money to buy the golf courses.

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