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Nov 13 2020

Donald’s Unexplained Wealth

In a twitter thread The Scotsman investigative reporter Martyn McLaughlin talks about the Scottish Parliament discussion of Donald Trump suspicious financing of his Scottish properties and the source of his money.

From the original article in The Scotsman by Mr. Mclaughlin:

An UWO is a relatively new – and rarely used – power which has been designed to target suspected corrupt foreign officials who have potentially laundered stolen money through the UK.

The mechanism, introduced in 2018, is an attempt to force the owners of assets to disclose their wealth. If a suspected corrupt foreign official, or their family, cannot show a legitimate source for their riches, then authorities can apply to a court to seize the property.

Mr Trump and the Trump Organisation have always stressed that they did not require any outside financing for their Scottish resorts.

George Sorial, the Trump Organisation’s former chief compliance counsel, told The Scotsman in 2008 that it had £1bn “sitting in the bank and ready to go” for its inaugural Scottish course, located in Aberdeenshire.

Scotland on Sunday later revealed how the same year, Mr Trump asked the Bank of Scotland for a 15 year mortgage worth £23m, and a £15m construction loan, as part of his efforts to establish a “landmark” hotel at St Andrews in Fife, the home of golf. The bank refused, and Mr Trump’s plans were never realised.[..]

It is not the first time there have been calls for an UWO in connection to Mr Trump’s Scottish interests.

Avaaz, the non-profit global activism organisation, has urged Scottish ministers to apply for such an order. [..]

In its 2019 briefing, Avaaz set out what it described as “enough reasonable suspicion as to the nature of Mr Trump’s cash payments for the Turnberry golf resort to justify Scottish ministers’ application for a UWO to investigate the matter.”

It went on: “It is Mr Trump’s own actions that prompt legitimate questions about his income which, if left unanswered, would call into doubt the Scottish Government’s determination to confront the spectre of money laundering.”

Mr Trump acquired the historic Turnberry resort – a four-time host of golf’s Open championship – from Dubai-based Leisurecorp in April 2014 for £35m.

It has yet to turn a profit under his ownership, and the most recent accounts filed with Companies House show it is reliant on loans of £114.9m to its parent undertaking, the Donald J Trump Revocable Trust, a New York-based state grantor trust.

There have been questions surrounding the finances underpinning Mr Trump’s acquisition of land and property in Scotland for years.

In November 2017, Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of Fusion GPS, told the US Congress he found Mr Trump’s golf courses in Scotland and Ireland to be “concerning.” [..]

The Criminal Finances Act sets out a series of requirements which must be met before an UWO can be granted.

They include satisfying the court that a respondent’s” lawfully obtained income would have been insufficient for the purposes of enabling the respondent to obtain the property,” that the respondent is a “politically exposed person,” or that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that they, or a person connected with them, have been involved in serious crime.>

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