New York prosecutors push for ‘McMafia orders’
As the investigation into the Trump Organization’s finances continues, pressure is being put on the Scottish Government to issue an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) in relation to the purchases of former President Donald Trump’s golf courses in Scotland.
UWOs, commonly dubbed ‘McMafia orders’ after the popular TV series, were launched in 2018 to give the courts powers to investigate suspected money laundering and other financial crimes.
If granted, the UWO would force the Trump Organization to open up its books and explain how it financed the acquisition of its two Scottish resorts.
The Holyrood administration was asked last year to investigate how Mr Trump’s business empire managed to pay for the golf courses.
At the time, Nicola Sturgeon told ministers that the Government could not issue a UWO and that the responsibility for the investigation lay with the Crown Office’s Civil Recovery Unit.
However, at the most recent hearing, the QC acting for Avaaz, a non-profit human rights group, argued that there would be substantial prejudice to the public interest if the Court of Session refused a petition for judicial review, which is seeking to overturn the refusal to pursue a UWO against Mr Trump.
If this happens and the Trump Organization cannot show a legitimate source for its income, authorities can go to court to seize the property.
The QC has also argued that since the original petition was lodged, there has been a major development in that the Trump Organization’s Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg has been charged by US prosecutors with concealing £1.2 million worth of income.
Following the charges, Mr Weisselberg, who has pleaded not guilty, has been terminated as a director of Trump International Golf Club Scotland, the entity behind Mr Trump’s Aberdeenshire hotel and golf resort.
Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “A UWO places the burden of proof on the individual or organisation to show that assets were acquired legitimately, rather than the enforcement agency having to prove any illegality.
“This will mean that the Trump Organization is likely to need to engage forensic accountants to show clearly the source of funds used to acquire the golf resorts and to demonstrate that they do not represent the proceeds of crime.
One interesting question that is likely to be raised will be whether, if any evidence of tax evasion is found, that could cause the funds used to buy the resorts to fall within the definition of the proceeds of crime. Inevitably any asset tracing exercise will be complex and involve tracking money across international borders.”
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