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Calls for police probe over Donald Trump’s fraudulent £200m hike to Scots homes value

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The judge’s findings said the former president was confronted with evidence that, in 2014, the Trump Organization had submitted a statement to UK regulators stating that it did not intend to develop the Aberdeen property any further because of his opposition to wind farms.

The Aberdeen case formed part of wider legal action which claimed the company lied “by billions” through submitting false financial statements to banks and insurance companies to obtain better rates on loans and insurance coverage.

Mr Trump was ordered to pay nearly $355m (£281m) to New York state for lying about the values of his properties as part of “material fraudulent misstatements”. The judge said those included those relating to the housing development associated with the Trump International Golf Club in Aberdeen.

READ MORE: Donald Trump found to have fraudulently boosted Scots homes value by up to £200m

State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron ruled the fraud was so long-running and remorseless that it “borders on pathological.” Mr Trump has called it a “witch hunt” and is launching an appeal of the civil action judgment .

Complaints calling for investigations to be launched in the UK and Scotland into what happened in Aberdeen have been lodged with the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and the Serious Fraud Office.

But Police Scotland has already said it will not be investigating.

The Herald: Former US president Donald Trump on the course at Trump International, Scotland  in May, last year

In one response, Police Scotland said there “will be no action or investigation from Police Scotland on this matter, of your own admission this is a civil fraud trial”.

Another message stated: “We are in receipt of your email about concerns over the valuation of property at Aberdeen. The offences all still remain in the US. The purpose of the overvaluation of property and assets was to gain better interest rates and loans which were taken out in the US. So for that reason the offences remain in the jurisdiction of that country and as such Police Scotland will not be taking any further action in relation to the issue…”

But one complainer told the Herald that he could not understand how the police in Scotland can rule out UK or Scottish victims in relation to the case.

“I do not see how they can, without investigation, eliminate the possibility of such victims,” he said.

Questions have also been raised about whether a UK or Scottish fraud requires victims.

READ MORE: Is Donald Trump Scottish? The former US president’s links to Scotland explained

One police complaint said: “My understanding is that the offence of fraud does not require the establishment of any actual loss to any victim, merely the intent to expose another to the risk of loss.

“Nor does a potential victim have to be resident or in business in the United Kingdom (or in this case Scotland). In other words conduct in this country is potentially fraudulent if it is intended to deceive persons in another country.

“Judge Engeron determined that the Trump Organization over-valued its Scottish asset with a fraudulent purpose in the United States.”

The Scottish Government’s directorate for justice stated in a complaint response that that any further investigation was an “operational matter” for Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) respectively, “which are independent of the Scottish Government”.

“This is to preserve the operational independence of the Scottish Criminal Justice system and to keep it free from political interference.

“Generally, I would recommend that any accusation of criminal behaviour be reported through the correct process to Police Scotland.”

The First Minister was last year urged to look again at seeking a so-called ‘McMafia order’ to probe how Donald Trump was able to buy golf resorts in Aberdeenshire and Ayrshire. 

The Scottish Government decided not to pursue an Unexplained Wealth Order in 2021, with Humza Yousaf, the then justice secretary, telling MSPs it would be an “abuse of power” for him to launch a probe into Trump’s finances.

There have long been questions over how the tycoon purchased his golf clubs in Scotland. 

Donald Trump purchased the Turnberry hotel and golf courses from Leisurecorp in 2014 for a sum reputed to be $60 million, and the resort was renamed Trump Turnberry.  In 2016 the Trump Organisation said the amount of investment in Donald Trump’s Turnberry golf resort had shot up to about £150m.

The Herald: Former US president Donald Trump (left), arriving at Trump International, Scotland last year.

Campaigners wrote to the Scottish Government last year to demand that they open up an Unexplained Wealth Order investigation into Mr Trump. 

According to UK financial statements, the value of the Aberdeen club’s tangible assets which are land, buildings, furniture and equipment amounted to £33.219m in 2022. In 2013, the first full year after the club opened it was at £29.907m.

Mr Trump’s empire was spared from one of the worst potential outcomes – the cancellation of its business licences, known as the corporate death penalty, at the end of the civil investigation by the office of the New York Attorney General, Letitia James.

Having his companies dissolved, could have meant bankruptcy.

Judge Engoron also banned him from serving as a company director or taking out loans from banks in the state for three years.

He ordered two tiers of oversight – an independent monitor to report to the court for up to three years and a separate independent director of compliance to be installed.

The judge is also requiring Mr Trump pay interest on the profits he made by committing the fraud (known as ‘prejudgment interest’), which could bring the final amount penalty total to around $450m (£354m), Along with what Mr Trump has been ordered to pay, his two sons and co-defendants, Donald Jr and Eric, must each pay $4m ( (£3.1m) They are barred for two years from doing business in New York.

Another co-defendant, Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, has been ordered to pay $1m (£793,600).

Mr Trump, who is campaigning for a second non-consecutive second presidential term in the 2024 election said the judgment has condemned the decision.

He opened his first golf resort on the Menie estate in 2012 – amid opposition over potential environmental damage – and later tried to stop a wind farm being built off the coast, arguing it would spoil the view.

According to court documents, the Attorney General that pursued the case, argued that Mr Trump, associated companies and some executives engaged in “numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation” in official financial statements covering at least the years 2011 through to 2021.

In a statement of fact seen by the Herald, the judge said that in valuing the non-golf course property, initial permission had been to develop only 500 homes as year-round private residences.

But the financial statements from 2014 to 2018 not only valued the area based on permission existing to develop 2500 of the properties – five times as many – “but also as if those residences had already been built”.

The Herald: Donald Trump

It also states that despite receiving a July 2017 appraisal by commercial property consultants Ryden LLP valuing the development profit of private homes at Aberdeen at a maximum of £33,296 per home, from 2017 to 2018 the Trump Organization valued them at £83,164 per home. That put the total valuation at £207.9m.

In 2019, the Trump Organization began valuing each home at £106,969, more than triple the original value, while the supporting information said the Trump Organization had permission to build 2035 private residences. That put the total valuation at £217.63m.

According to the findings, by 2020 and 2021, the Trump Organization the valuations had dipped to £68,781 per home while it said the permission was to build 1200 private residences. That brought the total valuation down to £82.537m.

An appeal has been lodged and Trump’s lawyers wrote in court papers that they’re asking the appeals court to decide whether the judge “committed errors of law and/or fact” and whether he abused his discretion or “acted in excess” of his jurisdiction.

Trump lawyer Alina Habba said: “We trust that the Appellate Division will overturn this egregious fine and take the necessary steps to restore the public faith in New York’s legal system.”

Legal experts believe the appeal will focus on why the Attorney General’s office pursued the case. Mr Trump has argued the case had no victims because the banks got repaid with interest.

Deutsche Bank and other borrowers and insurers have not sued Mr Trump over the matter and that is expected to be a key component of an appeal.

But Ms James argued and the judge ruled that the statute didn’t require victims, only a finding of wrongdoing.

“Timely and total repayment of loans does not extinguish the harm that false statements inflict on the marketplace,” the judge wrote in his decision. “Indeed, the common excuse that ‘everybody does it’ is all the more reason to strive for honesty and transparency and to be vigilant in enforcing the rules.”

The fraud judgment resulted from civil litigation rather than criminal charges hich resulted in an easier path for the Attorney General to win with fines rather than jail time.

As in the UK, criminal cases in the US are harder to win. In a criminal case in the US, the prosecutor must prove the allegation beyond reasonable doubt. In a civil lawsuit, government lawyers need only prove wrongdoing was more likely than not.

In response, a Police Scotland spokesman said only: “We are not carrying out any investigation.”

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