A decision by the Scottish government not to order an investigation into former U.S. President Donald Trump’s all-cash purchases of two golf courses could be subject to a judicial review following a court ruling on Wednesday.
Avaaz, a global rights pressure group, wants to challenge ministers after the Scottish parliament, where the government has a near majority, in February rejected an opposition motion seeking details on the source of the money the Trump Organization used to buy the courses in 2006 and 2014.
In May, Avaaz filed a petition in Scotland’s highest civil court seeking a judicial review of the government’s decision not to pursue an “unexplained wealth order” on Trump’s business.
On Wednesday that petition was allowed to proceed beyond the preliminary stage.
“I decided that the application had real prospects of success … in other words, that there was a sensible legal argument to be had on the matters raised by the petition,” the judge, Craig Sandison, said in a published document.
The Scottish National Party, which runs Scotland’s devolved government, has previously argued that unexplained wealth orders should be instigated by law enforcement officials rather than politicians.
The court will now decide whether to grant a judicial review that, if it goes ahead, would look at the Scottish government’s position and could also include the specifics of the Trump case, the judge decided.
A Trump spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
The ex-president’s son, Eric Trump – a director of the Scottish golf courses – said in February that Scottish politicians who supported the unexplained wealth order were “advancing their personal agendas” and that the Trump Organization had “made an overwhelming contribution to the leisure and tourism industry.”
In 2006 Trump bought 1,000 acres in Aberdeenshire for more than $10 million. Since then, he has spent another $60 million building a golf course, a small hotel and a handful of holiday cottages, according to company filings with the UK corporate registry.
Trump, an avid golfer whose mother was Scottish, in 2014 made a $60 million investment in Turnberry, a seaside course that has four times hosted The Open, Europe’s only golf major.
Unexplained wealth orders are used to help authorities fight money laundering and target the illicit wealth of foreign officials. If the Trump Organization could not satisfy the court that the money was clean, the government could in theory seize the properties.