Lord Sandison in the Court of Session says the decision by ministers in Edinburgh to decline to place an unexplained wealth order (UWO) – sometimes described as a “McMafia order” – on the former US president was wrong.
The order allows for an investigation into how a person or company earned money.
The US-based Avaaz Foundation petitioned the Court of Session, to grant a judicial review, which was approved by Lord Sandison in an opinion released on Wednesday.
The Scottish Government refused calls for an investigation in February, with then justice secretary Humza Yousaf saying such orders are an operational matter for the civil recovery unit, which is the responsibility of Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain.
But Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie – who tabled a failed motion to force the Scottish Government to seek a UWO from the courts – said it is fully within the powers of ministers to do so.
Reacting to the news, Mr Harvie, who is from Dumbarton, said: “I’m glad we are a step forward in getting some clarity over why Trump’s business dealings in Scotland haven’t been investigated. It should never have got to the stage of a legal challenge from an NGO for the Scottish Government to confirm or deny whether they will seek a McMafia order.
“Scotland’s reputation is at stake and it is entirely within the powers of ministers to defend it. An unexplained wealth order would be a clear signal that business in Scotland must be transparent and accountable, no matter the individual involved.”
In a previous hearing, lawyers for the Scottish Government argued the petition had not been lodged within the three-month deadline from the original decision being taken, but Lord Sandison said approval of it was “in the interests of justice”.
He wrote: “I consider it to be in the interests of justice to extend the time limit for lodging the petition in terms of section 27A(1)(b) of the 1988 Act to include the day on which it was in fact lodged, and to impose no restriction on the grounds of challenge to the position of the ministers which it may advance.”
Avaaz is a global campaign group. They want to know how Trump, pictured right, raised the hundreds of millions of pounds spent on his two Scottish golf courses near Aberdeen and Turnberry in Ayrshire.
Known as McMafia orders, UWOs give Scottish prosecutors the power to investigate in organised crime came by the money to buyexpesnive houses, yachts, cars and other luxury assets.
The court’s decision is said to be the latest blow for Trump and his family, who are under numerous investigations by prosecutors in the US over the former president’s finances.
The Trump organisation robustly rejects allegations that the former president used unlawfgul sources to finance the Scottish golf couyrses; his son, Eric Trump, has said the family used its own resources to do so.
Attention has been focused on whether Trump borrowed the money from Deutsche Bank, or from unknown overseas backers, including Russian sources.
So far there has been no proof of any illicit funding of Trump’s businesses.
Avaaz, a crowd-sources campaign group, decided to take the case after Scottish Ministers rejected calls from Patrick Harvie for an investigation into into Trump’s funding for the golf courses.
Former Lord Advocate James Wolffe and then Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf.
Humza Yousaf, the then Justice Secretary, told Harvie that this was a decision for the then Lord Advocate James Wolffe whose decisions had to be free of political interference.
After Patrick Harvie challenged that, the government admitted they had the responsibility to request a McMafia order investigation.
Even so, the SNP and Conservatives rejected a Holyrood motion from the Greens, backed by Labour and the LibDems, calling for one by 89 votes to 32.
Before the vote, Eric Trump told journalists: “Patrtick Harvie is nothing more than a national embarrassment with his pathetic antics that only serve himself and his (own) political agenda.”
In his ruling, Lord Sandison said he believed the Avaaz case had “real prospects of success [and that] there was a sensible legal argument to be had on the matters raised by the petition”.