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Donald Trump accused of inflating value of Scottish estate

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Donald Trump has been accused of inflating the value of his golf course estate in Aberdeenshire as part of wide-ranging legal action alleging business fraud. The Trump International estate at Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, is mentioned in a lengthy court filing by New York’s attorney general.

It accuses the former US president, members of his family, his business organisation and its senior management of years of financial fraud in order to gain a number of economic benefits.

The allegations between 2011 and 2021 are part of a lawsuit filed on Wednesday by New York’s most senior lawyer.

Filed in state court in New York, the lawsuit is the culmination of US Democrat Ms James’s three-year, civil investigation into Mr Trump and the Trump Organisation.

In its 214 pages, the suit struck at the core of what made Mr Trump famous, shining a light on the image of wealth and opulence he has embraced throughout his career — first as a real estate developer, then as a reality TV host on ‘The Apprentice’ and later as President of the United States.

A statement from the attorney general’s office said: “The valuation of this golf course in Aberdeen, Scotland, assumed 2,500 homes could be developed when the Trump Organisation had obtained zoning approval to develop less than 1,500 cottages and apartments, many of which were expressly identified as being only for short-term rental.

“The 267 million US dollar value attributed to those 2,500 homes accounted for more than 80 percent of the total 327 million US dollar valuation for Aberdeen on the 2014 Statement of Financial Condition.”

Mr Trump’s coastal golf course in Aberdeenshire opened in 2012 after a controversial planning process. In February, a plan by the Trump Organisation to build up to 500 new homes and 50 cottages near the estate was granted permission in principle by Aberdeenshire Council.

However, a number of conditions were attached before any development could take place. One of these stated the number of houses should not exceed 550.

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Mr Trump’s three eldest children, Donald Jr, Ivanka and Eric Trump, have also been named as defendants along with two long-time company executives.

They are accused of lying to lenders and insurers by inflating the worth of nearly every one of their major properties, including Mar-a-Lago in Florida and Trump Tower.

The lawsuit alleges they were able “to obtain beneficial financial terms”, including lower interest rates and premiums by providing fraudulent statements to lenders and insurers. Ms James said this allowed the firm to make a quarter of a billion dollars.

In an eight page filing about Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen, it said annual valuations of the golf course and undeveloped land were “derived each year using improper methods and based on facts and assumptions that were materially false and misleading”.

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The lawsuit also claimed the valuations “were known by Mr Trump and others within the Trump Organisation” to be materially false and misleading.

In a further page about Trump Turnberry, the lawsuit added the resort operated at a loss and “should have been valued at a much lower figure.”

But Mr Trump, in a post to his Truth Social platform, decried the lawsuit as “Another Witch Hunt” and denounced Ms James as “a fraud who campaigned on a ‘get Trump’ platform.”

Later, in an interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, Mr Trump said his company’s financial disclosures warned banks not to trust the information provided.

He said: “We have a disclaimer right on the front,” which warned banks: “‘You’re at your own risk.’ … ‘Be careful because it may not be accurate. It may be way off.’ … ‘Get your own people. Use your own appraisers. Use your own lawyers. Don’t rely on us.'”

Mr Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, said the allegations are “meritless” and the lawsuit “is neither focused on the facts nor the law — rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda.”

It comes after a judge at Scotland’s Court of Session rejected a legal bid to force lawmakers to investigate Mr Trump’s purchase of his two golf resorts in Scotland.

New York-based human rights organisation Avaaz had argued the Scottish Government should have embarked on an unexplained wealth order probe into how the deals were financed.

However, Lord Sandison ruled Scottish ministers had acted lawfully in declining to investigate.

Mr Trump opened his Aberdeenshire Golf Resort in Balmedie in 2012 amid huge opposition over potential environmental damage. He later tried to stop a wind farm being built off the coast and argued it would spoil the view.

The former US President brought Turnberry in 2014 from a Dubai-based company. Mr Trump, 76, resigned as a director from the golf businesses after being elected as president and handed over his controlling stake to a trust run by his family.

The former US head of state has connections to Scotland through his mum Mary MacLeod, who was from the Isle of Lewis.

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