Scotland’s richest woman has told the trial of a charity fundraiser who is accused of making false expenses claims that she was in Africa on the day the pair were said to have met.
Businesswoman Ann Gloag was giving evidence at the trial of Elaine McGonigle, who denies 13 charges relating to her time as director of the New Pyjamas campaign.
McGonigle claimed £75.15 for a meeting with Ms Gloag on 23 May, 2009. However, Ms Gloag said she had flown to Kenya for three weeks on 18 May.
At Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday, the 71-year-old businesswoman – the founder of transport company Stagecoach who is understood to be worth about £500 million – said her son had broken his neck in Kenya on 17 May.
When asked where she was at the time of the alleged meeting with the charity fundraiser, Ms Gloag said: “I know exactly where I was at that particular time. I flew out to Kenya on 18 May. I was there for over three weeks because my son was in intensive care.”
McGonigle, 50, from Perthshire, denies claiming £1,855 in expenses for travel and meetings with various people, including former first minister Jack McConnell, between September 2008 and March 2010. She was then director of the New Pyjamas campaign run by the Sick Kids Friends Foundation to raise £15 million for the building of a new Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.
Ms Gloag told Sheriff Douglas Allan she vaguely recalled meeting McGonigle as part of a group, at a meeting of the Princess Royal Trust for Carers in either 2006 or 2007.
However, she said she had never directly met McGonigle, and said it was “impossible” she could have been at a meeting on 23 May.
All McGonigle’s claims are said to involve expenses for food, mileage, accommodation and travel. The allegations include £70.40 mileage for a meeting with Mr McConnell and the expenses for a meeting with Ms Gloag.
It is alleged McGonigle claimed £436.38 in fares for business flights to and from London when the sum had been spent on a flight to Majorca for herself, her husband and son, and £548 for flights between Edinburgh and London, when she and her husband had gone to Bulgaria.
Ms Gloag yesterday confirmed she had been questioned by a police officer in June 2011 in connection with investigations involving the New Pyjamas campaign. Fiscal depute Pauline Shade asked: “Were you giving him truthful answers?” “Of course. Why not?” was the reply.
Ms Shade went on: “If it was suggested that on 23 May, you had a meeting with Elaine McGonigle, what would you say?”
“Impossible,” Mrs Gloag said.
“You were out of the country on 23 May?” asked Ms Shade. “Absolutely”, was the reply.
The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator has previously held talks with the Sick Kids Friends Foundation, which set up the New Pyjamas campaign, about the alleged incident.
The trial continues.