Donald Trump: Could the former President's Scottish golf resorts be seized?

Civil fraud case could see former US president’s properties sold

He made his name by amassing a sprawling real estate portfolio, but next week could mark the beginning of the end of Donald Trump’s property empire – in its current guise, at least. Having lost a civil fraud case in which he was found liable for fraudulently inflating his business assets, the former US president is on the hook for $464m, but it remains unclear if he can pay. Mr Trump’s lawyers have told a New York appellate court that he cannot secure a bond to guarantee the payment. He has until Monday to do so, otherwise New York Attorney General Letitia James can start seizing his assets. Here is what could happen next.

Will Mr Trump’s New York properties be seized?

In New York, Ms James could put what are known as liens on Mr Trump’s properties, and order county sheriffs to sell them via a process known as execution orders. She has hinted as much that some of the 77 year-old’s highest profile properties are in her sights, telling ABC news last month that “I look at 40 Wall St each and every day.”

Will Ms James go after Mr Trump’s other US assets?

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It depends largely on her appetite to pursue Mr Trump’s New York property portfolio. According to an analysis by Forbes, his stakes in 13 properties throughout the state - including Trump Tower - are worth around $700m, which would be sufficient to meet the outstanding penalty. But only six of those properties were cited in Ms James’ legal action, and some of Mr Trump’s creditors, who provided him with substantial sums against his New York buildings, will also ask to be paid, complicating the situation.

Is that process straightforward?

In other US states, the procedure is more complicated, though not impossible - according to Mitchell Epner, a former federal prosecutor who specialises in white collar crime, the New York ruling could be domesticated in other US states, thanks to what is known as the full faith and credit clause in the US constitution, meaning that other US properties owned by Mr Trump could be seized.

Former US president Donald Trump has talked of selling Turnberry in the past. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA WireFormer US president Donald Trump has talked of selling Turnberry in the past. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Former US president Donald Trump has talked of selling Turnberry in the past. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Could his Scottish properties be seized?

Some of Mr Trump’s fiercest critics have floated this very idea. His niece, Mary, wrote on X earlier this week that “Scotland would love it if she took his golf course.” There have been some excitable reports that Mr Trump’s golf courses could be “seized within days.” That will not happen. But in the long run? It can’t be ruled out. Unlike several other properties in Mr Trump’s name, his golf resorts in Aberdeenshire and Turnberry are unencumbered by virtue of the fact they are mortgage-free. That, in theory, means it would be easier to seize them

But how can authorities in New York seize properties in Scotland?

If Ms James does indeed set her sights on Mr Trump’s Scottish courses, it is unclear how she would proceed. Both resorts are ultimately owned by a Florida state grantor trust, meaning that the process could begin in the sunshine state’s courts system. It would, however, become considerably more convoluted thanks to the fact that Scottish authorities would also be involved. Thanks to a snappily named US statute known as 28 U.S.C. § 1355(b)(2), overseas assets can be seized as part of a civil judicial forfeiture action, but that would require the assistance of the US federal government.

Could Mr Trump sell his Scottish properties?

It could be argued that this is a more likely scenario. Mr Trump may prize his Scottish assets, but his inaugural course in Aberdeenshire has been mired in the red for 11 consecutive years. Turnberry, meanwhile, has only posted a profit once since he took it over in 2014, and Mr Trump has been repeatedly frustrated in his attempts to convince the R&A to bring The Open back to the South Ayrshire course, widely regarded as one of the world’s finest. If Mr Trump needs to raise money quickly, selling those assets is a viable option.

But would he sell them?

Earlier this week, Mr Trump conceded that he may be forced to mortgage or sell his assets. If that is the case, his Scotland properties could be on the market soon. During one deposition in the James case last year, Mr Trump said he could sell Turnberry to LIV Golf or other interested parties for “a fortune,” explaining: “I believe I could sell that to a lot of people for numbers that would be astronomical.” When asked by one of Ms James’ attorneys if he had received an offer, he replied: “I never asked for an offer. But people have said to me, if you ever want to sell Turnberry, let us know. I would be able to sell Turnberry quickly for a tremendous amount of money, far beyond what you would say it’s worth by the money it makes.”

If Mr Trump can’t get a bond, how long will any seizure process take?

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Although Ms James has promised to move swiftly if Mr Trump cannot secure a bond, the reality is that his properties will not be seized imminently. As with so many legal proceedings involving Mr Trump, the process will involve various legal filings and appeals, and could take weeks, months, or even longer to resolve.

What other options does Mr Trump have?

His lawyers will go the distance and continue fighting in court, having already asked judges to waive the bond requirement. But another tactic would be to have the corporate entities implicated in the judgement file for bankruptcy, a manoeuvre that could delay the payment of the court’s judgement for months, if not years. He could also seek help from a wealthy supporter, either in the US or overseas, a development that would intensify national security concerns in the run up to November’s US presidential elections.

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