Prosecutor tells jury in Natalie McGarry trial to ‘follow the money’

A prosecutor has told a jury to convict former MP Natalie McGarry of embezzlement.

Alistair Mitchell gave his closing speech at the end of the six-week trial of McGarry, 41, at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

Mitchell claimed there were “patterns” in McGarry’s use of funds transferred to her own bank account while she was in charge of finance for two pro-Scottish independence organisations.

The prosecutor asked the jury to “follow the money” regarding his bank balance deposited with the funds of “trust-based” organizations.

Mitchell claimed some of the money was spent on personal expenses such as rent and shopping, which was a “breach of trust”.

McGarry, who represented Glasgow East for the SNP, allegedly embezzled £21,000 while serving as Treasurer of Women for Independence (WFI) between April 26, 2013 and November 30, 2015.

A second charge says she took £4,661 between April 9, 2014 and August 10, 2015 when she was Treasurer, Secretary and Convener of the Glasgow Regional Association (GRA) of the SNP.

McGarry, of Clarkston, East Renfrewshire, denies both charges.

Mitchell began his speech by telling the jury that McGarry had received money from colleagues, including £600 from Health Secretary Humza Yousaf.

He said McGarry had no regular employment income until she became an MP in the spring of 2015.

Mitchell said McGarry received £27,000 into his personal bank account from three WFI fundraisers.

He added: ‘WFI’s witnesses were surprised that money was going to his bank account and they were unaware of it.

Mitchell then said a further £31,000 of WFI PayPal money also came into McGarry’s account.

He added that there was a grand total of £66,029 that had been paid into his account from WFI sources.

Mitchell then led the jury to the report written by WFI accountant Elizabeth Young, which described the missing 40% of her earnings.

He said: “When the magnitude of the money became clear…they said they had to act.”

Mitchell asked the jury to “follow the money” and then referred to a police accountant’s report.

He said: “We saw a clear trend when money was needed for rent, the money came from WFI.

“When the money was needed for loans or personal expenses, the money came from WFI.

“You saw expenses that wouldn’t have been possible without WFI’s money in their account.

“There was no variance for WFI spending.”

Mitchell also touched on McGarry’s vacation in Spain during the period.

He said: “The extravagance doesn’t matter, she took it dishonestly, it doesn’t matter if it’s £20 or £20,000.

“Evidence showed that WFI money was used for purchases of this type.

“The accounting report shows that the funds were used to bridge the gap between McGarry’s low income and expenses such as rent as well as expenses.”

Mitchell explained that WFI members such as former MSP Carolyn Leckie “trust” McGarry and that the organization is informal.

He asked the jury: “Doesn’t this give him the opportunity to abuse that trust?”

Mitchell then spoke about the GRA and hearing evidence that McGarry failed to pass financial information to Treasurer Alexander Belic when he was elected.

He said McGarry had similar “complete control” over GRA’s finances as she had over WFI.

Mitchell pointed to payments made by McGarry from the GRA to a property consultancy firm as well as SNP Shettleston.

He claimed evidence showed the amounts disbursed were those McGarry received personally from government spending body IPSA.

The prosecutor also highlighted a check for £2,000 that McGarry wrote to herself, she claims, to pay for media training.

He said: “The models again show that she had £11.21 in her account the day before and you can see the money has been spent on shopping, personal expenses as well as a rent payment .”

Mitchell spoke about McGarry’s position in evidence that some expenses could be explained by missing emails.

He said: “How much evidence have you heard of this, no clues, suggestions or details of the evidence of this.

“Over 12,000 emails recovered and there are no emails regarding expenses and bills.

“You are being asked to account for £20,000 which was spent in cash and there are no invoices or receipts available.”

The prosecutor also disputed suggestions that McGarry was “disorganized” and said the “deliberate transfers” were “calculated”.

Mitchell ended his speech by saying, “When you give money to an organization, you expect it to be used for that purpose.

“You don’t expect to pay McGarry’s rent or maintain his payments or be unaccountable.

“Playing a role at WFI and GRA is a big responsibility that someone should take seriously as an MP all the more so.

“These organizations were responsibly built on trust – not just trust, but also members of the public who donated funds and colleagues who campaigned together as part of this work.

“I suggest the picture is considerably clear McGarry abused that trust and embezzled those funds.

“For these reasons, I invite you to find her guilty on the two counts before you.”

The trial continues before Sheriff Tom Hughes.

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