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Former Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon a Suspect in Gambling-Linked Case –



Posted on: June 12, 2023, 03:21h. 

Last updated on: June 12, 2023, 01:09h.

Police arrested Scotland’s former first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on Sunday in connection with an investigation into the funding of the Scottish National Party (SNP). The political party is at the center of an embezzlement investigation that recently spilled over into the gambling space, although Sturgeon still doesn’t face any charges.

Former Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in a public appearance
Former Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in a public appearance. Scottish police arrested her Sunday before releasing her without pressing charges seven hours later. (Image: RTE)

After seven hours of questioning, the former leader walked free as the investigation continues, according to a statement issued by the Scottish Police. Initially, the authorities only reported the arrest of a 52-year-old “suspect in connection with the ongoing investigation into the funding and finances of the Scottish National Party.”

The statement didn’t reveal her identity, but later reports confirmed it was Sturgeon. An SNP spokesman indicated that the former minister voluntarily responded to a request by police to visit the station, where she was arrested and subjected to questioning. In April, police arrested Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, before releasing him as part of the same investigation.

Gambling with Politics

Through her Twitter account, Sturgeon declared she is “innocent of any crime,” and assured that she would never do “anything that could harm the SNP or the country.” She also expressed her shock and anguish at finding herself in this situation when she is sure that she has not committed any crime.

The investigation focuses on clarifying the destination of £600,000 (US$755,340) the SNP collected to finance the preparation of a possible referendum on the independence of Scotland. Media outlets have asserted that the investigation focuses especially on the origin of at least £400,000 (US$503,560) of that sum.

The money was never declared to the Electoral Commission at the time of collection. The political party only revealed it much later, according to the Scottish newspaper Daily Record.

Separately, Sturgeon’s husband was arrested in April, accused of allegedly having lent money out of his own pocket to the SNP. He allegedly gave more than £107,000 (US$134,702) in June 2021 to clean up the party’s finances after the last election.

The party claims it has already repaid that money, which it described as a “personal contribution.” Murrell was also released without charge within hours of his arrest.

Nearly two weeks later, police also arrested the party’s treasurer, Colin Beattie. Like Murrell, he was released without any charge soon after.

The scandal grew even larger because of the SNP’s alleged link to online casinos. A website that Murrell created to raise money for the independence movement began pointing to a gambling affiliate in March. It’s still active today.

Scotland Makes History

Sturgeon announced her resignation in February after more than seven years at the helm of Scotland. Citing fatigue as the reason, she flatly denied that her decision was related to internal pressures or to London’s veto of her gender reassignment law.

Initially, police didn’t include her in the investigation into the SNP’s alleged financial misconduct. She was not a person of interest, nor did the police expect her to be, but Sturgeon said in a statement that she would assist the investigation in any way she could.

Even though she was released without charges, the arrest could signal that the police have reason to believe there’s more to the story. It’s not customary to arrest high-profile political leaders without cause, although it’s becoming more popular.

In March, Humza Yousaf took over the leadership of the SNP. He became the first Muslim to rise to power in the UK, and is advocating for Scotland to return to the European Union as an independent nation.

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