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Lord Advocate: Police will follow evidence in Michelle Thomson probe

Ms Thomson is linked to 13 transactions Christopher Hales conducted in 2010-11 where properties were bought at knock-down prices.

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland answering questions about Michelle Thomson investigation in Scottish Parliament October 6 2015

The Lord Advocate has said police will "follow the evidence" in their investigation into property deals conducted by SNP MP Michelle Thomson's lawyer.

Ms Thomson is linked to 13 transactions Christopher Hales conducted in 2010-11 where properties were bought at knock-down prices.

The properties were purchased cheaply from clients looking for a quick sale and sold at a huge mark-up. The probe is into complicated "cashback" deals were allegedly used to artificially inflate property prices to secure bigger loans from lenders.

Hales was struck off by the Law Society following a tribunal which concluded that he "must have been aware that there was a possibility that he was facilitating mortgage fraud".

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland was called to Holyrood on Tuesday to answer questions about "allegations of mortgage fraud against" Mr Hales.

Scotland's top law officer said the police probe could be widened out to include anyone suspected of criminality during the transactions.

Mr Hales acted for property dealer Ms Thomson before she was elected an SNP MP, however she has denied any wrongdoing and withdrawn herself from the party whip. The move also means her membership of the SNP was suspended.

Mr Mulholland said police have a duty to investigate anyone suspected of criminality and will "follow the evidence and where that takes them".

Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser asked: "In what circumstances would the Crown Office ask Police Scotland to investigate any other person connected with the solicitor subject to the Law Society's judgement?"

Mr Mulholland said: "I gave some consideration to that because I think it is a highly relevant question. The referral to Police Scotland is in relation to the solicitor who is the subject of SSDT finding.

"The police have been instructed to investigate the property transactions related to that finding resulting in the solicitor being struck off.

"Police Scotland have a duty in any criminal investigation to follow the evidence and where that takes them.

"So, if during a police investigation evidence arises that other persons have been involved in criminality and fraud, or whatever crime the police have uncovered evidence of, then Police Scotland, I have complete faith in them, they will act and do the right thing as will the Crown."

After the Lord Advocate's appearance, Aamer Anwar, the lawyer acting for Michelle Thomson, said: "Following the Lord Advocate's statement we must reiterate that we have advised Mrs Thomson that it would be inappropriate to comment on such matters and you will appreciate that she has already volunteered to assist Police Scotland with their investigation, despite no requirement to do so.

"Michelle Thomson maintains that she has always acted within the law."

Scottish Labour's public services spokeswoman, Jackie Baillie, said: "There was a year delay between the lawyer involved in SNP MP Michelle Thomson's property deals being struck off and the Crown Office ordering a Police Scotland investigation.

"The Lord Advocate inferred that he thought the blame for the delay lies with the Law Society. We need an immediate inquiry into the communication between the Law Society and the Crown Office about this case, given the opportunities there were for further alleged fraud against vulnerable families during the delay.

"It took a year after the lawyer was struck off for the Law Society to properly inform the Crown Office, but just six days for the Crown Office to order a Police Scotland investigation. Something doesn’t add up.

"The pressure is now on the Law Society to come clean about who knew what and when. We need full transparency about why it took so long for the Law Society to pass on information about this case. Without full transparency it will look like the establishment is closing ranks to protect one of its own.

"The Lord Advocate is right not to rule out action under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Vulnerable families have lost out because of the alleged actions of people trying to make a quick buck. In the interests of justice it's only right that those who allegedly profiteered from vulnerable families don't get to enjoy the benefits of their immoral actions."

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