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 in charge of the finances of two pro-Scottish independence organisations.
The prosecutor asked the jury to "follow the money" in regards to her bank balance being deposited with the funds from organisations "rooted on trust."
Mitchell claimed that 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, is said to have embezzled £21,000 while treasurer for Women for Independence (WFI) between April 26, 2013 and November 30, 2015.
A second charge states she took £4,661 between April 9, 2014 and August 10, 2015 when she was treasurer, secretary and convenor of Glasgow Regional Association (GRA) of the SNP.
McGarry, of Clarkston, East Renfrewshire, denies the two charges.
Mitchell began his speech by outlining to the jury that McGarry was loaned cash from colleagues including £600 from health secretary Humza Yousaf.
He stated that McGarry had no regular income from employment until she became an MP in spring 2015.
Mitchell said that McGarry received £27,000 to her personal bank account from three WFI fundraisers.
He added: "WFI witnesses were surprised that money was going into her bank account and they were not aware of that."
Mitchell then stated a further £31,000 of WFI PayPal money also entered McGarry's account.
He added that there was a grand total of £66,029 which was put into her account from WFI sources.
Mitchell then took the jury to the report WFI accountant Elizabeth Young drew up which outlined a missing 40 per cent of its income.
He said: "When the scale of the money became clear...they said they had to take action."
Mitchell asked the jury to "follow the money" and then referred to a police chartered accountant's report.
He said: "We saw a clear pattern when money was needed for rent, money came from WFI.
"When money was needed for loans or personal expenses, money came from WFI.
"You saw spending that would not have been possible without WFI money coming to her account.
"There was no gap for WFI expenses."
Mitchell also touched on McGarry's holiday to Spain during the time period.
He said: "The extravagance doesn't matter, she took it dishonestly, it doesn't matter if it was £20 or £20,000.
"Evidence was showing money was being used from WFI for purchases of that sort.
"The accountancy report shows that the funds were used to bridge the gap between McGarry's low income and outgoing such as rent as well as expenses."
Mitchell explained that WFI members such as former MSP Carolyn Leckie "trusted" McGarry and that the organisation was informal.
He asked the jury: "Does this not present an opportunity for her to abuse that trust?"
Mitchell then went on to talk about the GRA and evidence heard about McGarry not handing financial information to treasurer Alexander Belic when he was elected.
He said that McGarry had similar "complete control" of the finances of GRA as she had of WFI.
Mitchell remarked on payments made by McGarry from the GRA to a property consultancy firm as well as to SNP Shettleston.
He claimed evidence showed the amounts forked out were ones that McGarry received personally from governmental expenses body IPSA.
The prosecutor also highlighted a £2,000 cheque McGarry made out to herself she claimed was to pay for media training.
He said: "Patterns once again show she had £11.21 in her account the day before and you can see the money was spent on shopping, personal expenditure as well as a rent payment."
Mitchell spoke about McGarry's position in evidence that some expenses could be explained with missing emails.
He said: "How much evidence did you hear about that, not hints or suggestions or specifics about evidence of that.
"Over 12,000 emails recovered and there are no emails about spending and bills.
"You are 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 "disorganised" and stated that the "deliberate transfers" were "calculated."
Mitchell ended his speech saying: "When you contribute money to an organisation you expect that to be used for that purpose.
"You don't expect to pay McGarry's rent or keep up her payments or unaccountable altogether.
"Taking a role at WFI and GRA is a large responsibility someone should take seriously as an MP all the more so.
"These organisations were responsibly rooted on trust - not just trust but members of the public donating funds and colleagues campaigning together as part of that work.
"I suggest the picture is considerably clear, McGarry abused that trust and embezzled these funds.
"For those reasons, I invite you to find her guilty of both charges before you."
Allan MacLeod, defending, told the jury in his closing speech that the finances were "disorganised" and "chaotic."
He stated that McGarry was "lumbered" with admin work with WFI working "incredible hours" even after she became an MP.
The advocate said: "Does it make sense that she would want that organisation to fail?"
The advocate added that there was an "element" of burying her head in that sand" at that stage.
He said: "Miss McGarry gave evidence that she didn't do anything wrong and would not go through all of this if she committed the crime.
"She sat in the witness box for six days and gave a full account about what happened.
"Would she have done things differently? Absolutely.
"That's not the question, it's about did she act dishonestly, did she deliberately misappropriate funds for her own use?
"I say when you look at the evidence in this case and apply common sense to that, you will acquit Miss McGarry of these charges."
The trial continues before Sheriff Tom Hughes.