Peter Murrell husband of former Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon charged with embezzlement

Peter Murrell arrives home after being charged
Peter Murrell arrives home from Falkirk Police station where he was questioned and charged with embezzlement

The husband of former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been charged in connection with the embezzlement of funds from the Scottish National Party.

Peter Murrell, 59, was taken into custody at 09:13 on Thursday and was questioned by Police Scotland detectives.

He was previously arrested as a suspect on 5 April 2023 before being released without charge.

BBC Scotland understands Mr Murrell has resigned his SNP membership.

He was charged at 18:35 after further questioning by officers investigating the funding and finances of the party as part of Operation Branchform.

Mr Murrell has since been released from police custody at Falkirk Police Station and returned to his home near Glasgow shortly after 20:00

He resigned as the SNP’s chief executive in March of last year after 22 years in the job.

An SNP spokesperson said: “While this development will come as a shock, the police investigation remains ongoing and it would, therefore, be inappropriate to make any comment.”

nicola sturgeon and peter murrell
Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell, seen here after voting in the 2019 general election, have been married since 2010 (Image: PA Media)

 

Police Scotland launched a formal investigation into the SNP’s finances in July 2021 after receiving complaints about how donations were used.

Questions had been raised about more than £660,000 in donations given to the party for use in a fresh independence referendum campaign.

When Mr Murrell was arrested last year, police searched the house he shares with Ms Sturgeon near Glasgow and the SNP headquarters in Edinburgh. The couple married in 2010.

The house was sealed off with blue and white tape, while a tent was erected on the driveway. Items were brought from the house to the tent, where the BBC understands a vehicle was parked.

Police also seized a camper van from outside the Dunfermline home of Mr Murrell’s mother.

The Niesmann and Bischoff vehicle, which can retail for more than £100,000, was seized by police the same morning that Mr Murrell became the first senior party figure to be arrested in the probe.

On 18 April 2023, SNP treasurer and MSP Colin Beattie was arrested and interviewed by police before being released pending further investigation. He later resigned as treasurer.

Police activity outside Mr Murrell's home
Police erected a tent in front of the house Mr Murrell shares with Ms Sturgeon when he was arrested last year

 

Ms Sturgeon was arrested on 11 June when she voluntarily arranged with Police Scotland to be questioned as part of the investigation, a spokesperson said at the time.

She was released without charge seven hours later pending further inquiries.

Ms Sturgeon had unexpectedly announced she was resigning as SNP leader and first minister four months earlier in February 2023.

A spokesperson for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) said: “Senior professional prosecutors from COPFS and an Advocate Depute are working with police on this ongoing investigation.

“It is standard practice that any case regarding politicians is dealt with by prosecutors without the involvement of the Lord Advocate or Solicitor General. All Scotland’s prosecutors act independently of political interference.

“As is routine, to protect the integrity of ongoing investigations, we do not comment in detail on their conduct.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “As this investigation is ongoing we are unable to comment further.

“The matter is active for the purposes of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 and the public are therefore advised to exercise caution if discussing it on social media.”

Presentational grey line
Analysis box by David Cowan, Home affairs correspondent, BBC Scotland

Now that Peter Murrell has been charged, the next step is for the police to send a report on the case to prosecutors at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

Its lawyers will decide whether the case goes to court, applying the usual tests.

They’ll consider whether or not there’s sufficient evidence that a crime has been committed and that the person accused by the police was responsible.

They’ll also decide whether a prosecution is in the public interest.

It’s coming up for three years since Operation Branchform was launched so the police report is likely to be a hefty document.

How long all this will take isn’t clear.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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