Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie today demanded the Scottish Government in future tell the public when it has been duped after a firm was struck off the companies register just two years after being at the centre of a controversial Chinese deal signed by the First Minister.
The company SINOFORTONE GROUP LTD was this week formally dissolved via a compulsory strike-off by the Registrar of Companies.
The 2016 deal was claimed to be worth £10 billion. It collapsed after revelations about SinoFortone's complete lack of financial strength and CR3's connections to human rights abuses and gross corruption. These were issues that weren't discovered before pen was put to paper because the Scottish Government failed to do background checks.
Last month it was reported that the fiasco has become "a cautionary tale" and helped coin a sarcastic new term among those working on Chinese-UK business deals.
Commenting on the scandal, Mr Rennie said:
“Ministers and their officials had eight separate discussions with SinoFortone and concluded it was a “serious and credible” company. Unfortunately, its own fixer, Sir Richard Heygate admitted later to the Sunday Times it was "all bollocks". The firm which Nicola Sturgeon and Keith Brown claimed could bring £10 billion of investment has now been struck off.
"The company generated a cloud of publicity in one part of the UK to build false credibility towards signing a deal elsewhere. The First Minister's signature and photo was gained through talk of theme parks in England and power stations in Wales. The First Minister's signature was then used as false verification to bolster claims about the purchase of Liverpool Football Club and other investments.
"Ministers should have warned people once they realised they had been duped. They refused, to try to save face.
"The SNP failed at every turn on this alleged multi-billion pound deal. They failed to check the companies’ human rights, corruption and investment history. They failed to make the deal public, and when it was exposed attacked opposition politicians for asking questions.
"Liberal Democrats demand better. We have already forced the Scottish Government to introduce new due diligence procedures because this saga must never be repeated. It dented Scotland's reputation as an ethical place to do business and is now used as a case study for avoiding pitfalls when doing deals.”