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Stagecoach tycoon denies charges: ‘I’m not a human trafficker’

© PAAnn Gloag is made a dame at Buckingham Palace in 2019.
Ann Gloag is made a dame at Buckingham Palace in 2019.

Dame Ann Gloag yesterday denied human trafficking allegations after being charged by police.

The 80-year-old Stagecoach tycoon was charged after voluntarily attending Falkirk police station to be interviewed on Thursday after an investigation into alleged human trafficking and immigration offences.

The allegations are understood to relate to people who were brought to Scotland as part of her charity work with the Gloag Foundation. Her husband David McCleary, 72, her stepdaughter Sarah Gloag, 47, and son-in-law Paul McNeil were also charged.

Yesterday, a spokesman said the coach company founder, who supports a charitable foundation, rejects the allegations, adding she would “vigorously defend herself and the work of her foundation to protect her legacy and continue her work helping thousands of people in the UK and abroad every year.”

Gloag co-founded the Stagecoach bus company in 1980 with her brother Brian Souter, and was made a dame for her business and charity work. The company is the UK’s biggest bus and coach operator, and is now managed by DWS Infrastructure. Gloag retired from Stagecoach in 2019 and at that time she was Scotland’s richest woman.

The Gloag Foundation is a charitable trust set up by Gloag, which works to support projects that “prevent or relieve poverty and encourage the advancement of education, health and religion in the UK and overseas”, according to its website.

Gloag, who has six children, 13 grandchildren and two great grandchildren, previously helped establish a hospital in Malawi and also founded Kenya Children’s Homes in 2002, which educates and cares for more than 1,500 children every year.

She was supported by Sarah Brown, wife of former prime minister Gordon Brown, yesterday, who on social media suggested the allegations “don’t add up” and praised the tycoon’s philanthropy: “She is a remarkable campaigner and quietly generous charity supporter.”

A source close to Gloag said she fears her charitable work will be jeopardised by the allegations: “She’s very stoic but she is bemused by these accusations that have been made against her and her family.

“Friends are worried about her future charitable work. There could be serious implications for all of Ann’s charitable pursuits.

“It’s ironic that one of the charities that Ann does very quiet work with – Open Door – is focused on some of the issues she’s been accused of.

“She’s done work to stop human trafficking and that could also be in jeopardy.”

The foundation says it works to provide “emergency shelter for victims of any form of human trafficking” and described Dame Ann as a “long-time supporter and friend” who provided donations.

© PA
The Stagecoach founder “strongly disputes the malicious allegations” made against her after being charged with human trafficking offences.

The charity said her support helped it to directly assist 260 Ukrainian women, children and elderly men in 2021, all of whom were said to have been at high risk of being trafficked.

Executive director Monica Boseff said: “To conflate Dame Ann’s decades of charitable work with these heinous crimes is not only harmful to her legacy, it is dangerous for so many victims who are truly in urgent need.”

Before her business career, Gloag worked as a unit sister in Bridge of Earn Hospital, Perthshire, where she met her future husband, Robin Gloag, while he was a patient. Robin Gloag was killed in a car crash in December 2007.

The couple ran a small caravan sales business in the 1970s before Gloag and her brother bought a bus for £425.

They were then asked by a construction company to provide transport for workers travelling to building sites and they bought two more buses, eventually expanding what became Stagecoach into an international company operating buses, trains, trams and ferries.

Police Scotland said: “On January 19, 2023, four individuals were charged in connection with an investigation into alleged human trafficking and immigration offences. A report will be sent to the Procurator Fiscal.”