Stagecoach founder Dame Ann Gloag “strongly disputes the malicious allegations” made against her after being charged with human trafficking offences.
A spokesperson for the bus company tycoon said she would “vigorously defender herself” as well as her family and the charitable foundation she established.
It comes after Police Scotland confirmed four people have been charged following an investigation into alleged human trafficking and immigration offences.
A spokesperson for the force 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.”
A spokesperson for Dame Ann, 80, said: “Whilst we cannot comment on the details of an ongoing investigation, Dame Ann Gloag strongly disputes the malicious allegations that have been made against her, her foundation and members of her family, and will 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.”
Dame Ann 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.
The Gloag Foundation is a charitable trust set up by Dame Ann, 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.
Sarah Brown, wife of former prime minister Gordon Brown, took to Twitter to voice her support for Dame Ann.
Mrs Brown said: “Gordon and I have known Ann Gloag for many years through her huge personal commitment to Freedom from Fistula and supporting girls’ health & education.
“She is a remarkable campaigner and quietly generous charity supporter. These charges just don’t add up.”
Another charity voiced its support for Dame Ann, with Monica Boseff, executive director of the Open Door Foundation, saying she has “compassion and high moral values”.
The foundation says it works to provide “emergency shelter for victims of any form of human trafficking” and described Dame Ann a “long time supporter and friend” who provided donations.
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.
Ms Boseff said: “I am in no doubt that without the generosity and support of Dame Ann Gloag, our organisation would not be able to continue its vital work helping some of society’s most vulnerable people.
“Dame Ann’s compassion and high moral values have infused our work from the beginning and we will continue to stand by her while she fights to clear her name.
“As recent high-profile cases have demonstrated, the issue of human trafficking is a very real and dangerous threat to women, men, boys and girls across Europe.
“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.”