Health Secretary Humza Yousaf told a jury today that he loaned Natalie McGarry money to prevent her deportation.
The MSP said a “distressed” McGarry came to their office in Glasgow city center in February 2014.
He claimed McGarry told him she “didn’t have the money” and was threatened with losing her property that day.
Mr Yousaf said he then gave McGarry £600 which was later repaid.
McGarry, 40, who represented Glasgow East in Westminster for the SNP, allegedly stole more than £25,000 from two organizations advocating Scottish independence between April 2013 and August 2015.
McGarry allegedly embezzled £21,000 while serving as Treasurer of Women for Independence (WFI) between April 26, 2013 and November 30, 2015.
A second charge says McGarry took £4,661 between April 9, 2014 and August 10, 2015 when she was Treasurer, Secretary and Convener of the Glasgow Regional Association of the SNP.
Mr Yousaf told jurors in evidence at Glasgow Sheriff’s Court that McGarry arrived at his West Nile Street constituency office.
Mr Yousaf: “I think she was talking to my office manager at the time, Shona McAlpine.
“She came to my office in a state of distress.
“I asked her what was wrong and she told me that she had been threatened with eviction that day if she could not find the sum of around £600 and that she did not didn’t have the money at that time.
“There was a reason I can’t remember in great detail.
“There was a reason why she and her partner didn’t have access to the funds.
“I offered to lend him some funds of around £600 from the bank opposite.
“I completed the transaction and the money was returned to me pretty much on time.”
Mr Mitchell: “Was there any discussion of the source of the funds used to repay the money?”
Mr. Yousaf: “No.”
Mr Mitchell showed a bank statement showing that the money was refunded to Mr Yousaf in April 2014.
Allan Macleod, defending, told Mr Yousaf that McGarry did not go directly to the witness and asked him for money.
The lawyer suggested Mr Yousaf overheard a phone call between McGarry and Miss McAlpine and then a subsequent conversation between the two in person at his office.
Mr Yousaf agreed and said he then had a conversation with McGarry during which he discussed lending the money.
Mr Macleod also asked him if it was fair to say McGarry was ‘disorganised’ and ‘overdramatic’.
Mr. Yousaf replied, “Yes.”
McGarry’s friend Jonathan Mackie, 42, said he had repeatedly received money from McGarry who had “misplaced” his bank card.
He said he was then instructed to withdraw money from the bank to give it to her.
The witness initially believed it happened “five or six” times, but he told the jury that the police informed him that it happened 13 times.
Mr Mackie claimed to have visited McGarry and his partner after WFI released a statement regarding the ongoing issues between them.
He said he offered McGarry and his partner to stay at his neighboring property for two nights.
Mr Mitchell asked what McGarry’s attitude was like that night.
He replied: “She was quite rational at first trying to strategize how to fight him.
“During the night she was emotional and cried a lot.
“As the night went on, she was like ‘let’s fight this’.”
He later said, “I cleaned the guest bedroom and obviously put the kitchen knives away as I was concerned for his welfare.”
The witness said he later discovered that McGarry had taken out a loan from Amigo Loans.
He said: “It was after he was elected after May 2015 – that’s what was surprising.
“I knew how much she earned after tax and the idea would be that if you needed a payday loan to pay for the day, as the name suggests, it was just crackers.”
Mr Macleod explained to Mr Mackie that the loan was not a “payday loan”, but £5,000 which she took out from Amigo over a five-year period in December 2013.
Former WFI employee Kezia Kinder, 29, told the court that McGarry handed a blank check to her colleague Kathleen Caskie.
The witness said Miss Caskie was asked by McGarry to fill in the couple’s income and expenses.
Miss Kinder said: ‘Kathleen put the amount down and put it in her bank account and gave me money for my expenses.
Mr. Mitchell: “Did you know you were paid into Natalie McGarry’s personal bank account?”
Miss Kinder: “No.”
Mr. Macleod asked if Miss Kinder had any problems receiving her salary on time.
Miss Kinder replied, “Yes.”
She also agreed when told it was hallmark of WFI at the time.
McGarry – from Clarkston, East Renfrewshire – denies both charges.
The trial continues before Sheriff Tom Hughes tomorrow.