Trump Real Estate Deals in India

Anjali Kamat talking:

Donald Trump and the Trump Organization have five different projects, as I mentioned. So, each project, they’ve got a few different partners. And what’s really interesting is that almost all of the partners have a long history of legal entanglements, have a long history of being investigated for tax evasion by the government. At least three of them are very closely connected to very powerful political officials. Two of them are—have close connections to powerful political officials who are in the ruling party right now, who are part of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the BJP, which is the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. One of his partners is actually a political official himself. He’s a five-term state lawmaker in Bombay, now called Mumbai. And Mangal Prabhat Lodha is one of the wealthiest men in the country. He’s also a lawmaker. And he shares the same kind of ideological and political vision, in some ways. They’re both right-wing politicians, both developers who turned into politicians. His campaign slogan, a couple of years ago, became “Making Mumbai great again.” And both the Lodha Group and the other—another group in North India, in Gurgaon, called IREO, both of whom have ties to the ruling BJP, have also been under investigation on allegations of money laundering. So, these are—you know, these might be close friends of Don Jr., but there’s a lot of questions about how exactly they were vetted and what their reputations are.

– During his presidential campaign, in October 2016, right before the election, Donald Trump attended a fundraiser in Edison, New Jersey, organized by the conservative lobbying group the Republican Hindu Coalition.

The guy who introduced Donald Trump is Shalabh Kumar. He’s a Chicago-based Indian-American electronics billionaire. He was one of the largest donors; his family donated over a million dollars to Donald Trump’s campaign. And he’s also one of the biggest backers of Prime Minister Modi here in the U.S.

So, you know, Prime Minister Modi, before he was prime minister, he was the chief minister, the equivalent of a governor here, of the state of a Gujarat, the western Indian state of Gujarat, where there was a massacre of Muslims in 2002. And he was chief minister of the state at the time and was widely accused of not doing much to prevent the massacre. And there were various accusations, various court cases, that later came out, with different decisions around it. But from 2005 to 2013, he was not allowed in the United States.

And one of the things that changed his diplomatic isolation was both the fact that he was doing very well in the polls, and he would later be elected prime minister in 2014, but also Narendra Modi is widely seen as a very pro-business leader. He is a right-wing leader, but also very pro-business, and is seen as someone who’s, you know, going to drain the swamp, as it were. But one of the people who were key in turning around Modi’s diplomatic isolation was Shalabh Kumar, who organized a congressional delegation to Gujarat in 2013, just before Narendra Modi became prime minister.

– Gujarat massacre

There were several hundred Muslims who were killed in 2002. I mean, it’s a long, complicated story. But, you know, the tragic part about it is that many of the survivors and many of those—the families of those who were killed are still waiting for justice. A lot of these cases are dragging on in court. And this is something that was very politicized and has, in the current moment, become quite difficult to talk about.

Ivanka Trump went to India in November. So, when Prime Minister Modi came to the White House in June of last year, he made a point of inviting the president’s daughter to lead this Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India in November. And so Ivanka went in November to the southern city of Hyderabad. And she wore all these very beautiful Indian-inspired dresses, which was, you know, most of what the media coverage was about. And right before she came, you know, the streets were cleaned up. There was a lot of news reports about people who are homeless and living on the streets were removed. Everything was made to look spick and span and nice for the president’s daughter. Narendra Modi threw a fancy party for her.

But right after she left, one of my sources in—who’s a retired planning official in Gurgaon, told me that right after she left, things started going pretty well for the Trump’s business, as well. So, the towers that were the new project that was launched in January, the final permissions on that were pushed through, in no time, he said, right after she left. So, this is a case of the president’s daughter, who has an official position in the Trump administration, coming to India, and right after she leaves, there is something positive that happens on the business side for the Trump Organization. Then you have Don Jr. coming in, who has no official position in the Trump administration, who says he’s there as a businessman, but is asked to give a foreign policy speech.

– Which brings us to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits businesses from paying bribes to overseas officials.

a lot of legal experts are currently debating whether the structure of the Trump Organization’s deals in different countries that have a reputation and have real problems of corruption, like India, might be susceptible to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. And part of the problem is that these are licensing deals. So, the Trump Organization is, as for as we know, not investing any money in these properties. They’re just selling their brand.

But what I found over the course of this reporting is that the Trump Organization, and the Trump family, is actually very, very involved in these deals. And one of the things that legal experts are looking at is how much did they know. Even if it’s a licensing deal, even if it’s just a question of putting a name on a different project that you’re not involved in building, if they are very, very involved, and if they did know or had reason to know, and in a very corrupt environment like India, they’re not, you know, completely in the clear. If there’s evidence of bribes having been paid, you know, would they have reason to know? What did they do to prevent it?

Which is where due diligence comes in: How carefully did they vet their partners? And one of the most interesting things I found is their middleman, their fixer on the ground, who’s supposed to scope out new deals, is also responsible for doing due diligence on the partners. He’s getting paid, he’s getting a cut, for finding new deals, and part of his responsibility is also making sure that these partners are good enough for the Trump Organization.

Anjali Kamat
award-winning investigative journalist, reporter with the Investigative Fund, and Belle Zeller visiting professor at Brooklyn College. Her cover story for The New Republic is titled “Political Corruption and the Art of the Deal,” which is accompanied by a podcast, Trump, Inc., from WNYC and ProPublica. The project was reported in partnership with the Wayne Barrett Project at the Investigative Fund. Previously, Kamat was a producer and correspondent for Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines and Democracy Now!

— source


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