Hotel magnate Sant Singh Chatwal pleads guilty to violating US poll laws

Written by PTI | New York | Updated: Apr 18 2014, 14:57pm hrs
Indian-American hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal Thursday pleaded guilty at a court here to violating federal election laws by using straw donors to secretly funnel money to political campaigns and will pay a million dollars to the US as part of his plea agreement.

Chatwal admitted that he used straw donors to secretly funnel money to political campaigns so that he could gain access to the politicians, and he coerced another person to hide his crime, said acting US Assistant Attorney General David ONeil. Chatwal, 70, had raised at least USD 100,000 for former secretary of state Hillary Clintons 2008 presidential campaign against Barack Obama.

He pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of New York to conspiring to violate the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Election Act) by making more than USD 180,000 in federal campaign donations to three candidates through straw donors who were reimbursed and to witness tampering.

There is no allegation that the candidates participated in, or were aware of, Chatwals scheme, federal prosecutors said.

US Attorney Loretta Lynch said, Chatwals scheme sought to subvert the very purpose of the Election Act. Chatwal then rolled the dice to stymie the governments investigation, thinking he could corruptly convince witnesses to his federal election crimes to stay silent. That gamble did not pay off.

The Washington Post said Chatwal faces a maximum of nearly six years in prison when he is sentenced on July 31. He is free on a USD 750,000 bond secured by property in Manhattan.

Chatwal was awarded Padma Bhushan in 2010 for his role in the India-US civilian nuclear deal. He heads the chain of the Hampshire Hotels.