Hotelier Chatwal in middle of Democrat-Republican fight in US

  • Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Hindustan Times, Manhattan (New York)
  • Updated: Aug 02, 2015 23:04 IST
Hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal. HT Photo

Seventy-year-old multi-billionaire hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal, sitting in his designer office on the busy Seventh Avenue of Manhattan, puts the onus for his conviction in a fund-raising case involving USD 180,000, on the Republican Party.

"They (Republicans) systematically tried to fix me with the aim to fix Hillary (Clinton), but I stood like a rock and never let that happen. They know I contribute fund for Democrats so they wanted to scare me," Chatwal told Hindustan Times in an interview, announcing that he would give a tough fight to the Republicans in the forthcoming presidential elections, scheduled for November 2016.

"Such things happen in the US but in a planned manner; politics is the same everywhere as the opponents try to fix you," he said while taking business calls in between.

He supports Hillary, former secretary of state who is a frontrunner and so far the lone candidate from the Democratic Party for the top post. "Why not, I support her even now and will always do that," said Chatwal, who looked confident having suffered a high-profile trial which, he says, was "purely political".

Despite his conviction, Chatwal made a formal announcement to raise US dollars 2 billion for Hillary's presidential election campaign. The India-origin hotelier is a staunch supporter of the Clinton family and has been majorly involved in raising funds for the Clintons during the previous elections of former President Bill Clinton and wife Hillary.

"To save Hillary from embarrassment I accepted my guilt and pleaded before the federal court to be let off, but if I would have decided to face the jury (trial), the prosecution would have hauled Hillary in the trial. If I would have chosen to face the trial pleading innocence then the things would have been murkier for Hillary," Chatwal told Hindustan Times.

He was left on three years of probation, a fine of USD 500,000 and community service of 1,000 hours.

Chatwal was born in Rawalpindi, now in Pakistan, in 1946, began life with a humble background, studied in Faridkot in Punjab and Chandigarh, moved to Ethiopia in 1967 and a few years later to the US.

Chatwal, president of Hampshire hotels and resorts, owns 12 hotels in Manhattan alone with a total number of 3,000 rooms and 36 restaurants and bars, gives employment to 2,500 people and claims to give USD 2 billion as salaries annually. He also owns a chain of restaurants by the name of Bombay Palace and has hotels in Miami, Bangkok and Hyderabad and Cochin in India. Even at this age he works 12 hours a day, six days a week.

Chequered past

Sant Singh Chatwal, who was given India's third highest civilian award - Padma Bhushan in 2010 -- had a chequered past. He moved to Ethiopia in 1967 where he ran a school which, he claims, he still supports. He moved to the US in 1974 and started Bombay Palace restaurant.

Chatwal was reportedly booked in five cases of fraud by India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) but was acquitted in three cases and two were closed due to lack of evidence. His access to the White House, especially during Bill Clinton's tenure as President, is well known and Bill Clinton also attended the wedding of his son Vikram in 2006.

Chatwal claims to have played a key role in softening the relations of the US with India when he took President Bill Clinton to India in 2000 after a gap of 23 years. "Before that it was Jimmy Carter who had visited India in 1977, and look how the US viewpoint towards India has changed," Chatwal said.

He has also promised USD one million to Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee to build a Sikh centre and also supports a girls' college in Faridkot.

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