Support letters pour in for NRI hotelier caught in US illegal contributions case
Weeks before the sentencing of NRI hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal on charges of conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions in the US, over 300 letters of support from his friends have been submitted to a court here detailing his humanitarian work, to seek leniency.
Chatwal (70), a Padma Bhushan awardee and major fundraiser for former secretary of state of the US Hillary Clinton, had pleaded guilty in April this year for violating the Federal Election Campaign Act by raising more than US$1,80,000 in campaign donations to three candidates through straw donors.
He is scheduled to be sentenced on November 19 and while the charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 25 years, under a plea deal with the government he could be sentenced to a little more than five years and would have to pay US$5,00,000 in fines.
He has agreed to forfeit US$10, 00,000 to the US.
His lawyers have submitted nearly 300 letters from Chatwal's friends, family, employees and business colleagues. These letters detail his philanthropic and humanitarian work, seeking leniency from district judge I Leo Glasser in his sentencing.
Among them is a November-2008 letter by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh where he expressed his "sincere appreciation" for Chatwal's "personal efforts" in working for the successful conclusion of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.
Notably, there are no letters of support from former US President Bill Clinton or his wife former secretary of state Hillary Clinton - with whom Chatwal was considered to be close.
Chatwal had raised at least US$ 1,00,000 for Hillary's 2008 presidential campaign against Barack Obama.
Among those who have written letters are former Indian consul general in New York ambassador Prabhu Dayal, CEO of YES Bank Rana Kapoor, media honcho Robert Johnson and restaurant titan Geoffrey Zakarian.
"We ask that the Court take these letters, together with the sentencing memorandum to be filed separately, into account in determining an appropriate sentence," said Jonathan Sack, whose firm represents Chatwal.