Even when your best friends are Bill and Hillary Clinton, you cannot escape the net of a high-profile FBI investigation.
This would appear to be the key lesson learned by Sant Singh Chatwal, the wealthy hotel magnate who on Thursday pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Federal Election Campaign Act by making more than $180,000 in federal campaign donations to three candidates through “straw donors” who were reimbursed, and to witness tampering.
In doing so Mr. Chatwal, who has often been described as a “bundler,” or large-scale campaign finance contributor to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign among others, flouted spending limits aimed at limiting financial influence in federal elections and to ensure transparency as to the identity of donors.
Mr. Chatwal, who struck a plea bargain with federal authorities here and agreed to “forfeit” $1 million, was awarded the Padma Bhushan by former Indian President Pratibha Patil on January 26 2010. That award, however, caused a furore after it became known that he was dogged by “allegations of malfeasance,” even though the Government of India stood by its decision to honour him.
Mr. Chatwal, made his name in the restaurant industry for founding the Bombay Palace restaurant chain and then achieved notoriety in the 1990s for being pursued by U.S. and Indian authorities for unpaid taxes linked to high-end real estate.
This week he was said to have “used his employees, business associates, and contractors who performed work on his hotels to solicit campaign contributions on Chatwal’s behalf in support of various candidates for federal office and PACs, collect these contributions, and pay reimbursements for these contributions.”