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Sant Singh Chatwal, the famed restaurateur and major political contributor to the Clintons, has left India, where he has been indicted on charges of alleged bank fraud.
Wire reports said New York-based Chatwal flew out of Bombay on Monday night. He took off soon after a 10-day court ban on his leaving the country ended.
In December, the Central Bureau of Investigation charged Chatwal with defrauding the New York branch of the state-run Bank of India of $ 9 million in 1994. He was accused of failing to repay a loan.
This is not the first charge leveled against the former Indian Air Force pilot, who migrated to the United States in the 1980s and started the Bombay Palace chain of restaurants.
He is said to have funneled $ 210,000 to Hillary Clinton's New York Senate campaign through 14 businesses, despite having declared bankruptcy in several cases. It is also alleged he owes the Internal Revenue Service and other state authorities $ 30 million in taxes.
Despite these charges, Chatwal has kept some high-powered friends close at hand -- notably the Clintons.
He came to India for Clinton's April visit, to raise funds for earthquake victims in Gujarat. He tagged along with the Clintons on their first visit to India in March 2000 and was twice their guest at White House dinners, including the banquet for Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The Clintons returned the favor, attending a $ 500,000 fundraiser at Chatwal's Manhattan residence.
In 1996, Chatwal was arrested in India, and charged with bank fraud by the CBI. But he claimed in court to have only $ 2,600 in his name and no checking account.
In 1996, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp accused Chatwal of obtaining improper loans from the now-defunct First New York Bank for Business, causing it to lose more than $ 25 million. According to court documents, Chatwal, a bank director, arranged more than $ 14 million in loans to himself and his businesses, often with no collateral, and then failed to repay most loans on time.
Chatwal appeared in a Bombay court last month, where the authorities registered charges against him. He was freed after paying a $ 32,610 bond.
The court ordered him to appear when his case came up for hearing, but it rejected imposing travel restrictions. The CBI appealed that decision to the high court, and Chatwal was barred from leaving for 10 days, to allow the appeal.
The ban ran out on Monday. The high court was to hear the CBI appeal on Wednesday. The CBI sent a letter to the immigration authorities in Bombay asking them to stop Chatwal from leaving, a CBI official said. Chatwal was nevertheless allowed to leave.
Besides owning the Bombay Palace chain of restaurants, the Chatwals also control the Hampshire Hotel and Resorts chain.
President Clinton's visit to India
The Vajpayee Visit
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