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Major New Investigation into Trump Real Estate Deals in India Reveals Corruption, Lawsuits, Fraud

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A major new investigation has just been published into Trump's business partnerships in India and the conflicts of interest these deals pose for the White House. The new cover story for The New Republic is titled "Political Corruption and the Art of the Deal." In it, journalist Anjali Kamat notes the Trump Organization has entered into more deals in India than in any other foreign country. These deals, she writes, are worth an estimated $1.5 billion and produced royalties of up to $11 million between 2014 and 2017. During her year-long investigation, Kamat traced Trump's India partners' long history of facing lawsuits, police inquiries and government investigations that contain evidence of potential bribery, fraud, intimidation, illegal land acquisition, tax evasion and money laundering.

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AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to a major new investigation into Trump's business partnerships in India and the conflicts of interest these deals pose for the White House. The new cover story article for The New Republic is headlined "Political Corruption and the Art of the Deal." In it, journalist Anjali Kamat notes the Trump Organization has entered into more deals in India than in any other foreign country. These deals, she writes, are worth an estimated $1.5 billion and produced royalties of up to $11 million between 2014 and 2017.

During her year-long investigation, Anjali Kamat traced Trump's India partners' long history of facing lawsuits, police inquiries and government investigations that contain evidence of potential bribery, fraud, intimidation, illegal land acquisition, tax evasion and money laundering. Donald Trump Jr. has made repeated trips to India, as recently as last month. Last year, Ivanka Trump headed the U.S. delegation to a Global Entrepreneurship Summit. And President Trump himself has welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a far-right Hindu nationalist, to the White House, as well as entertained politically connected Indian real estate developers at Trump Tower in Manhattan shortly after his November 2016 election. The New Republic investigation comes as The Washington Post reveals one of the Trump Organization's real estate partners in India has been accused of large-scale fraud and swindling investors out of $147 million.

Well, for more, we're joined now by Anjali Kamat, an award-winning investigative journalist, reporter with the Investigative Fund, and Belle Zeller visiting professor at Brooklyn College. Her cover story for The New Republic, again, "Political Corruption and the Art of the Deal," which is accompanied by a podcast, Trump, Inc., from WNYC and ProPublica. The project was reported in partnership with the Wayne Barrett Project at the Investigative Fund. Previously, Anjali Kamat was a producer and correspondent for Al Jazeera's Fault Lines and Democracy Now!

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Welcome back to Democracy Now!

ANJALI KAMAT: Thanks, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It's great to have you with us, Anjali. So, talk about this amazing, this epic, 1-year investigation. And it comes out right on the heels of Donald J. Trump under enormous fire here in the United States for going to push Trump business interests in India.

ANJALI KAMAT: You know, Donald Jr. made this visit to India last month. He visited four cities in four days. He got massive press coverage, most of it very, very positive, in India. And he was there to sell apartments in -- Trump-branded apartments in his projects across the country. And the thing to remember here is that the Trump Organization's largest overseas portfolio is in India. They've got five active projects there right now. And only one of those projects is actually completed, so four of them are still in various stages of construction, and they're selling pre-construction apartments.

And the way they were advertising sales for these apartments is by offering access to Don Jr. So, right before Don Jr.'s visit, about a month before, there was an advertisement that was taken out that said the first hundred buyers of this one project, that's right near the capital, New Delhi, would get flown to New York to visit Don Jr. When Don Jr. was actually coming to India, the weekend before, newspapers in New Delhi, all the major English newspapers, had full front-page cover ads that said, you know, "Trump has arrived. Are you invited?" "Trump is here. Are you coming?" You know, and anyone who could put down a deposit, of about $39,000 to $40,000, on an apartment would get a chance to have dinner with Don Jr. So, it raises a lot of questions about potential conflicts of interest.

And the other thing about Don Jr.'s visit to India is, initially, when he first planned his trip, he was supposed to speak at a conference, at a Global Business Summit that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also speaking at. And he was supposed to give a foreign policy speech on Indo-Pacific relations. This raised a lot of questions among ethics experts in the U.S. And then, so, at the last minute, that speech was changed to a fireside chat and was just a conversation with a journalist.

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AMY GOODMAN: So, let's go to an interview Donald Trump Jr. did last month in India with CNBC's Indian affiliate.

DONALD TRUMP JR.: I think there is something about the spirit of the Indian people that's unique here to other parts of the emerging world. I can -- you know, you go through a town, and you -- you know, and I don't mean to be glib about it, but you can see the poorest of the poor, and there's a -- there's still a smile on a face. You say hello. You -- it's a different spirit, that you don't see in other parts of the world, where people walk around so solemn. And I think there's something unique about that, that doesn't exist elsewhere. And it always struck me, as, you know, I know some of the most successful people in the world, and some of them are the most miserable people in the world.

AMY GOODMAN: In a separate interview during his visit to India, Trump Jr. said Indian buyers were "starved for luxury" in their own country and that Trump properties would delivery that luxury to Indian consumers.

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