New York: 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 Hillary Clinton, had pleaded guilty in April to violating the Federal Election Campaign Act by making more than USD 180,000 in campaign donations to three candidates through straw donors and to witness tampering.
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 USD 500,000 in fines. He has agreed to forfeit USD one million to the US.
His lawyers have submitted nearly 300 letters from Chatwal's friends, family, employees and business colleagues detailing his philanthropic and humanitarian work to seek leniency from District Judge I Leo Glasser in his sentencing.
Among them is a November 2008 letter by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who expressed his "sincere appreciation" for Chatwal's "personal efforts" in working for the successful conclusion of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.
He congratulated Chatwal for his "important contribution" in bringing the two countries closer together and expressed confidence of his continued support to deepen Indo-US ties.
Notably, there are no letters of support from former US President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary, with whom Chatwal was considered to be very close.
Chatwal had raised at least USD 100,000 for Hillary's 2008 presidential campaign against Barack Obama.
A July 2014 letter by author Deepak Chopra describes him as a "compassionate, caring and selfless" person who has been "very instrumental in fostering relationships" between the governments of India and the US.
Zee Network Chairman Subhash Chandra, who has been Chatwal's friends for over 20 years, said in his letter of support dated May 2014 that Chatwal is a "hard worker who has done much for the people of India and the US."
Former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister of India T.K.A. Nair said in a June 2014 letter that "as a devout Sikh and philanthropist, Chatwal has been rendering commendable service to society in different areas."
Nair noted the "remarkable passion" with which Chatwal committed himself to the cause of the civil nuclear deal.
Among those who have written letters are his wife, sons Vikram and Vivek, 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 a sentencing memorandum to be filed separately, into account in determining a just and appropriate sentence," said Jonathan Sack, whose firm represents Chatwal.