Trump Partner In India Accused Of Massive $147M Fraud

Donald Trump, Jr. speaking with CNBC-TV18 during his February 2017 trip to India.Screengrab/CNBC-TV18/YouTube

Real estate investment development company IREO is accused of defrauding foreign investors of at least $147 million.

According to The Washington Post, a real estate investment firm working with the Trump Organization in India has been accused of fraud by foreign investors to the tune of at least $147 million.

British billionaire Christopher Hohn's charity the Children's Investment Fund Foundation and Goldman Sachs executive Dinakar Singh's Axon Partners filed a joint criminal complaint in February with local authorities.

Two global investment companies based in New York and London that have invested nearly $300 million in the Indian real estate development company IREO filed a criminal complaint with New Delhi police last month alleging that the fund’s Indian managing director, Lalit Goyal, co-founder Anurag Bhargava and others engaged in “large-scale fraud” by “illegally siphoning off” at least $147 million of investor money, although the actual sum could approach $200 million, they allege. Police in New Delhi said they have received the complaint but declined to discuss the matter further.

Though the Trump organization is not named in the complaint, Donald Trump, Jr. announced the company was partnering on a project with IREO in 2016 and indicated while on a trip to India last year that the project is still active.

The Trump Organization did not respond to the Post's requests for comment on the matter.

Goyal said in an interview with The Post in the spring of 2017 that the company first approached the Trump Organization about partnering on a commercial real estate tower around 2013. An early deal fell through, but the two parties signed a licensing agreement in 2016 for the luxury office building that included use of the Trump name, “technical assistance” and a percentage of the lease income, Goyal said.

“We thought Trump would be the ideal partner,” Goyal said. In a 2016 meeting on the project, Trump Jr. was “very focused on what the commercial building should be. The shape of the glass, what customers like. He was very businesslike,” Goyal said.

The two investors alleging misconduct were alerted to IREO's actions by former CEO Ramesh Sanka, whose tenure with IREO was short-lived.

In an interview, Sanka said he joined IREO in 2014 and grew concerned when he learned that a group of IREO home buyers went to the police and complained that their apartments had been canceled but their money had not been refunded. He began his own investigation, gathering documents from the area planning office and other government agencies.

He left the company in 2016, he said, “once I was convinced these frauds were true and deep-rooted.”

Goyal has denied all accusations against IREO and indicated to investors that Sanka is untrustworthy:

“We find the timing of his alleged ‘whistle blowing’ curious and the manner suspicious to say the least. Mr. Ramesh Sanka has made unsubstantiated allegations without producing any concrete or direct evidence, he has resorted to conjectures and surmises coupled with ingenious drafting to give an impression of some alleged wrongdoing.”

The letter also notes that Sanka was barred by India’s regulator from the securities market for three years for alleged malfeasance at a previous job. That case was later set aside on appeal.

When the Trump Organization announced its deal with Goyal's company in 2016, Trump Jr. called IREO “truly a fantastic group”.

Per the Washington Post, IREO "manages over $1.6 billion from sovereign wealth and university endowment funds, a portfolio of 1,485 acres in the Delhi area and in the state of Punjab, and 18 million square feet of commercial and residential projects in development."