On his last trip to India in 2014, Donald Trump partied with Bollywood stars and praised the country’s potential. “I don’t consider this as an emerging market, I think it’s an amazing market,” he said in an interview with New Delhi Television.
Since then, two of Trump’s business partners in India have developed problems of their own: One is accused of massive fraud, while the other is facing a funding crunch. Both of them have close ties to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Ahead of Trump’s visit to India, the president’s business partners were keeping a low profile. Two of them did not respond to requests for comment, and two others declined to comment. The Trump Organization did not respond to specific questions about its Indian ventures, but Trump Jr. said he was “incredibly proud” of the company’s “continued success in India.”
Here’s what you need to know about Trump’s business ties in India:
Trump Towers Pune
In 2014, Trump made headlines when he flew to Pune, a major city in western India, in his private jet for a party with the city’s richest people. “You could say that I’ve brought theatrics into real estate,” Trump said in an interview with an Indian winner of the Miss Universe contest.
Trump Towers Pune are twin 23-story towers with the black glass facade associated with many Trump properties. Prices start at $1.95 million for 4,400-square-foot apartments, according to the developer, Panchshil Realty. The firm is owned by two brothers, Atul and Sagar Chordia. They ran into controversy following a meeting with Trump at Trump Tower in New York soon after he was elected president, raising concerns about Trump’s continuing involvement in business decisions.
In 2018, Donald Trump Jr. came to India to inaugurate the second tower when it was completed. Atul Chordia told a local news agency that his experience working with the Trump Organization had been one of “great satisfaction.”
Trump Tower Mumbai
Rising in the heart of India’s financial capital is the 75-story Trump Tower Mumbai, which promises a private jet service to its buyers. The promoter is Macrotech Developers, founded by Mangal Prabhat Lodha, reportedly the richest real estate developer in India and a state lawmaker from the ruling party.
Now run by his son Abhishek Lodha, Macrotech is reeling under a large debt burden. In September, it laid off nearly 400 employees. Late last year, ratings agencies Fitch and Moody’s downgraded the firm’s bonds to junk status and said it was unclear whether Macrotech would be able to manage a $324 million debt payment due next month.
Ritesh Shah, 41, a diamond trader who purchased two apartments in Trump Tower Mumbai, said the biggest pull was that the building was compliant with the principles of Vastu, a traditional Hindu system of architecture. He said buyers were originally supposed to take possession at the end of 2018, but the delay has not worried him. “Trump is the only real estate brand that really matters around the globe,” he said. “There is no second brand.” Prices start at $1.04 million for three-bedroom apartments.
When reached by The Washington Post, Mangal Prabhat Lodha declined to answer any questions, saying, “I don’t want to talk about it.” The company’s media representative also did not respond to requests for comment.
Office tower in IREO City
In 2016, the Trump Organization announced a partnership with IREO, a real-estate-focused private equity firm, to build an office tower in the city of Gurugram — also known as Gurgaon — just outside the capital, New Delhi. IREO’s founder, Lalit Goyal, is the brother-in-law of Sudhanshu Mittal, a Delhi-based leader of the ruling party.
But the project ran into trouble when IREO was accused in 2018 by two of its investors of a massive financial fraud worth at least $147 million. Ramesh Sanka, IREO’s former chief executive, alerted investors to the alleged fraud. Sanka declined to comment, citing a court settlement with IREO that bars him from speaking to the media. P.K. Mitra, a senior official at the Delhi Police, said that the case was still under investigation. “We are collecting documents and information from concerned agencies [and] recording statements of investors and house buyers,” he said.
It is unclear whether the Trump partnership with IREO is still active. On IREO’s website, the Trump project isn’t listed. Goyal and IREO did not respond to requests for comment on the Trump project and the fraud investigation.
Trump Towers Delhi NCR
The Trump Organization still has an upcoming project in Gurugram: two 600-foot-tall towers with more than 250 luxury apartments that are being built at a cost of $200 million. Construction began in 2018 and is in the preliminary stage, with two built-up floors, according to an update posted on the project’s website.
Trump’s partners in the venture are M3M — which stands for Magnificence in the Trinity of Men, Materials and Money — and Tribeca Developers. The latter has worked with the Trump Organization for the past seven years, according to its website, and helps it identify suitable sites for Trump-branded projects in India.
Trump Tower Kolkata
The latest Trump project in India is being built in the eastern city of Kolkata. Described as “inspired by the spirit of Manhattan extravagance,” the project reportedly sold half of the available units within two months of its launch.
Sumit Bhalotia, 37, director of finance at Khaitan & Co, said he had no second thoughts about investing his life savings in the property because the tower was “associated with the president of the U.S.A.” He said he had not known about Trump and his business empire before Trump became president.
In September, the developers of the Kolkata and Gurugram residential projects organized a three-day trip to New York for buyers, a trip that they called #livingtheTrumplife. Nearly 150 guests spent an evening at a Trump-branded golf course in the Bronx, where they met with Donald Trump Jr. He had a fireside chat with Kalpesh Mehta, Tribeca’s founder. Working in India has been an “amazing experience,” said Trump Jr. “It’s a market that we continue to thrive in despite everything going on in the world.”
Tania Dutta in New Delhi and Joshua Partlow in Washington contributed to this report.