President-elect Donald J. Trump’s meeting last week in his office at Trump Tower with three Indian business partners who are building a Trump-branded luxury apartment complex south of Mumbai, has raised new questions about how he would separate his business dealings from the work of the government once he is in the White House.
The three Indian executives — Sagar Chordia, Atul Chordia, and Kalpesh Mehta — have been quoted in Indian newspapers, including The Economic Times, as saying they have discussed expanding their partnership with the Trump Organization now that Trump is president-elect. The Economic Times reported that the meeting occurred on Tuesday, November 15.
A spokeswoman for Trump had described the meeting as a courtesy call by the three Indian real estate executives, who flew from India to congratulate Trump on his election victory. In a picture posted on Twitter, all four men are smiling and giving a thumbs-up, media reports here suggested. “It was not a formal meeting of any kind,” Breanna Butler, a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, said when asked about the meeting on Saturday.
One of the businessmen, Sagar Chordia, posted photographs on Facebook showing that he also met with Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump., Trump’s children, who are helping to run his businesses as they play a part in the presidential transition.
Sagar Chordia is reported to have confirmed that the meeting with Trump and members of his family had taken place, and that an article written about it in the Indian newspaper, which reported that one of his partners said they had discussed the desire to expand the deals with the Trump family, was accurate.
Atul Chordia and Sagar Chordia are well-known figures in real estate in Pune, a city of about three million people in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Their father, Ishwardas Chordia, was born into a family of sugar traders, but as a young man forged a close friendship with Sharad Pawar, who became an important politician in Maharashtra and now sits in the upper house of India’s Parliament. Beginning in the 1990s, Chordia businesses built luxury hotels, corporate parks and residential projects in upscale neighborhoods in Pune.
Mehta is the managing partner of a real-estate firm named Tribeca, which is also a part of the Trump projects in India, which go by names including Trump Towers Pune and Trump Towers Mumbai.
Washington ethics lawyers said that a meeting with Indian real estate partners, regardless of what was discussed, raised conflict of interest questions for Trump, who could be perceived as using the presidency to advance his business interests.
Internationally, many properties that bear Trump’s name are the result of marketing deals — like the one in India — in which he is paid by someone for the use of his name but does not actually own the underlying property. He has such marketing agreements in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, the Philippines and Turkey, according to a list published by his company.