Washington: Dinesh Chawla, a prominent Indian-origin hotelier in the US, who previously partnered with President Donald Trump’s family on four hotels, has been arrested on charges of stealing bags from the Memphis airport for the “thrill and excitement,” according to media reports.
According to police records, airport security footage recorded Chawla, the CEO of Chawla Hotels, on August 18 removing another passenger’s suitcase from a baggage claim carousel at the Memphis International Airport in the US state of Tennessee and putting it in his car before taking a flight.
The airport police said they searched the car and discovered the suitcase and another piece of luggage that had been taken from the airport a month earlier, The New York Times reported.
Chawla, 56, was arrested when he returned to Memphis on Thursday and admitted to stealing the two bags and their contents, valued at about USD 4,000, according to a police affidavit.
The records also said Chawla had confessed to stealing other luggage “over a long period of time,” but it provided no details of other thefts.
Chawla told an officer “that he knows stealing luggage is wrong, but he does it for the thrill and excitement,” the NYT quoted the records as saying.
He was given a USD 5,000 bond and released on Thursday. Chawla has a court date scheduled for Friday, Mississippi Clarion Ledger newspaper reported.
He could not immediately be reached for comment.
Chawla and his brother Suresh Chawla operate 17 hotels and motels in Mississippi and are constructing a luxury hotel in Cleveland, an undertaking that until February was a joint venture with the Trump Organisation.
The Trump brothers, Donald Trump Jr and Eric, withdrew from the undertaking in February, saying that “harassment” from Democrats had led them to that decision, but praising the Chawlas.
The relations between the Trumps and the Chawlas began in 1988 when the Indian-origin brothers’ father, V K Chawla, reached out to Donald Trump Sr for help starting a motel in Greenwood.
Trump called the elder Chawla and suggested that he apply for a minority Small Business Administration loan, which he did successfully, Mississippi Business Journal reported.
Last year, The NYT profiled Chawla as he and his brother were partners with the Trump Organization on several of their hotel project in the Mississippi Delta until early this year.