Detroit News: Sudip Datta on Schuette real estate deals

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette used state staffers in his taxpayer-funded office as signed witnesses and notaries on at least four private real estate transactions in the Virgin Islands, including deed transfers on two separate properties sold for $1.8 million each.

Some of Schuette’s island property sales first came to light Thursday during a gubernatorial forum, where Lt. Gov. Brian Calley accused his Republican rival of violating his pledge to put assets into a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest while serving as attorney general.

Real estate holdings are sometimes included in blind trusts, said Sudip Datta, chairman of the Department of Finance at Wayne State University. While he was not familiar with Schuette’s transactions or blind trust, he noted that property can present a potential conflict of interest.

Someone could buy property at an elevated, above-market price from a person of power just to “curry favor,” Datta said. “If some lobbyist wants to buy my property I bought for $100,000 and wants to pay $1 million, that excess $900,000 can be a conflict of interest,” he said.

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