July 26, 2017

Trump adviser in conflict of interest controversy

09 May 2017, 08:09 | Clarence Schmidt

Top News French Election Kentucky DerbyAP

Top News French Election Kentucky DerbyAP

A much-criticized visa program that allows foreigners to win fast-track immigration in return for investing $500,000 in USA properties was extended in a bill signed by President Trump just one day before a sister of senior White House adviser Jared Kushner pitched the program to Chinese investors.

The Kushner family told a group of 100 wealthy Chinese investors Saturday that they could secure immigration visas to the USA with an investment of half a million dollars, several media outlets revealed.

However, eyebrows have been raised as the Chinese investment sought by his family is to be funnelled through the US EB-5 visa program.

This offers foreigners permanent residency - a green card - in exchange for investment of at least US$500,000 in a U.S. business that must also create 10 American jobs.

Though Meyer's presentation stopped short of claiming outright that Kushner Companies has special access and privilege to the White House, the Chinese are well accustomed to seeing the children of their own political elites harboring considerable political influence and power.

The real estate firm said in a statement Monday that Meyer was attempting to "make clear that her brother had stepped away from the company in January and has nothing to do with this project" when she mentioned him to investors in Beijing.

Wang Yun, one of 100 more than investors at the event, told The Washington Post the Kushner family's ties to Trump were part of the project's appeal. "That was not Ms. Meyer's intention".

Staff during a Shanghai event on Sunday promoting EB-5 investments in a Kushner Companies development in New Jersey.

Media captionA USA visa programme called "EB-5" is becoming increasingly popular with wealthy foreign investors hoping to receive a green card in return for their money. (The lawyer also insists that Kushner will recuse himself from any future White House deliberations on possibly reforming the EB-5 visa.) Attendees at the presentation surely understood how politically connected the Kushners are even without his sister getting into specifics.

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Created in 1990 as a way to encourage investment during a recession, the program requires foreigners to invest $1 million in a business that sustainably employs 10 people anywhere or $500,000 in rural areas or those with high unemployment.

"Nicole Meyer herself said this project means a lot to me and my family", he added.

"Mr. Kushner divested his interests in the One Journal Square project by selling them to a family trust that he is not a beneficiary of, a mechanism suggested by the Office of Government Ethics", said Blake Roberts, an attorney at WilmerHale advising Kushner on ethics issues.

Reporters from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Reuters were barred from Qiaowai's pitch events in Beijing and Shanghai.

"Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States", said one pamphlet for the event to raise money for the project, according to the Post.

The White House is now weighing sweeping changes to the EB-5 program proposed by former President Barack Obama.

While Nicole Kushner Meyer didn't reference President Trump by name, his photo appeared on a slide at the event that listed the "key decision makers" on the EB-5 program. USA lawmakers have been weighing proposed changes to the program, which would likely affect companies such as Kushner Cos. should it want to raise funds from such investors.

The program - which was extended and sneakily slipped into the latest spending bill - is rife with abuse, leading to fraud convictions. Though Trump repeatedly bashed American immigration policies during last year's campaign, he did not criticize EB-5 visas. Jersey City fits neither of those categories.

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