New York Times
By JESSE DRUCKER and ADAM GOLDMAN
August 03, 2017
Federal prosecutors are investigating Kushner Companies, the real estate firm owned by the family of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, over its use of a program that grants visas to wealthy overseas investors.
The authorities, in part, are looking into the role of Mr. Kushner’s sister, Nicole Meyer, according to a person familiar with the matter who confirmed the inquiry.
The investigation centers on the real estate company’s use of the so-called EB-5 program, which offers visas to foreigners in exchange for a $500,000 investment. Critics say the program has weak oversight and lax rules.
At a marketing event in May, Ms. Meyer promoted the company’s connections to the Trump administration as she courted Chinese investors for a pair of luxury apartment towers being built by the Kushner Companies in New Jersey. The project “means a lot to me and my entire family,” she told prospective investors at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Beijing.
Mr. Kushner gave up his role running the family company in January. He still owns a significant piece of the business.
In a statement, Kushner Companies’ general counsel, Emily Wolf, said the company was cooperating with the authorities.
“EB-5 is a longstanding federal program that is frequently used by many large developers to raise funds and help create jobs,” Ms. Wolf said. “Kushner Companies utilized the program, fully complied with its rules and regulations and did nothing improper.”
She added: “Neither Kushner Companies nor Nicole Meyer have done anything wrong in connection with the EB-5 program, and any suggestion to the contrary is simply false. The company and Ms. Meyer are cooperating with all legal requests in order to show that they did everything properly and clear up any questions.”
The investigation was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal, which said Kushner Companies had received a subpoena. The focus of the investigation is unclear.
The Kushners are seeking $150 million in EB-5 money for a pair of high-rise apartment buildings in Jersey City, known as One Journal Square. In May, Ms. Meyer marketed the development at events in Beijing and in Shanghai.
At the Beijing event, Ms. Meyer mentioned her brother’s former role at the family company, saying he left to serve in the Trump administration. The two events were hosted by Qiaowai, a Beijing immigration company that promised good returns and “guaranteed” green cards to investors in the Jersey City project.
Mr. Kushner has played an important role in United States-China relations, brokering meetings between Mr. Trump and top Chinese officials. About three-quarters of the roughly 10,000 investor visas issued last year went to applicants from China.
Ms. Meyer apologized for mentioning her brother and did not appear at later events on the trip.
This is not the first time Kushner Companies has turned to the program. In 2013, it raised $50 million in EB-5 financing for a Trump-branded luxury high-rise apartment building in Jersey City, which opened late last year.
Created in 1990, the program was intended to provide financing for projects in areas with high unemployment. It has turned into a popular source of cheap financing for luxury developments.
There are no federal standards to define the areas that qualify for the program. And developers have been accused of providing gerrymandered maps to qualify.
The Government Accountability Office, the watchdog arm of Congress, has criticized the EB-5 program, citing lax safeguards against illicit sources of funds.
Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, have divested a portion of his stake in the family real estate empire, including the Jersey City project. But he has retained ownership in the bulk of the business, including the building that had received EB-5 funds.
Government ethics filings show the stake held by Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump in the family business and other investments is worth as much as $761 million to them.
Blake Roberts, a lawyer who is advising the couple on ethics issues, has said that Mr. Kushner will recuse himself from matters concerning the EB-5 program.
Qiaowai, the Chinese immigration company helping Kushner Companies find investors, did not respond to a request for comment.
Javier C. Hernández contributed reporting.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com