Jared Kushner’s family criticised for touting cash-for-visas scheme in China

May 8, 2017 in News by Slad

 

Nicole Kushner Meyer, sister of adviser to Donald Trump, mentions his standing while wooing investors into investments in return for US green cards

Source: The Guardian

 

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump at a dinner in Florida for Chinese President Xi Jinping. Kushner’s family is facing conflicts of interest questions over dealings in China. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

Donald Trump’s administration is facing new questions about conflicts of interest after Jared Kushner’s family staged events in China to woo wealthy investors into luxury developments, with the prospect of receiving US green cards in return.

On Saturday, Kushner’s sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, took to the stage at an event at Beijing’s Ritz-Carlton hotel to urge Chinese investors to back One Journal Square, two skyscrapers currently being built in New Jersey.

Members of the audience of 100 were reportedly told that if they stumped up at least half a million dollars for the project they could become US residents under a controversial cash-for-residency program that is known in China as the “golden visa”.

CNN reported that Meyer touted Jared Kushner’s position in the White House. “In 2008, my brother Jared Kushner joined the family company as CEO, and recently moved to Washington to join the administration,” she said.

According to the New York Times, which was subsequently ejected from the seminar along with the Washington Post, Meyer told investors: “[This project] means a lot to me and my entire family”.

A slide shown during the pitch identified Trump as a “key decision maker” in the controversial EB-5 immigrant investor program, for which there has been an explosion of Chinese applications in recent years.

“Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States,” the event’s brochure claimed, according to the Washington Post, which first reported the story.

Meyer pointed out that her brother had left the family firm in January to join the Trump White House, but the Kushner family’s attempt to woo Chinese investors drew immediate criticism in the US. Washington insiders say Jared Kushner has played a central role in the recent warming of ties between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping and has become a key point of contact for China’s ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai.

Richard Painter, the former chief White House ethics lawyer during George W Bush’s administration, told the Washington Post the bid to seduce Chinese investors was “incredibly stupid and highly inappropriate”. “They clearly imply that the Kushners are going to make sure you get your visa … Of course [Chinese investors are] going to want to invest.”

Noah Bookbinder, the head of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told the New York Times the sales offensive was “highly problematic” and could be interpreted as selling access to Jared Kushner.

Organisers of this week’s events in China appeared uncomfortable with media scrutiny. A man accompanying Meyer shouted “Please leave us alone!” when a reporter from the New York Times asked her to comment on Saturday.

According to the Washington Post, its reporter’s phone was grabbed by event organisers who blocked attempts to interview investors and ordered reporters to leave. “This is not the story we want,” a PR representative was quoted as saying.

Risa Hiller, a spokeswoman for Jared Kushner, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Similar events at five-star hotels were scheduled to follow in at least three other Chinese cities: Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

The sessions were organised by Kushner Companies – the family real estate firm to which Jared Kushner belonged until he joined Trump’s administration this year – in association with a Chinese emigration company called Qiaowai.

Promotion for Kushner family business event in China.
Pinterest
Promotion for Kushner family business event in China. Photograph: The Guardian

On Sunday afternoon investors were due to gather at the Four Seasons hotel in Shanghai’s glamorous former French concession, according to one Shanghai-based consultant for Qiaowai. “Invitation is free of charge,” the consultant told the Guardian. “If you offer to invest in the project, then you would sign a contract and have certain fees to pay.”

Next weekend events about the development, which is also known as Kushner 1, are due to be held in southern China: at the InterContinental in Shenzhen on 13 May, and at the Four Seasons hotel in Guangzhou on 14 May. “Seats are limited. Please book soon!” reads an online advertisement.

It is not clear whether Kushner’s sister will also speak at those sessions but Qiaowai’s website said a number of “VIP guests” would be present including Ben Curtiss, the vice-president of Kushner Companies. Investors would have “opportunities to speak with these distinguished guests”, Qiaowai’s website promised.

Here’s a slide shown during Kushner Co. event in Beijing identifying @realDonaldTrump as “key decision maker” on EB-5 investor visa program

Qiaowai’s representative said a limited number of journalists would be allowed into Sunday’s event in Shanghai, “if you are approved as a guest”.

Additional reporting by Wang Zhen