In a Beijing ballroom, Kushner family pushes $500,000 ‘investor visa’ to wealthy Chinese

The event was hosted by the Chinese company Qiaowai, which connects U.S. companies with Chinese investors. (Emily Rauhala/The Washington Post)

 

The Kushner family came to the United States as refugees, worked hard and made it big — and if you invest in Kushner properties, so can you.

That was the message delivered Saturday by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s sister Nicole Kushner Meyer to a ballroom full of wealthy Chinese investors in Beijing.

Over several hours of slide shows and presentations, representatives from the Kushner family business urged Chinese citizens gathered at a Ritz-Carlton hotel to consider investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a New Jersey luxury apartment complex that would help them secure what’s known as an investor visa.

The potential investors were advised to invest sooner rather than later in case visa rules change under the Trump administration. “Invest early, and you will invest under the old rules,” one speaker said.

The tagline on a brochure for the event: “Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States.”

And the highlight of the afternoon was Meyer, a principal for the company, who was introduced in promotional materials as Jared’s sister.

The event underscores the extent to which Kushner’s private business interests have the potential to collide with his powerful role as a top official in his father-in-law’s White House, particularly when it comes to China, where Kushner has become a crucial diplomatic channel between Beijing and the new administration.

While Kushner has reported divesting from elements of the family business, including the specific project that his sister pitched in Beijing, the session Saturday demonstrated that the company is perceived as enjoying close ties to the Trump administration. Ethics laws prohibit government officials from profiting personally from their public-sector work.

Watchdogs and ethics experts on Saturday criticized the Beijing event as an attempt to cash in on Kushner’s newfound proximity to power.

“It’s incredibly stupid and highly inappropriate,” said Richard Painter, the former chief White House ethics lawyer in President George W. Bush’s administration, who has become a vocal critic of the Trump administration. “They clearly imply that the Kushners are going to make sure you get your visa. . . . They’re [Chinese applicants] not going to take a chance. Of course they’re going to want to invest.”

Among the wealthy elites in China, family, business and politics are all deeply intertwined. Every branch of the Communist Party, every province and city often operate as a fiefdom for those in power, allowing leaders special, lucrative access to policy, land and government contracts. There is even a name for second-generation sons and daughters of wealthy business executives and government officials — such as Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner — who have access to power through family ties. They are called “fuerdai.

The EB-5 immigrant investor visa program that Meyer discussed Saturday allows rich foreign investors who are willing to plunk down large investments in U.S. projects that create jobs to apply to immigrate to the United States.

The EB-5 program has been criticized by members of Congress from both parties who have said the program in essence sells visas to the wealthiest foreigners.

The program has been extremely popular among rich Chinese, who call it the “golden visa” and are eager to get their families — and their wealth — out of the country. The fact that some use it to move their money out illegally, however, has made the program unpopular with the Chinese authorities.

Saturday’s event in Beijing was hosted by the Chinese company Qiaowai, which connects U.S. companies with Chinese investors. Qiaowai is working with the Kushner company to secure funding for Kushner 1, the New Jersey project presented to investors, also known as One Journal Square. Promotional materials tout the buildings’ proximity to Manhattan and note that the project will create more than 6,000 jobs.

“This project has stable funding, creates sufficient jobs and guarantees the safety of investors’ money,” one description reads.

Although there was no visible reference to Trump, the materials noted the Kushner family’s “celebrity” status.

White House officials declined to comment. A spokesman for the Kushner company also declined to comment.

Kushner’s personal financial disclosure form reflects that he divested his interest in K One Journal Square LLC. The form described the asset as undeveloped real estate in Jersey City. Because the asset was already divested, Kushner’s filing does not reflect its estimated value. But he did report between $1 million and $5 million in income connected to the project.

At Saturday’s event, attendee Wang Yun, a Chinese investor, said the Kushner family’s ties to Trump were an obvious part of the project’s appeal.

“Even though this is the project of the son-in-law’s family, of course it is still affiliated,” Wang said.

Full article: In a Beijing ballroom, Kushner family pushes $500,000 ‘investor visa’ to wealthy Chinese (Washington Post)

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