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construction in Jersey City, through the EB-5 program. That’s according to a slide presentation by U.S. Immigration Fund, a private company hired to court investors for the project. The loans cover about a quarter of the project’s total cost. Mark Giresi, the company’s general counsel, says nearly all of the EB-5 investors in Trump Bay Street are from China. A promotional video mimicking the opening credits of The Sopranos was subtitled in Chinese.
“This was a highly successful license deal but he is not a partner in the financing of the development,” a Trump spokeswoman said in an e-mail. Kushner spokeswoman Risa Heller says: “The money was raised lawfully by the U.S. Immigration Fund consistent with all the requirements of EB-5. This program enabled a development that created hundreds of new jobs in an area with employment needs.”
The visa program, which Congress created in 1990, was intended to revive economically distressed areas. In exchange for investing at least $500,000 in a project that promises to create jobs for American workers, foreigners receive a two-year visa and are often eventually granted permanent residency. In 2014, the most recent year for which records are available, the U.S. issued 10,692 of these visas— 85 percent to Chinese investors.
Congressional overseers and the Department of Homeland Security have raised concerns. The Government Accountability Office, the investigative branch of Congress, said last year in a report about the EB-5 program that “the sources of funds in many of these petitions contained a high risk of fraud.” Some applicants had submitted counterfeit documentation to cover the illicit sources of their cash. Department of State officials told the GAO there is “no reliable method to verify the source of the funds of petitioners.” Last spring a Homeland Security special agent testified at a U.S. Senate hearing that EB-5 applicants from China, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Russia “had been approved in as little as 16 days, with files lacking basic law enforcement queries.”
A report last year by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general found politically connected participants may have received favorable treatment. The report cited projects involving Democratic Virginia Governor Terry Mcauliffe and Hillary Clinton’s brother, Tony Rodham. A spokesman for Mcauliffe says the report demonstrates that he asked Homeland Security “to fulfill its obligation to adjudicate the applications that were before them in a timely fashion.” Rodham said in a phone interview that he did nothing inappropriate.
The EB-5 program has often been used as a source of financing for highprofile developments in prosperous neighborhoods, such as Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and Manhattan’s Hudson Yards. Developers draw maps to support their claims that a project will benefit a distressed area. (Trump Bay Street is in Jersey City’s rapidly gentrifying Powerhouse Arts District.) “To understand how the program works and whether it is doing what it was intended to do, which is create jobs in local areas—it’s not really possible,” says Audrey Singer, a Brookings Institution fellow.
Trump has made immigration a centerpiece of his campaign. He says on his website that he wants to eliminate what he calls “rampant, widespread” abuse of temporary visas for skilled workers and is committed to “institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program.” In February, Trump acknowledged using temporary visas to hire workers at his Mar-a-lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., following reports in Reuters and the New York Times.
When it opens this summer, Trump Bay Street will have an outdoor pool, an indoor golf simulator, and sweeping views of Lower Manhattan. It adjoins
million Financing for Trump Bay Street from foreign investors through the EB-5
an existing high-rise condo tower, Trump Plaza Residences. The firm that recruited investors, U.S. Immigration Fund, is run by Florida developer Nicholas Mastroianni, who announced a partnership last year with a Trump golf course in Jupiter, Fla. Giresi, the company’s general counsel, says private investigators looked into the background of prospective Jersey City investors. He adds that his firm uses “very stringent compliance programs” with a “great amount of due diligence.” �Jesse Drucker
The bottom line A Trump apartment tower is being built with $50 million from Chinese investors through a controversial visa program.
Australia’s most aggressive online retailer got its start with an impulse buy. A decade ago, Ruslan Kogan was living in Melbourne, fresh out of school and doing consulting work for Accenture. At night, he made extra cash selling imported T-shirts and wallets on Ebay. He decided to lay out some of his savings on a high-end, $5,000 TV but didn’t want to pay full price.
On a whim, Kogan contacted the brand’s little-known Asian manufacturer. He posed as a retailer, claiming he’d be interested in buying 100,000 TVS if the company would send him a sample unit for cheap. The TV maker made him a way better offer: all 100,000 for $1,000 a pop. “In that moment, I thought, There is a real gap in the market here,” Kogan recalls. “I quit my job, and my mum cried because I was going to become a TV salesman.”
It proved to be a good bet. Kogan couldn’t afford to pay for 100,000 TVS, but he persuaded the manufacturer to sell him 1,000 at a deep discount. They were the first items he branded with his name and sold on his website, Kogan.com, now one of Australia’s fastest- growing businesses. The site makes most of its money selling Kogan-branded electronics and other private-label gear. Five years ago it moved $14 million in goods; Kogan estimates this year’s total will top $356 million.
Kogan, now 33, was one of the first in Australia to master online retail. That’s partly because the country’s traditional retailers, such as Harvey Norman, were slow to embrace the Internet and build easy-to-navigate websites, says Steven Noble, senior analyst at Australian researcher Telsyte. “Ruslan was one of the first people to form direct relationships with the manufacturers in China,” Noble says. “He got there early and became a big player.”
Kogan holds 80 percent of his private company and has a net worth north of $250 million, ranking him among Australia’s wealthiest young entrepreneurs. A fan of fast, gadget-filled cars and yachts, the chief executive officer has become the country’s reigning Internet playboy. And he isn’t shy about picking fights with rivals or politicians.
Born in Belarus, Kogan and his sister, Svetlana, moved with their parents to Australia when Ruslan was 6 and grew up in the housing projects of a Melbourne suburb. He didn’t speak much English when he arrived and went to school with ox tongue packed in his lunchbox. “I would never have classified it as difficult at the time, but we were teased quite a lot,” he says. “We had acorns thrown at us and were just that little bit different.”
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