The real estate development firm partly managed by the sister of White House senior adviser Jared Kushner has issued an apology over a weekend event in Beijing in which Kushner's name was used to attract wealthy Chinese to a cash-for-visa scheme commonly used by investment-hungry US real estate developers.
The apology came after weekend reports about Nicole Kushner Meyer's trip to Beijing, where she touted a Kushner family project in Jersey City and mentioned the controversial EB-5 visa program.
The EB-5 program allows rich foreign nationals to invest as little as $500,000 in a USA development project likely to create 10 or more new jobs in order to obtain a green card.
On Sunday, a Kushner Companies representative sent an email to the Washington Post that said Meyer "apologizes if that mention of her brother was in any way interpreted as an attempt to lure investors".
Speaking in a ballroom [in Beijing], Ms. Meyer said the project "means a lot to me and my entire family".
Jared Kushner has stepped away from the business since taking a key role in Trump's White House.
A similar meeting was held in Shanghai on Sunday.
KEITH: That was Grassley at a hearing a year ago voicing frustration after Congress used a government funding bill to reauthorize the program without making any changes.
Journalists had been asked to leave the room in Beijing.
"They clearly imply that the Kushners are going to make sure you get your visa", he told the Washington Post.
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The New York Times reported that the family business' investment drive is also "highlighting their ties to Mr Kushner as they court investors".
The sister of White House aide Jared Kushner leveraged her brother's name in a sales pitch to Chinese investors, on behalf of the family's real estate venture. It said that the One Journal Square project will provide $180 million in tax revenue and 4,000 construction jobs.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who has sponsored a bill to eliminate the EB-5 visa program along with Sen. A 2013 Homeland Security Department investigation cited risks that Iranian intelligence operatives may have exploited the program, and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services found numerous fraudulent documents when it audited a sampling of investors' green card applications.
The potential investors were advised to invest sooner rather than later in case visa rules change under the Trump administration.
The pitch raised concern over potential conflicts of interest and set off a media firestorm in the United States, leading Kushner Companies to issue a formal apology on Monday.
"Even though this is the project of the son-in-law's family, of course it is still affiliated", said Chinese investor Wang Yun.
A lawyer for Jared Kushner, Blake Roberts, said in a statement obtained by the Washington Post that his client had divested from the project.
Reforms to the EB-5 program have been proposed recently, by the way, but the main idea isn't to shut down the program or increase the numerical threshold for jobs created for qualifying projects.
Michael Short, a White House spokesman, said in an email in mid-April that the EB-5 program needs "substantial fix". And it gives you a chance to apply for one of these visas outside of the normal kind of visa line.