Trump-linked developer backs off from China

Company says sister of US president’s son-in-law won’t attend pitches after outcry over conflict of interest

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 May, 2017, 11:43pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 May, 2017, 11:43pm

A developer owned by the family of Jared Kushner, an adviser to and the son-in-law of US President Donald Trump, said its top management would not attend sales pitches in China this weekend after their presence at events in Beijing and Shanghai led to accusations they were exploiting their US government ties.

Nicole Kushner Meyer, Jared’s sister and an employee of Kushner Companies, attended a property sales promotion event in Beijing last Saturday. She mentioned the company’s connection to Jared Kushner when promoting a property project to Chinese investors hoping to obtain US investment visas.

The event was reported by The Washington Post and triggered an outcry in the United States.

Meyer attended the project’s sales pitch in Shanghai, but did not mention her brother or Trump in her presentation.

The company apologised for Meyer’s comments in Beijing. “Kushner Companies apologises if that mention of her brother was in any way interpreted as an attempt to lure investors. That was not Ms Meyer’s intention,” it said.

Meyer was originally scheduled to attend an event in Shenzhen and another in Guangzhou, according to Qiaowai, a local partner of Kushner Companies that helps Chinese with US immigration matters.

“No one from Kushner Companies will be in China this weekend,” James Yolles, a spokesman for the firm, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Meyer was in China to raise US$150 million from mainland investors for a two-tower apartment complex in New Jersey called One Journal Square.

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Chinese investors may obtain permits to live in the US through the EB-5 visa programme, a scheme that makes it possible for non-US citizens to get US residency visas for themselves and their families by investing at least $500,000 in certain development projects.

The programme is popular with wealthy Chinese who are trying to emigrate to the US. “Tens of thousands” of Chinese investors are waiting for visas, although only 10,000 are granted to Chinese investors each year, according to a manager at Visas Consulting Group, an immigration consultancy in China.

“People filing the application in June of 2014 got approved recently. It’s estimated that it will take applicants about five to six years to receive a US visa,” said the manager, who only gave her family name, Chen.

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Considering the popularity of the visa programme, a chance to accelerate the process would create great interest.

One attendee at the Shanghai leg of Kushner Companies’ China roadshow said the presence of Meyer was a clever play to woo Chinese investors, most of whom believe in the value of family connections and government ties.

“But the US is ruled by law,” he said. The man, who has travelled to the US several times and has a daughter born there, added: “My biggest concern is that I have to wait for five years to receive a green card. It’s too long.”

Additional reporting by Reuters, Bloomberg