US prosecutors subpoena Jared Kushner's company over investment-for-immigration programme

Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (centre) greets guests before listening to US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon speak to reporters in the Rose Garden of the White House.
Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (centre) greets guests before listening to US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon speak to reporters in the Rose Garden of the White House.PHOTO: EPA

NEW YORK - Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed Kushner Cos, the New York property development business owned by the family of President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, over its use of an investment-for-immigration programme.

The subpoena concerns at least one Jersey City, New Jersey, development financed in part by the federal visa programme known as EB-5, which offers green cards to aspiring immigrants who invest at least US$500,000 (S$ 680,797.50) in certain US businesses that have been determined to create at least 10 jobs per investor, reported the Wall Street Journal.

The building in question is a twin, 66-floor residential towers called One Journal Square, according to one person familiar with the subpoena.

Ms Emily Wolf, general counsel for Kushner Cos, said in a statement that the firm "did nothing improper", having fully complied with the visa programme's rules and regulations. It was cooperating with legal request for information, she added.

The potential violations being probed by the US attorney were not immediately clear, but the subpoena received by the company in May was a document request that included a demand for e-mails, according to a person familiar with the request.

In early May, Kushner Cos stirred controversy with a marketing campaign in Beijing and Shanghai for the One Journal Square project. It had claimed that up to 300 individuals who put US$500,000 each into the project would be eligible for green cards under the EB-5 programme. A green card permits a foreign national to live and work in the US indefinitely, with the majority of EB-5 visas going to wealthy Chinese individuals.

The marketing push was led by Mr Kushner's sister Nicole Meyer, a principal at Kushner Cos and included a video clip and photo of US President Donald Trump. Ms Meyer also mentioned Mr Kushner in her pitch to potential investors at hotels, according to the New York Times.

In the face of concerted public criticism, the company later said that Ms Meyer merely wanted to make clear that her brother had stepped away from the company in January and had nothing to do with the project.

It added: "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."

Additional presentations for the project in China were subsequently cancelled.

Mr Kushner was running the Kushner business before last year's election. He subsequently resigned from the business and sold his personal stake in some projects and assets to family members and others. But he still retains a stake in some Kushner Cos projects, including One Journal Square.

Mr Kushner's personal attorney said on Wednesday in a statement that Mr Kushner, who is married to Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka, had recused himself from "matters concerning the EB-5 programmes."

The EB-5 programme has been criticised for being used to boost wealthier areas in the US instead of aiding poorer ones as intended, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The number of EB-5 visas issued in a year is limited to 10,000. Questions have been raised over whether the visas are appropriately obtained in some instances, with several cases in recent years alleging fraud by those who raised funds through the programme.