< Previous Page
The federal U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Immigrant Investor Program also designates so-called "regional centers," companies that have authorization to handle the company’s EB-5 investments — and can collect thousands of dollars in fees from foreign investors to process their visa applications.
In this case, Gulf Coast Funds Management — a company headed by Tony Rodham, Hillary Clinton’s brother — is the designated "regional center" and has raised $45.5 million from foreign investors for GreenTech, according to an internal immigration services document obtained by The Associated Press that outlines background information about the firm. Rodham has not responded to phone messages at Gulf Coast Funds or a message sent to an email address listed in government reports submitted to the government.
Hybrid Kinetic Motors, a predecessor to GreenTech, paid Gulf Coast $250,000 for assistance in setting up the EB-5 program, according to a lawsuit between Wang and his former partner. Regional centers collect additional fees for processing the investments.
Of GreenTech’s 91 foreign investors, only one has received permanent residency status, according to an internal immigration services document obtained by the AP that outlines background information about the firm; the name of the investor was not disclosed.
Simone Williams of GreenTech said "every one of our first two rounds of EB-5 investors was approved and their investment was released to GreenTech Automotive." But she did not provide the number of investors.
She said the government’s pace in approving foreign investors has slowed down plans to start construction at its Tunica County facility.
Christopher Bentley, spokesman for immigration services, said in an email he couldn’t comment on details on the plans by GreenTech and Gulf Coast Funds.
In May, the SEC subpoenaed unspecified documents from GreenTech and banking records from Gulf Coast, according to nearly 100 pages of documents recently released by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
The documents indicate that GreenTech allegedly improperly guaranteed investors returns on their money. GreenTech has acknowledged receiving the subpoenas and said the company is cooperating with investigators.
"We are confident that we have strictly adhered to all statutory and regulatory requirements, and have always had open communications with our industry’s regulators," GreenTech said in a news release Monday.
The Department of Homeland Security inspector general also is investigating allegations that USCIS director Alejandro Mayorkas— President Barack Obama’s pick for the No. 2 slot at DHS — used his influence to help Gulf Coast obtain a foreign investor visa for a Chinese executive.
Since the 2009 groundbreaking, GreenTech has changed its business plan. Instead of producing versions of the four prototypes it showcased then, including hybrid cars, it now says its plant, when built, will have the capacity to make 30,000 electric vehicles each year, including a sedan and small electric vehicles known as MyCars. It now aims to have the first ones rolling off the line in Tunica by April.
In the meantime, GreenTech has been using space at an old elevator factory in Horn Lake, Miss., where the company says it’s building MyCars, neighborhood electric cars that are a cross between a golf cart and a full-sized vehicle. It’s not clear how many of the MyCars — which are not legal to drive on U.S. highways — have been sold.
GreenTech recently declined an AP request to tour the Horn Lake facility. The company won’t say how many MyCars it has produced or sold, but says it has "international distribution agreements for 30,000 vehicles over the next three years."
Local officials haven’t lost hope it will all still happen as advertised.
"I still look at this as an ongoing economic development project," said Lyn Arnold, president and CEO of the Tunica County Chamber of Commerce.
Some residents are ready to see results, like 33-year-old waitress Shaquita Pickett, who said a car plant would be a big boost for the county.
"We really do need one here because we need better jobs," she said.
Weiss reported from Charlotte, N.C. Associated Press writers Jeff Amy in Jackson, Miss.; Bob Lewis in Richmond, Va.; Alicia A. Caldwell in Washington D.C.; Michael Kunzelman in New Orleans; and AP researchers Judy Ausuebel and Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.