Sunday, March 19, 2017

Grassley, Leahy Warn EB-5 Industry against Secret Backroom ‘Deals’ to Thwart Reforms

WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) put EB-5 industry organizations on notice that backroom deals that do not address the many flaws of the EB-5 program would be dead on arrival.
In a letter to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Real Estate Roundtable, the senators pledge to work in good faith with industry stakeholders to address widespread fraud, national security concerns, and abused economic incentives plaguing the EB-5 Regional Center program, but warned that window-dressing reforms would not be accepted.
“We are disappointed to learn that your organizations may have recently agreed to a secretive, backroom ‘deal’ that undercuts the many good-faith efforts we have made during the past two years. From what we have been told, this so-called ‘deal’ does not advance Congress’s goals for this program and instead is merely aimed at pre-empting the new rules.  It should go without saying that Congress is not bound by any deal that industry officials may have made. Our interests are preserving the integrity of our immigration system and the well-being of the American people.  We will reject out of hand any window-dressing reforms that attempt to preserve the status quo,” the senators wrote in letters to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Real Estate Roundtable.
Grassley and Leahy have worked for more than two years to examine and address weaknesses and national security vulnerabilities in the EB-5 program, which grants work visas to foreign nationals who invest at least $500,000 in domestic enterprises. The program was designed to spur U.S. job creation, especially in rural or economically distressed areas, but the program has been marked by fraud and abuse.  Minimum investment levels have not kept pace with inflation over the quarter-century life of the pilot program and gerrymandering of regional centers has syphoned investments away from the rural or distressed areas that the program was intended to prioritize.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Caffe Primo Closed Amid Fraud Charges

(Source: Santa Barbara Independent) Court records show that Caffe Primo, which in October 2015 moved into the lower State Street space formerly occupied by the Pierre LaFond Wine Bistro, closed this January immediately after a federal judge froze the assets of CEO Emilio Francisco amid fraud charges filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The judge cited “extensive, thorough and compelling evidence” presented by the SEC that Francisco improperly spent at least $9.5 million of investor money on a yacht, a yacht-club membership, his other businesses, and credit cards belonging to him, his brother, and his daughter. In addition to the Santa Barbara restaurant, at least three other Southern California locations operated by the Los Angeles–based Caffe Primo chain have closed as a result of the charges. See story at http://www.independent.com/

Friday, March 17, 2017

ABG announces Event Program for 2017 US Opportunities Forum in Dallas


Artisan Business Group presents the program for 2017 US Opportunities Forum in Dallas on April 11. The event will be conducted mainly in Chinese mandarin.

April 11                                                                                                
Check in and Registration/论坛登记与注册                                                      
Welcome Remarks                                                                                                   
Brian Su, Artisan Business Group/ 美国雅商顾问集团总裁苏丰原先生
Insurance, Retirement & Estate Planning for Chinese Investors 
遗产规划、保险、退休和理财
Lily Qian, AXA Advisors, LLC, FINRA Registered Investment Advisor
美国FINRA注册投资顾问 钱英女士


Real Estate Investments in Texas
德克萨斯州房地产投资
Paul Dong, CEO of The Sunet Group
太阳地产集团  董呐新先生,德州地产投资与管理专家                             

L-1 Visa & All Immigration Matters/ L-1

移民及各类移民事宜

Becky Yu, Attorney at Yu, South & Associates
李宝琴律师,移民法律事务专家
Luncheon & Networking/ 午餐与交流   
                                                              
Establishing a Company in Dallas for Chinese Investors
中国投资人在美国建立公司的相关事宜           
                                                                      Abraham Yu, Founder of Richardson Int'l Business Center         
喻青先生, 中国企业在美孵化与创业专家
Investing in Apartments with a focus on Dallas Market
达拉斯高端公寓投资
Bobby Page, JPI / JPI地产
    
Discussion on Dallas Business Opportunities
达拉斯商业机会探讨
 
7:30pm
NBA Regular Season, Dallas Mavericks vs Denver Nuggets
 达拉斯小牛队在美航中心球场对阵丹佛掘金队(自愿自费)
                               
April 12                                                                                                                  
Project Site Visits & Meetings
商业考察和地产考察             
现场了解公寓投资市场
参观乔治布什总统中心
参观Southern Methodist 大学                                                                                

April 13                                                                                                           
Local Visits including, Schools and Real Estate
实地考察商业和教育机会;
特色娱乐活动;德州风味晚餐    
现场考察达拉斯房地产             
农场射击娱乐
参观私立学校                                                                 
               

部分特邀专家嘉宾 VIP Guests:
Bobby Page先生   JPI投资公司投资专家
Bill Thomas先生   麦克唐纳投资公司投资专家
Jeff Carmichael 先生  WFA公司注册会计师
董呐新先生  太阳地产集团  德州地产投资与管理专家
李宝琴律师  L-1 跨国经理签证及移民法律事务专家
钱英女士   美国FINRA注册投资顾问, 遗产规划、保险、退休和理财专家
喻青先生  美国理查逊国际商务中心创始人,中国企业在美孵化与创业专家
苏丰原先生  雅商顾问集团  美中跨境投资专家
孙路先生   REPH 公司  连锁零售企业投资专家

To learn more about our 2017 US Opportunities Forum in Dallas April 11, please contact us at artisanbusiness@yahoo.com 
 

EB-5 fraud never ends!

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday filed complaint against  Seattle-based development company and its president and family members of using the EB-5 immigrant investor program to scam foreign investors out of $14.5 million.

Aero Space Port International Group Inc. (ASPI regional center) and its president, Andy Shin Fong Chen, promised foreign investors that their investments would be used for an EB-5 project, despite using the funds for personal stock trading, automobile leasing, credit card payments, dental insurance payments, and operations for other companies, the SEC alleged.


See SEC Complaint at https://www.sec.gov/litigation/complaints/2017/comp23778.pdf

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The 7th Invest In America Summit (2017) opens for registration

The 7th Invest in America Summit & Exhibition will be held in multiple locations in China this year.

  Events scheduled on
·         May 6th, 2017 at the Ritz-Carlton Pudong, Shanghai
·         May 7th, 2017 at the Ritz-Carlton, Beijing Financial Street
·         May 13th, 2017 at the Grand Hyatt, Shenzhen
·         May 14th, 2017 at the Ritz-Carlton, Guangzhou
·         TBD in Hangzhou, Chengdu, Qingdao, Chongqing,Shenyang and Harbin

This year, the 7th Invest in America Summit will highlight four main themes: EB5 Investment Program, Real Estate Investment, Private Equity Investment, Venture Capital Investment, Education and Medical Care/ Health Plan.

As the premiere EB-5 immigration-focused exhibition and conference in China, the Invest in America Summit will be joined by thousands of potential investorsimmigration agentsregional centers and developers from both the U.S. and China.

Registration:
Booth space is reserved on a first come fisrt serve basis, to register, please visit: http://reg.top-eb5.com/
For more information, please contact us at artisanbusiness@yahoo.com

The State of South Dakota to get $1.5 million in EB-5 settlements

(Source: Argus Leader) The state of South Dakota on Tuesday announced the settlements of two civil lawsuits against a company that managed the federal EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program on behalf of the state. The settlements with the South Dakota Regional Center will result in the company repaying approximately $1.5 million to the state. Read report at http://www.argusleader.com/

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

ABG to host annual China trade mission June 2017

Artisan Business Group is planning a one week private equity investment and EB-5 business delegation to China June 2017.  The goal of this trip is to promote private equity and EB-5 investment opportunities to Chinese partners and businesses. Proposed destinations:  Shenzhen and Shanghai. The delegation is only open to US developers and companies with solid investment and development opportunities (prefer small real estate projects). 

To learn more about the participation in the trade mission, please contact us at artisanbusiness@yahoo.com.

FY2016 EB-5 Visas Stats - Top Five Countries

The US State Department Report of the Visa Office 2016 has been updated with Table V (Part 3), which gives a breakdown of all EB visas issued by country in fiscal year 2016. Top Five Countries for EB-5 Investors are from China (7516, 75.6%), Vietnam (334, 3.4%),  South Korea (260, 2.6%), China Taiwan ((203, 2.0%) , Brazil (150, 1.5%).  China was still the main market for raising EB-5 capital in 2016.  See detailed chart at https://ebfive.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/fy2016visas.jpg

King offers repeal: EB-5 visas an invitation to ‘terrorists’

(Source: Pilot Tribune)  Western Iowa Congressman Steve King has introduced a proposed repeal of the EB-5 visa program. The program allows foreign nationals who invest large amounts of money in the United States access to green cards to enter the country legally. The program was intended to stimulate the economy and produce new jobs. King claims it isn’t working. “Developers have monopolized the EB-5 program since its creation, exploiting its flaws and fighting against any compulsory reforms,” said King. See report at http://www.stormlakepilottribune.com

Monday, March 13, 2017

US Congressman King introduces bill to end EB-5

U.S. Rep. Steve King (Iowa, R) introduced H.R.1502 (To terminate the EB-5 program) to terminate the embattled EB-5 investor program on Friday. To learn more about EB-5 program, contact us today.


Friday, March 10, 2017

ABG to host Dallas investment event April 11-13, 2017

 Artisan Business Group is hosting a Chinese investment forum on April 11-13, 2017.  Dallas has becoming more and more popular among Chinese investors as a key destination in Texas and the US. The key reasons for attractiveness are the reasonably cheaper real estate, high growth of business, and one of the best public school systems in the country. The event is specifically organized for are Chinese speaking nationals from China. The April 11 forum will feature expert speakers on real estate investment and management, retirement, estate planing, wealth management, non-immigration and immigration visa programs, and more.

The three day event will also include two days activities of visiting local schools, gated real estate communities, Bush Center and a NBA basketball game. To learn more about the sponsorship program, please contact us at artisanbusiness@yahoo.com or log on https://www.eventbrite.com/

CNN: Congress takes aim at visa program that benefited Trump family businesses

(Source: CNN) Congress takes aim at visa program that benefited Trump family businesses, watch the report at http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/08/

EB-5 hearing: “Give us your immoral, your degenerate, as long as they have money”

(Source: The Real Deal) At the first House Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration since Congress reconvened in January, the subject was not President Trump’s executive orders or recent deportation crackdowns, but instead the EB-5 investor visa, a 25-year-old pilot program that has become a pet fundraising vehicle for real estate developers. See complete report at https://therealdeal.com/2017/03/08/

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Chairman Goodlatte hosts hearing on DHS proposed regulations reforming the Investor Visa Program


House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte hosts a hearing on reforming the EB-5 Investor Visa Program. Chairman Goodlatte mentioned large luxury real estate projects in NYC and Beverly Hills exploiting the Target Employment Areas through gerrymandering. Senator Grassley and Leahy stressed the importance of moving the focus of the EB-5 Program back to rural areas and distressed communities. Congressman Sensenbrenner presented 2 main declarations on the EB-5 Program during the hearing. He summarized the EB-5 Program brings in quality US jobs and the program is out of date with fraud, abuse and low investment levels which needs reformed. Speakers included Senator Grassley, Senator Leahy, Rebecca Gambler of U.S. Government Accountability Office, Sam Walls III of Pine State Regional Center, Angelique Brunner of EB5 Capital, Dekonti Mends-Cole of Center for Community Progress and David North of Center for Immigration Studies. The EB-5 Visa Program is set to expire on April 28, 2017. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Puerto Rico hosts 1st China Puerto Rico Investment Forum March 1-3

Artisan Business Group assisted the Government of Puerto Rico in hosting the 1st China Puerto Rico Investment Forum to focus on doing business in Puerto Rico and educate attendees of investment opportunities. The successful event drew a crowd of over 300 attendees including government offices, local business professionals and 160 professionals from China.  Events included the investment conference, networking receptions, on-site visits to local businesses and breakout educational seminars.

Speakers included Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló, Secretary of State Luis G. Rivera, Secretary of Economic Development Manuel Laboy Rivera, Omar Marrero Diaz - Director of Private-Public Mei Xiangrong -President & Founding Partner of Yingke Global, Linda Yang- Yingke Overseas China Center President, Colin Wu- Chairman of US China Business Assc., Zhenge Zhao- Rep. of US Office of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, Ma Jinlong- President of Wenzhou Economic Society, Brian Su- CEO of Artisan Business Group, Jose Izqeierdo- Puerto Rico Tourism Company and more.



Friday, March 3, 2017

Where will China’s super rich migrate if Trump kills the ‘golden visa’?

(Source: Asia Times) China’s super rich have for years been leaving the country and bringing their families and wealth with them. The number one choice of destination to migrate, normally via high-rolling investment visa schemes, has been the United States. But since Donald Trump took office in January he has already begun to take a harder stance on immigration, including wealthy Chinese. While the president has yet to speak on the so called EB-5 – the controversial “golden visa” program that has accepted thousands of wealthy immigrants over the years – the US has begun to look like an unfriendly territory for global business people, said Nuri Katz, head of financial services firm Apex Capital Partners. It would however be difficult for Trump to criticize the program in too harsh words since he and his buddies, including son-in-law and White House advisor Jared Kushner, have benefited greatly from the scheme. Several Trump-branded construction projects have reportedly been funded by wealthy Chinese who have invested cash for visa, including the gleaming Trump Bay Street complex in New Jersey.

“As such, I do not think that Trump will initiate any changes to the EB-5,” Katz told Asia Times. “Having said that, many other individuals, including many congressmen and senators do want to change or scrap the program entirely, so that may happen despite what Trump may think or want.” The EB-5 visa is a method of obtaining a green card for foreign nationals who invest money in the US. To obtain the visa, individuals must invest US$1 million – or US$500,000 in so-called targeted employment areas – that should lead to the creation of at least 10 jobs for American workers. Launched by Congress in 1990, it’s today the most popular residency program in the world. Applicants of the program have invested more than US$13 billion since 2008 and have created tens of thousands of jobs for US workers, according to Stephen Yale-Loehr, a law professor at Cornell University. Almost 90% of all “golden visa” investors are from China. Nuri Katz, Chief Executive Officer and President of Apex Capital Partners. But uncertainty has become an overhang on the program, which will face renewal on April 28.

The scheme has been criticized for being plagued by widespread fraud and political corruption. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley recently said the program poses “significant national security risks” and that it may be “facilitating terrorist travel, economic espionage, money laundering and investment fraud.” Katz agrees that the program has been found to have many flaws as well as insufficient due diligence on applicants, with people both in the US and abroad falling victim. “Many dishonest players have promoted the EB-5 program in China pretending to have official approval from the US showing that their investment project is a solid, profitable investment proposal. Yet that was not true and many people, including Chinese nationals, have lost money in the program,” he said. Another issue of concern is that the current processing of applications have taken too long, sometimes up to eight years. Most applicants will not find that acceptable. Now, most experts expect some sort of change to the scheme.

“There’s been a specter of reform in the background for so long, it’s been tough to have certainty about how the program will function. Will projects that qualify under the current program be grandfathered in? No one knows,” Michael Gibson, a partner at Bass, Berry & Sims in Washington DC, told Forbes. “Everybody believes there will be some reform, but no one knows what it will look like.” Indeed, even the US immigration office is left in the dark, at least according to its chatbot, named Emma, that answers questions on its online forum. “The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is updating information regarding the presidential actions on immigration,” the bot said when asked whether the EB-5 scheme would be changed under the new administration. Katz believes wealthy Chinese now will move away from the EB-5 program and eye other options and destinations. Canada, the UK and Australia are also among most popular destinations for China’s super rich, according to different ranking. Considerable numbers of Chinese are already receiving citizenship by investment in places like the islands of Dominica and St Kitts in the West Indies and other places in the Caribbean.

“As we see the EB-5 program processing times going up, we see more interest in the citizenship by investment programs in the Caribbean. We expect this trend to continue to grow,” Katz said. A report from Hurun, a research firm in Shanghai that tracks the wealthy, found in 2014 that 64% of Chinese millionaires were considering or were in the process of moving, with education topping the list of reasons.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Hotel developer gets three-year sentence in visa fraud case

(Crain's Chicago Business) A Chicago developer who swindled nearly 300 Chinese investors in a failed $912 million hotel project near O'Hare International Airport was sentenced to three years in prison today. U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee also ordered the developer, Anshoo Sethi, to pay $8.8 million in restitution, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago. In January 2016, Sethi pleaded guilty to charges that he defrauded 290 Chinese citizens who had agreed to invest $158 million in the development through a controversial U.S. visa program. 

Sethi, 33, raised the money for the 995-room project at 8201 W. Higgins Road through the EB-5 program, which issues green cards to overseas investors who invest in qualified U.S. projects. But he never broke ground, and Sethi admitted that he used bogus and forged documents to solicit investors. Several lawmakers in Washington are pushing to end or reform the EB-5 program amid criticism that it's vulnerable to fraud—Sethi's project stands out as the largest EB-B fraud case to date—and doesn't do enough to create jobs in depressed areas. Prosecutors had asked Judge Lee to sentence Sethi to 78 to 97 months in prison and order him to pay $10 million in restitution, court records show. Sethi has already repaid most of the money he raised from investors, and he sold the development site last fall for $6.8 million to Chicago developer Albert Friedman.

“Anshoo Sethi abused the EB-5 visa program and blatantly lied to investors and the United States government on a massive scale,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sunil Harjani said in a statement. “Overseas investors spent much time and energy making the difficult decision to invest in the Sethi project, and processing their visa applications—not knowing that the project was built on a bed of lies and forged documents.” An attorney representing Sethi did not respond to requests for comment.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Top regional center chief says Obama’s EB-5 tweaks would decimate program


(Source: The Real Deal) Just before President Obama left office, the Department of Homeland Security proposed some serious rule changes to the EB-5 visa program, which awards green cards to foreign nationals investing in job-creating U.S. projects. The government currently gives out 10,000 of these visas a year, the overwhelming majority of them to Chinese investors investing in real estate development projects. In the wake of a number of scandals related to fraudulent investment activity, dirty money, and skepticism about how many jobs the program really creates, the Obama administration proposed raising the minimum investment threshold to more than double what it is now, shallowing the pool of eligible investors. While some advocates of the program have been quiet about what those changes might mean, Angelique Brunner, head of Washington’s EB5 Capital regional centers and spokesperson for the EB-5 Investment Coalition, a major lobbying group, said the proposed rules would spell the end of the program as we know it. “Undoubtedly the numbers in the regulations will kill the the program,” Brunner told The Real Deal. “The market cannot bear those numbers… I think you would see as much as a 90-percent dropoff in demand.”

In areas with high unemployment, DHS wants to raise the minimum project investment to $1.35 million from $500,000, and in areas with low to average unemployment, the rules propose moving the threshold to $1.8 million from $1 million. Another major change would be putting the federal government in charge of designating what qualifies as a high-unemployment area, ending the practice of redrawing census maps to allow areas such as Hudson Yards to be designated high-unemployment. Critics of EB-5 have said the practice is akin to gerrymandering. Enter President Trump. Brunner said the new administration understands the importance of the program in helping it reach its job-creation goals, and mentioned Jared Kushner’s own use of EB-5 for a project in New Jersey as evidence of that. “Mr. Trump’s family has used the EB-5 program successfully, so they do have personal experience with the success of the program,” she said. “This administration is really focused on job creation. We expect that focus to align well with the goals and impact of the EB-5 program.” Despite the administration’s recent travel ban on citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries, Brunner said the EB-5 community has received “no negative messaging from the new administration” on the EB-5 issue.

“Our point is that there is no competition between national security and job creation,” she said. Estimates of how many jobs are created by EB-5 vary wildly. A recent study by the Chamber of Commerce found that EB-5 projects active in just 2012 and 2013 created nearly 175,000 jobs. But the Bipartisan Policy Center’s study from September 2015 pegged the total number of jobs created between 1992 and 2015 at just 77,150. If the DHS’ proposed regulations go through, aspiring investors are likely to put their money into other Western countries such as Canada, which is considering a revival of a similar immigration program, Brunner said. EB-5 stakeholders have until April to weigh in on DHS’ proposed rules. Meanwhile, it’s up to Congress to pass a long-term reauthorization of EB-5 or it will officially sunset that same month. Last month, senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced a bill to abolish the program, but EB-5’s considerable support in both houses means it’s not expected to gain much traction.

Some of the country’s biggest developers have spent large sums on lobbying efforts to keep EB-5 as-is. Related Companies, for example, which has raised $600 million in EB-5 funds for Hudson Yards, spent over $1.4 million in lobbying for the program since January 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported. Other builders who’ve lobbied for the program include Forest City Ratner, Silverstein Properties, and CIM Group.