In another reminder of how much harder Vermont has tackled EB-5 corruption than South Dakota, Vermont Governor Phil Scott held a press conference Thursday to announce that financial firm Raymond James has agreed to pay $150 million to settle charges that it helped Miami businessman Ariel Quiros skim hundreds of millions of dollars from Vermont’s EB-5 program for his personal use. This settlement follows an October 2016 $13.3 million settlement by Citibank, which helped finance Quiros, to keep its fat out of the fraud case fire.
Quiros goes on trial in September 2018.
Meanwhile in South Dakota, the state has let EB-5 czar Joop Bollen off with non-punitive settlements of lawsuits and a $2,000 plea bargain in the only criminal case to arise from our EB-5 scandal. EB-5 watchdog David North finds the South Dakota prosecutions surprisingly weak compared to Vermont’s:
Meanwhile, in a somewhat parallel case in South Dakota, the one other state that had, for a while, a state entity serving as the regional center, there has been no such relief. If anything the South Dakota case was much more egregious than the one in Vermont.
More money was lost or stolen, more projects failed, the state’s political leaders were deeply involved in some aspects of the case, a key player was found dead (his shotgun wound in the stomach was ruled a suicide by the State’s Attorney General), a mysterious multi-million-dollar payment was made to a bank account in Cyprus owned by a Russian railroad oligarch, and a state criminal indictment of another key play, Joop Bollen, ended with an extremely generous plea bargain including no jail time and a $2,000 fine, as has been previously reported (see here and here) [David North, “Big Finance Firms Pony Up in Vt. EB-5 Case — Nothing Similar in S.D.,” Center for Immigration Studies, 2017.04.14].
North cocks an eyebrow at South Dakota’s U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler for taking no action on South Dakota’s EB-5 scandal. We’ll see what voters think of state Attorney General Marty Jackley’s relatively gentle treatment of South Dakota’s EB-5 scandal compared to Vermont’s more vigorous prosecution of EB-5 improprieties.
Bonus Political Connection: Don’t forget—Donald Trump appears to have profited from the Vermont EB-5 scandal: among Quiros’s many challenged expenditures is a $2.2-million condo in Trump Tower New York. It remains to be seen whether anyone can connect the dots from South Dakota’s EB-5 program through Northern Beef Packers, Ultracare Holdings Limited of Cyprus that received $1.5 million from NBP, and Ultracare’s Russian owner Globaltrans Investment Inc. to Donald Trump’s friends in Russia.