By Tori Richards | Watchdog.org
At a time when attorneys representing GreenTech Automotive said the green car firm was in financial trouble, company chairman Terry McAuliffe was running for governor – and telling a reporter his business was flush with cash.
“We are in great shape financially. I’m a big believer in get your money up front,” he said during a September 2011 interview with Politics Matters, a Virginia PBS news program. “It’s not hard if you have a new idea… I could’ve raised a lot more money if I needed it.
News today that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas is the target of a DHS Inspector General’s Office probe came after Watchdog revelations that company executives repeatedly pressed Mayorkas for speedy approvals of Chinese investments under a federal “cash-for-visas” program, called EB-5. In one instance, McAuliffe appealed directly to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for special treatment to secure GreenTech’s funding.
But publicly McAuliffe told a different story.
“Now we are in good shape and you have probably read the reports. We’ve sold our first year of production of these electric vehicles to country of Denmark. Signed contract. Now we’re making them and we’ve sold them. It’s a great American success story and I’m just so proud of my workers working day in and day out to make this vision come true,” McAuliffe said.
GreenTech was incorporated in Virginia in 2010 and initially proposed 2,000 new jobs to help manufacture 3,000 cars by the end of 2011. Virginia government officials nixed the idea of a plant there, saying its funding through a controversial federal program didn’t appear secure and seemed like a “visa-for-sale scheme.” McAuliffe ultimately located the plant in Mississippi and has yet to construct the building that will be its permanent home.
In a series of emails obtained by Watchdog, GreenTech officials pleaded with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for speedy action on the company’s
applications to the federal EB-5 visa program.
“The investors are upset and threatening to withdraw their investments,” GreenTech attorney Dawn Lurie wrote to USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas on June 28, 2011. “Reputation is critical in this industry and our branding is being hurt.”
A week later Lurie followed with another email warning of unhappy investors threatening a lawsuit.
The email apparently had little effect: a year and a half later a second attorney had the same message for Mayorkas. This time her words were more direct.
“This delay is having a detrimental impact on the ongoing operations of GreenTech Automotive and GTA’s ability to create and maintain American jobs,” Simone Williams wrote on Jan. 23, 2013.
And in between the lengthy time span of these emails, McAliffe was proclaiming that all was well.
“Those first cars will roll out of there in Oct. 30 of this year and we just broke ground on a huge permanent facility in Mississippi,” he said in the 2011 telecast.
But now, in 2013, no building permits have been pulled on that new site and only a few prototypes of the car have been produced. No evidence could be found of cars rolling off an assembly line from a temporary GreenTech manufacturing plant, heading for Denmark or anywhere else.
“This delay is threatening the ongoing operations of GTA because GTA relies on EB-5 investors as a key source of funding,” Williams stressed in her email. “EB-5 funding to GTA is now at a virtual standstill…without such funds GTA’s car manufacturing operations and creation of U.S. jobs is in serious jeopardy.”
Contact Tori Richards at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @newswriter2
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