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TSITRIAN: EB-5 questions deserve a complete answer

TSITRIAN: EB-5 questions deserve a complete answer

EB-5 Visa, EB5 Visa, EB-5 Investment

Do you think we'll ever get a complete accounting of the EB-5 fiasco in this state?

Or, is institutionalized complacency so deeply cemented into our government's apparatus that it will take constant and relentless digging by federal authorities to finally tell all of us what happened?

Seth Tupper's recent Journal report on the federal government's opinion (delivered to our state authorities July 7) of South Dakota's attempt to save and retain the program is a serious indictment of how lackadaisically the Daugaard administration has approached its responsibilities to inform us citizens of just exactly what happened in the now infamous "cash-for-Green Cards" scandal.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services called South Dakota's effort at keeping this lucrative and potentially productive program intact here in South Dakota "unpersuasive," "erroneous," and "unacceptable." I've written here before about the feeble investigative efforts made by our legislature's Government Operations and Audit Committee, so it comes as no surprise to me that the feds share a similarly dismissive view of how this thing has been handled internally up to now.

The only difference is that while I can only spout off about it in my blog and on this editorial page, the USCIS is in a position to yank the program away from South Dakota altogether. That would be a huge loss to South Dakota's economic development potential, because EB-5 has shown itself to be a program that can bring many millions of dollars into South Dakota.

Indeed, the non-partisan Center for Immigration Studies believes that the State of South Dakota may have lost $120 million just in the single project (a failed beef processing plant in Aberdeen) that created this brouhaha in the first place.

The questions remaining to be answered are too numerous to list in this space, but they boil down to two queries: Who and How? So far neither has been fully addressed. It's long past time for Gov. Daugaard to appoint an investigative commission to come up with detailed report on this, and it isn't like something along those lines is impossible. The state of Vermont recently had an EB-5 scandal of its own, and in response Vermont’s legal authorities are in position to deal with alleged fraud in that state’s handling of of the program.

Though the state of Vermont is still pursuing this as a civil case by filing lawsuits against some developers involved in the scheme, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell likened the venture to a “bank robbery.” Criminal charges could still be filed, according to news sources there, by both the state and the U.S. Attorney.

I wish I could reproduce here the detailed cash-flow chart created by Vermont investigators. Why the Daugaard administration won't commit the resources to a similar analysis is befuddling and lends itself to speculation and suspicion that need to be cleared up. Maybe some more embarrassment at the hands of federal authorities will be the prod that gets South Dakota officials to find out what happened.



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