Chinese say Trump ties are 'biggest selling point' in Kushner investment

Kushner family business revises pitch to China
Kushner family business revises pitch to China

The Kushner family's real estate company is still trawling China for people to invest in one of its American development ventures -- just not in person.

At one event over the weekend, there was no mention of President Trump or his son-in-law, White House adviser Jared Kushner. Company executives didn't attend, leaving other local partners to do the presentations without them.

But that didn't matter to some of the potential Chinese investors who attended the company's marketing events. They know that Kushner Companies is run by Jared Kushner's family.

"The Trump ties are the attention grabber and the biggest selling point," one property developer in her 30s said on Sunday.

"No one mentioned Trump in today's event, but everyone knows [Jared] Kushner is Trump's son-in-law," said the woman, who only gave her family name of Wang.

She was one of many Chinese people who attended events in Guangzhou and Shenzhen that advertised investment opportunities with Kushner Companies.

CNN attended the event in Shenzhen and spoke to investors who attended both.

The potential investors hoped to secure EB-5 visas by working with the Kushners. The U.S. program promises immigrants a path to green cards for them and their families if they invest more than $500,000 in projects that create American jobs.

Representatives for Kushner Companies have been touring China to look for 300 investors willing to finance a new property development in New Jersey called 1 Journal Square.

Related: The controversial visa program at the center of the Kushners' China pitch

The project was criticized by ethics watchdogs earlier this month because the company appeared to be using its relationship to the White House to promote the family business.

During a similar conference in Beijing on May 6, Nicole Kushner Meyer mentioned her brother and his White House job. A photo of Trump was also shown on a slide listing "key decision makers" in a presentation by an immigration lawyer.

Kushner Companies later apologized and said no one from the Kushner family and no company executives would go to the events this weekend. It declined to comment on the remarks from people attending the events.

Jared Kushner stepped away from the business after taking a White House role, and he's not involved with the organization, according to his attorney.

Kushner has also divested his interests in the Journal Square project by selling them to a family trust that he, his wife Ivanka Trump, and their children do not benefit from.

A White House official said Monday that Kushner takes ethics rules "very seriously and would never compromise himself or the administration." The administration declined to comment about the events in China.

Related: Kushner family in Beijing: 'Invest $500,000 and immigrate' to US

The two-hour presentation in Shenzhen had no mentions of the Trump administration, nor any photos of President Trump. It did include a video detailing a previous development called Trump Bay Street, or 88 Kushner, which has used EB-5 money.

"People think [there is] some relationship with Trump, so they will feel safety, for their money," said David Lei, 26, who flew to the Guangzhou event from Macau.

The EB-5 program touted by the Kushner Companies doesn't guarantee its investors a visa, nor are they certain to earn their investment back in full.

But many of the investors say they're convinced that the family's connection to President Trump will protect their money.

"I think this project is safer, because it has a government connection," says Maggie Lin, who attended a marketing event Saturday at the Intercontinental Hotel in Shenzhen. "He is Trump's son-in-law, so it seems more secure."

Related: Why wealthy Chinese are lining up to pay $500k for U.S. visas

Since there were no representatives from Kushner Companies, the main speech at the Shenzhen event was delivered by John Linn, a regional vice president of the U.S. Immigration Fund. The private company helps facilitate EB-5 applications and promotes the Kushner project and other developments on its website.

Linn told CNN that the media attention was "kind of a crazy situation."

But the controversy has not lessened the project's appeal. Some who attended said they found out about the events through news coverage.

Leo Fung, a 25-year-old from Hong Kong, said he read about it in the city's main newspaper. He said he was interested "mainly because of the Kushner family," but also because of the "connection to Trump."

Others said the media attention led to the loss of a major draw -- one of the Kushners themselves.

"I'm a bit disappointed at their no show," said Wang, the property developer who attended one of the events. "For a standard real estate launch ceremony, developer representatives are supposed to show up."

--CNNMoney's Jill Disis contributed to this report.

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