World

White House probes loans of $655 million to Kushner's family firm

Investigation centres around loans to family business of Donald Trump's son-in-law

WASHINGTON: The White House is investigating whether two loans totalling more than US$500 million (S$655 million) to the family real estate business of US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner violated any criminal laws or regulations, said the US Office of Government Ethics.

Democratic lawmakers asked the White House and Kushner Companies for documents after The New York Times last month reported about the loans extended last year by Citigroup and the private equity firm Apollo Global Management.

In a letter to Democratic Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi made public on Monday, Mr David Apol, acting director and general counsel of the Office of Government Ethics, said: "I have discussed this matter with the White House Counsel's office to ensure that they have begun the process of ascertaining the facts necessary to determine whether any law or regulation has been violated."

"During that discussion, the White House informed me that they had already begun this process."

The NYT had reported that Citigroup lent Kushner Companies and one of its partners US$325 million last year, shortly after Citigroup chief executive Michael Corbat met Mr Kushner in the White House.

It said Mr Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo, was advising Trump administration officials on infrastructure policy and held meetings with Mr Kushner, and Apollo lent US$184 million to Kushner Companies in November.

ETHICAL QUESTIONS

In a letter to Mr Apol, Mr Krishnamoorthi had said if the NYT report was accurate, it would raise serious ethical questions, and asked whether Mr Kushner's actions "constitute a breach of his ethical obligations to the American people".

Last year, Mr Kushner, who is married to Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka, resigned from Kushner Companies and sold his stake in a family trust as part of an effort to avoid conflicts of interests in his White House role.

This investigation comes after a New York City regulator began investigating 13 buildings controlled by Kushner Companies, over possible "illegal activity" related to work permits, according to public filings.

The online filings by the Department of Buildings show it is investigating the possibility of "false filing" on applications by Kushner Companies for construction work.

News of the probe comes days after a tenants' rights group and a city councilman said they had found evidence that Kushner Companies had falsified more than 80 work permits involving 34 buildings in the city.

The Building Department's probe is an expansion of an ongoing investigation that has included penalties against an architect for submitting false paperwork that goes as far back as 2016, said Mr Joseph Soldevere, a spokesman for the department. - REUTERS

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