Hard to believe, but the South Dakota International Business Institute (SDIBI) website is still up. It's difficult to get a feel for its currency, but it references activities that occurred in '07, so there's definitely some relevance to this ill-starred economic development program, whose troubles began about that time. SDIBI, which is operationally defunct, is where the EB-5 scandal was midwifed, turning the "cash for green cards" program that took serious chunks of money (in units of $500 grand) from foreign investors in exchange for legal and permanent residency status for them and their families. The South Dakota component of the federal program went awry when the director Joop Bollen, while running it for the State of South Dakota, turned it into a money spigot for himself by creating a management company to run it for the state. He did so on his own, without any authorization from his bosses, the Governor's Office of Economic Development and the South Dakota Board of Regents, who claim ignorance of Bollen's activities. Said management company, SDRC, inc., subsequently charged investors (over and above their investments in business ventures) fees that may well have run up to over $100 million, money that could just as easily have been earned by the State of South Dakota had Bollen stuck to his job as a state employee and turned over those fees to the state. The thing has turned so nasty that the FBI is "actively" investigating it.
Meantime, the South Dakota state legislature's Government Operations and Audit Committee has been taking a look at this and wants Bollen to answer a few questions. GOAC just sent a request (hard to believe the committee can't find a way to make Bollen actually show up for the hearing, scheduled for next week) to Bollen, asking him to provide written answers to a whole bunch of questions, 75 to be exact, related to the matter. I'm sure Bollen is so lawyered-up at this point that substantive answers to the questions posed by GOAC will probably be scarcer than hen's teeth, but elected officials are probably duty-bound by now to at least make a pro forma attempt at finding out just exactly what happened.
In the process, I hope the SDIBI website gets a look. Anybody trying to take it down should know I've printed all of it. Don't know how incriminating it is, but it sure makes for some interesting reading. On the site's homepage it says that Joop Bollen's company "SDRC, inc., established in late 2007, is the overarching management company" that runs South Dakota's EB-5 program. Bollen is not identified as a principal, a manager, an employee, nothing, of SDRC, Inc. Then, a few pages into the site there's a form letter addressed "Dear Potential EB-5 investor" and signed by "Joop Bollen Director, SDIBI." So as far as anybody knows from scanning the site, Bollen is the State of South Dakota's employee overseeing the EB-5 program that is managed by a company named SDRC, inc. No one knows that SDRC, inc. is actually Bollen himself.
Now get this. A few sentences into the letter, Joop Bollen, writing as the state's director of the program, tells potential investors that "South Dakota's regional center is truly a state government run regional center where economic development is the reward and not profit for the company which manages the regional center!!" The italics are mine. The double exclamation points are Bollen's. Talk about chutzpah. The whole point of Bollen's scheme was to rake in profits for "the company (SDRC, inc.) which manages the regional center"--profits to the tune of $100 million-plus if the Center for Immigration Studies' analysis is correct. In addition to keeping the State of South Dakota in the dark, Bollen was pulling a fast one on the unsuspecting foreign investors by charging them sizable fees under the guise of collecting that money for the state.
Oh, and one last thing. Toward the end of this letter, Bollen notes that "South Dakota's federal representatives and high ranking state officials understand the benefits of EB-5 has provided to our State and are willing to assist or intervene when and if deemed necessary." (I'm quoting verbatim. The syntactical and grammatical fluffs in the preceding quotes come courtesy of the letter writer, who has a tenuous grasp of English.) That last comment makes me wonder if South Dakota's elected and appointed state and federal officials have a clue about how they were used to support and legitimize Bollen's plot, which continues to thicken with every successive revelation.
Addendum (posted 11/8 @ 0950 MST): Retired Northern State University (where SDIBI operated before Bollen went rogue) Professor David Newquist and I had similar bizarre results when we tried accessing SDIBI's link to its own site. Here's Newquist's piece on it.