HomePoliticsSerbia approves contract with Jared Kushner for hotel complex

Serbia approves contract with Jared Kushner for hotel complex

WASHINGTON – The Serbian government has approved a contract with Jared Kushner about plans to build a luxury hotel on the site of the former Ministry of Defense in Belgrade, which would allow him, as a father-in-law, to do business directly with a European state, Donald Trumpvies to return to the White House.

Kushner is pursuing the $500 million hotel project in partnership with Richard Grenell. Grenell, a former Trump administration official, first proposed that U.S. investors try to redevelop the long-vacant bombed-out site of the former Yugoslav Defense Ministry while Grenell was still a diplomat serving as special envoy to the Balkans.

The deal, which sparked protests in Belgrade on Thursday, was made with an affiliate of Kushner’s Affinity Partners, the three-year-old $3 billion investment fund backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.

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“The government of Serbia has chosen a renowned American company as a partner in this venture, which will invest in the revitalization of the former Federal Secretariat for the National Defense Complex,” a Serbian government official said in a statement released Wednesday.

The complex was bombed in 1999 by NATO troops with the support of the United States during Serbia’s war with Kosovo. It is now considered a prime, undeveloped real estate location in the middle of a much-changed city, and Trump himself considered building a hotel there in 2013.

For Kushner, who is also planning two luxury hotel projects in neighboring Albania, these deals in the Balkans are among the largest he has made since founding his investment company.

“Serbia’s economic progress over the past decade has been impressive,” Kushner said in a statement confirming the deal’s approval. “This development will further elevate Belgrade into the premier international destination it is becoming.”

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The projects in Serbia and Albania both involve direct concessions from the governments there, meaning that Kushner may benefit financially from actions by foreign governments while his father-in-law is in the White House, even though these overseas officials might oppose actions by the United States. Nations can aspire to. States such as support for Serbia’s attempt to join the European Union.

Kushner’s investments – with business partners in Israel, Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Germany and the United States, among others – are also supported by a fund in which most of the money comes from the Saudi government, which again Questions about potential conflicts of interest if Trump returns to office, ethics lawyers said.

“It is a conflict of interest in the starkest sense: the president of the United States must represent the interests of the United States and not the financial interests of family members,” said Adav Noti, executive director of Campaign Legal Center. which tracks ethical issues in the federal government.

Overall, 99% of the money placed by investors in Kushner’s company came from foreign sources, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in late March. Kushner says his foreign investments will not pose a conflict of interest as he has said he has no plans to return to the White House if Trump is re-elected.

Kushner and his partners plan to build a hotel, retail space and more than 1,500 residential units. The approved plan includes a museum and memorial complex for those injured or killed during the NATO bombings. The monument will be owned and operated by the government and designed “in collaboration with Serbian architects,” Kushner’s company said in a statement.

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Kushner is working on the project in Serbia with a longtime real estate partner, Asher Abehsera, who will oversee the actual development. “Reconstruction means not only building buildings, but also building bridges between cultures, respecting the past and creating the foundation for a prosperous future,” Abehsera said in a statement.

Grenell said in an earlier interview that his original proposal from his time in the Trump administration and his current involvement in the project reflect his belief that the United States should help rebuild the 25-year-old site played during the bombings. . He said the redevelopment could be part of a “healing” of relations between the two countries.

The Serbian government said in its own statement that it would retain ownership of the site and that the investor group, Affinity Global Development, has a certain period to complete the project or the land will be returned to government control.

But the approval of the contract – which includes a 99-year lease and an agreement to share profits from the development of the three-block area with the Serbian government – has drawn criticism from opposition leaders in the Serbian parliament, among others.

Protesters blocked traffic in front of the former Defense Department headquarters on Thursday and posted signs questioning the decision, including some that read: “Stop giving the Army Headquarters as a gift to US offshore companies.”

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Some in Serbia object to the plan because of the role of the United States in the bombings 25 years ago.

“Someone is trying to clean up the mess they made, and they are not the ones who should be doing anything in this place,” said Dragan Jonic, a lawmaker who took part in Thursday’s protest. “We will use all legal means and civil disobedience to stop this.”

The project has also attracted the attention of Democrats in the House of Representatives, who have asked Republicans on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee to investigate the proposed deals, although there has been no movement among Republicans to do so.

“Jared Kushner is pursuing new foreign business deals just as Donald Trump becomes the presumptive Republican nominee for president,” Reps. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Robert Garcia, D-Calif., wrote in March, after The New York Times announced details of the planned projects.

Kushner has said in an interview that as a private citizen he has the right to pursue international real estate and business deals, even if they involve foreign governments.

But Kushner has played a background role advising a nonprofit founded by Trump supporters that is already working on Trump’s possible return to the White House.

“One of the reasons I think companies like us as investors is because they know that if Affinity comes in, we’re a sign of kosher,” Kushner said in an interview in March. “Because we are again a strictly controlled company. We work very professionally.”

c.2024 The New York Times Company

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