Electric vehicle firm Greentech Automotive claims it raised $140 million for its Mississippi project, but the state auditor Stacey Pickering says the company can't prove it invested even $60 million. Photo courtesy Stacey Pickering
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Electric vehicle firm GreenTech Automotive claims it raised $140 million for its Mississippi factory, but state Auditor Stacey Pickering said Monday that the company can't prove it invested even the $60 million required in its state incentive contract.
In a statement emailed Friday by Chief Financial Officer Peter Huddleston, the company also claimed Mississippi didn't live up to its promises, apparently because Tunica County never granted property tax breaks pledged to the company.
"GreenTech is in communication with representatives of various state of Mississippi agencies regarding the 2011 memorandum of understanding between GreenTech and the Mississippi Development Authority," Huddleston wrote. "The parties have discussed not only GreenTech's job creation goals, but also the state MDA's performance obligations under the MOU, including the failure of the MDA to provide certain required tax incentives."
Huddleston did not respond to an email sent Monday seeking clarification. The company said in the statement it would have no further comment.
It's unclear if GreenTech has ever sold any vehicles. Pickering, a Republican, said GreenTech never created more than 143 of its promised 350 jobs. That's why he says the company must repay the $4.9 million it was loaned by Mississippi, plus $1.5 million in interest. He said he was unimpressed with GreenTech's complaint about Tunica County, which balked when some supervisors wanted the company to employ a higher share of Tunica County residents.
"GreenTech never brought that up until we sent the demand letter," Pickering told The Associated Press Monday.
The auditor has sent a letter demanding repayment, which could set the stage for a civil lawsuit by state government to recover money if GreenTech doesn't make a payment within 30 days
Pickering's inquiry finds GreenTech's number of employees had fallen to 10 at the end in February. He said there's no evidence the company is actively trying to work out a settlement with MDA, the state's economic development agency.
"They have had their opportunity at good faith," he said.
Though GreenTech made one tardy $150,000 payment on its loan from the state in November, MDA spokesman Jeff Rent said Greentech has not made $150,000 payments that were due Dec. 31 and June 30.
Despite the company's claim to have "equity capital" of $140 million, Pickering said his office was unable to determine how much money Greentech had invested based on documents his office subpoenaed. The audit states that the company provided written documents saying it had raised $43 million from 86 investors who each put in $500,000 through a federal program that allows people to obtain U.S. residency by investing that amount and creating 10 jobs.
Documents obtained by The Associated Press show the Department of Homeland Security decided to reject a number of visa requests made through a fund run by Hillary Clinton's brother, Anthony Rodham, because GreenTech created so few jobs.
A 2015 report found a federal official broke ethics rules when he aided GreenTech's visas. Among former insiders is Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The Democrat divested his interest before becoming governor but acknowledged in May that he's under federal investigation. GreenTech has also faced an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The status of that probe is not clear. However, Huddleston's statement sought to disassociate McAuliffe from the Mississippi dispute.
"The State of Mississippi funds were provided for construction of the Company's Robinsonville manufacturing facility, which occurred well after Governor McAuliffe had left the company," Huddleston wrote.