An attorney for an investment group has denied the group is controlled by foreign investors, as government investigators seek the identities of buyers of nearly $1 billion in real estate near Travis Air Force Base in California.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Flannery Associates is the largest single landowner in Solano County, where the base is located, with approximately 52,000 acres.
The U.K.’s Daily Mail, citing a figure of 55,000 acres, reported that the company had “given a variety of accounts and indications as to what it wants to do with it,” including leasing the land to olive producers and developing “new types of crops or orchards” with local farmers.
To date, however, the company has not taken any concrete steps to put the land to use, despite having made these claims since at least 2019.
The attorney, whose name was omitted from the report, told the Journal that U.S. citizens control Flannery, with only 3 percent of its capital originating from abroad, namely Britain and Ireland.
“Any speculation that Flannery’s purchases are motivated by the proximity to Travis Air Force Base” had no basis in fact, according to the attorney.
The Journal cited several sources with knowledge of the Air Force’s Foreign Investment Risk Review Office investigation. One of these individuals told the publication that after eight months of searching, the office was unable to identify the investors.
The Journal reports that two House Democrats whose districts include the land purchased by Flannery in Solano County have requested a federal investigation into the matter.
“We don’t know who Flannery is, and their extensive purchases do not make sense to anybody in the area,” said Rep. John Garamendi, the senior Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee’s readiness panel.
“The fact that they’re buying land purposefully right up to the fence at Travis raises significant questions,” he added, apparently either disbelieving the group’s lawyer or ignorant of his denial of that claim.
Rep. Mike Thompson joined Rep. John Garamendi in requesting an investigation by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or Cifus, presumably because he lacked confidence in the Air Force’s capacity to conduct the investigation on its own.
The Journal described Cifus as “a multiagency panel that can advise the president to block or unwind foreign acquisitions for security concerns.”
According to reports, a number of prominent Twitter users were also skeptical of claims of U.S. control over the investment company, and the group’s attorney declined to provide additional information about them.
I’ll bet I know who they are…
Investors spent nearly $1 billion buying land near an Air Force base in California. Officials are investigating who exactly they are. https://t.co/xnlNymjCoq
— Mark Simon (@MarkSimonHK) July 7, 2023
Who is secretly buying all the land near California Air Force. China. China. China. https://t.co/O7Tk8HGH2u
— Citizen Free Press (@CitizenFreePres) July 7, 2023
Maybe Biden’s communist Chinese masters?https://t.co/VeehjR3hqX
— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) July 8, 2023
Cifus has the authority to subpoena Flannery Associates for additional information about its investors, but when questioned by the Journal, no one could recall a time when this authority was actually exercised.
Bill Emlen, administrator of Solano County, stated that local authorities had spent years attempting to identify the individuals behind Flannery.
Mitch Mashburn, county supervisor, told the Journal that the company had not communicated with local officials, as would have been anticipated if the investors intended to develop the property.
“The majority of the land they’re purchasing is dry farmland,” Mashburn said. “I don’t see where that land can turn a profit to make it worth almost a billion dollars in investment.”
“Nobody can figure out who they are,” said Rio Vista, California, Mayor Ronald Kott, whose town is now “largely surrounded” by land owned by the investment group.
“Whatever they’re doing — this looks like a very long-term play.”