Due to suspicions of possible foreign interference, the Air Force Foreign Investment Risk Review Office is looking into roughly $1 billion in land transactions made close to Travis Air Force Base in California. You’re probably not the only one if you are already thinking about Bill Gates or China.
The focus of the investigation is “Flannery Associates,” a “mysterious” investors group that, in line with county officials and public documents, has amassed almost 52,000 acres of land used for agriculture in California over the past five years in order to transform into the county’s most significant landowner. The Wall Street Journal broke the story this week.
Officials have been looking for the investors behind the purchase for eight months, but they have not been successful.
A lawyer for Flannery maintains that the organization is run by Americans and that 97% of the funding it has raised has come from American investors, with the remaining 3% coming from British as well as Irish investors. In a prior statement, Flannery informed Solano County that the company is “owned by a number of families who are diversifying their investment portfolio from equities directly into real assets, which includes land for agriculture located throughout the western United States.”
The firm’s lawyer informed the WSJ that “any allegation that Flannery’s transactions are driven by their closeness to Travis Air Force Base” is baseless.
“According to those with knowledge of the situation, Flannery’s acquisitions of around 52,000 acres, including those near Travis Air Force Base, have been under investigation by the Air Force’s Foreign Investment Risk Review Agency. But one of the persons said the office, which has been looking into the subject for approximately eight months, has not been able to figure out who is funding the group.”
“We have no idea who Flannery is, and nobody in the neighborhood can explain their huge acquisitions. There are serious concerns raised by the deliberate purchase of land at Travis that extends all the way to the fence.”
Mitch Mashburn, a supervisor for Solano County, stated that if Flannery intended to develop the site, it would have made sense for the organization to interact with local authorities, but it has not yet done so.
“Bingo.” A representative for the base told the WSJ that the base commander and other officials “are mindful of the many purchases of land close to the base and are diligently collaborating with other agencies.”
“Over the years, Flannery has provided a variety of justifications for its acquisitions. In an email sent to a Solano County official in 2019, Flannery lawyer Richard Melnyk stated that the company intended to cooperate with local farmers and possibly investigate ‘new kinds of crops or orchards,’ ruling out all cannabis activities.”
“Flannery said it intended to utilize the site for renewable energy and associated projects in its price-fixing case from May. According to court documents, the business has let a lot of sellers go on farming or stay on the property and receive money from wind turbine rentals for the rest of the lease.”
However, after five years, there are still no windmills, orchards, or crops. Why?
Author: Scott Dowdy