Bob Mercer puzzles through the deliberately dizzying financials of the EB-5 visa investment program that Joop Bollen privately and secretively administered through SDRC Inc. for the Governor's Office of Economic Development until Governor Dennis Daugaard canceled his lucrative state contract in September. Let me try to give you the short version to set up one nagging legal question.

Basically, every time Bollen and GOED found another project to favor with green-card-buyers' money, Bollen created a new lending entity, a series of legal fictions called "SDIF Limited Partnerships." SDIF is short for South Dakota Investment Fund. Go to the Secretary of State's corporate database, search "SDIF", and you get 11 such entities, numbered 1 through 10, then jumping to 20. (Mercer and I both wonder what happened to 11–19.)

Each SDIF LP lists Joop Bollen as its registered agent. Each was created to handle funds for an economic development project. SDRC Inc. collected the money from EB-5 visa investors and channeled it to the appropriate SDIF LP. Each LP then acted on paper as the official lender of those EB-5 funds to the designated project. Bollen's SDRC website still lists the match-ups between SDIF LPs 1 through 10 and their borrower projects:

Mercer reports that SDIF LP 20 was a third lending pool for Dakota Provisions.

So we have one private corporation, SDRC Inc., run by one man, Joop Bollen, creating eleven separate legal fictions to act as lenders to multiple businesses around South Dakota.

Now let's reach back to another detail in the EB-5 story. In 2010, Northern Beef Packers, which had received two rounds of EB-5 funding (one through SDIF LP 6) and would receive a third (through SDIF LP 9) needed an infusion of cash from mysterious offshore investors Epoch Star Limited. To avoid falling under South Dakota banking regulations, which would have required revealing their identities and paying South Dakota bank franchise tax, Epoch Star and GOED's Richard Benda got the South Dakota Banking Commission to declare that Epoch Star was not a bank... even though it was.

Now back to all these SDIF limited partnerships: as far as I know, Joop Bollen has never appeared before the South Dakota Banking Commission to either receive licensing as a bank, mortgage lender or broker, or money lender or to request exemption from South Dakota's laws and regulations for banks, mortgage lenders, or money lenders. But these lending and mortgage agreements between SDIF LPs 6 and 9 and Northern Beef Packers show Joop Bollen and his Aberdeen lawyer Jeffrey Sveen engaging in all sorts of banky business, with loans, mortgages, interest, origination fees, the works.

So in practice, Joop Bollen, under the contract authority of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, has been acting like a bank. But none of his multifarious corporate entities holds a bank license. None of those entities has received an official exemption from bank license requirements of the sort that Epoch Star had to obtain for similar activities. And none of these entities has paid South Dakota bank franchise tax.

I'm neither an accountant, a banker, or a lawyer. But Bollen and Sveen's banking activities are one more part of the GOED/EB-5 affair that does not add up.