The South Dakota Board of Regents has been gathering evidence on the EB-5 scandal for over five years, ever since it discovered that the EB-5 coordinator who worked on the Northern State campus, Joop Bollen, concealed a lawsuit against the state connected to his January 2008 no-bid contract with himself. As shown by the collection of invoices from a California law firm handling the Darley v. SDIBI lawsuit and the resulting arbitration for the Regents, the Regents have a large collection of correspondence, legal pleadings, and depositions that illuminate what Bollen and his associates were doing, who in state government knew about it, and when they knew it.
Perhaps the single most illuminating document in the Regents' possession is the April 2014 deposition of Joop Bollen. According to an invoice submitted to the Regents by Garcia Hernández Sawhney & Bermudez on May 22, 2014, attorney Chaka Okadigbo spent 35 hours preparing for this deposition, then attended the interrogation of Bollen for 17.5 hours spread over three days, from April 16 to April 18 (two hours of homework for every hour in class—just like college!).
An invoice submitted March 27, 2014, shows that Okadigbo spent one full work day and part of another in February preparing for the Bollen deposition. At $300 per hour, plus $2,200 in travel expenses, the Regents spent over $20,000 preparing for this deposition.
It's not the price tag that makes the Bollen deposition transcript the most valuable legal document in South Dakota today. It's the fact that, as far as we know, the Regents are the only entity in South Dakota in possession of statements from Joop Bollen under oath about his management of South Dakota's EB-5 program.
It's possible Bollen didn't say much; just as he didn't want to tell the Regents about the Darley lawsuit in 2008, he expended great effort after he quit his state job to shield himself from Darley's ongoing litigation behind the façade of his private corporation. According to a May 21, 2012 invoice, the Regents were working on a legal strategy to secure Bollen's testimony.
Interestingly, in August 2013, the Regents appear to have worked to avoid a Bollen deposition. According to an invoice submitted by its California lawyers on September 26, 2013, Bollen was demanding indemnity and release from the Regents in August 2013. Attorney Okadigbo discussed this issue by correspondence with Bollen, Bollen's lawyer Jeff Sveen, and Regents' counsel James Shekleton.
After further correspondence with Sveen about "antecedent conditions" to an interview, Okadigbo came to South Dakota and interviewed Bollen for four hours on August 9, 2013.
The Regents insist that they have made no deal with Bollen, but at the end of August 2013, Okadigbo prepared and filed opposition to Darley's application to depose Bollen.
The invoices do not make clear exactly what happened next, but it would appear the April 2014 deposition was part of Darley's discovery process. While the Regents may have had questions of their own about Bollen's activities, Okadigbo's attendance at Bollen's deposition may have been intended to keep as much information off the record as possible in anticipation of the Darley v. SDIBI arbitration that took place in California from April 28 through April 30, 2014.
Bollen and Okadigbo may have spent much of the April 16–18 Bollen deposition muttering "Fifth!" or "Objection!" or whatever other hurdles one can raise during a deposition. But 17.5 hours of questions from Darley, follow-up questions from the Regents, and responses and non-responses from Bollen would likely tell us much more than Wednesday's legislative readers theater did about who knew and did what when in South Dakota's EB-5 program.
Regents, even if you didn't want Bollen deposed, you have that deposition. Bollen's statements are of great public interest. Do us a great public service: help us understand the state's EB-5 program by releasing the April 16–18, 2014, deposition of Joop Bollen.