The former Motorola property in Harvard was transferred in two separate international money laundering schemes, newly published documents show.
In the late 1990s, Motorola announced a new phone manufacturing plant in Harvard. The 1.5 million square foot office and plant became the largest building in the region, Politico reported.
Motorola said at the time that the $100 million factory would require 5,000 employees to operate.
A few years later into its operation, the plant closed in 2003 as Motorola lost revenue, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The Pandora Papers are part of nearly 12 million leaked documents published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in early October.
The documents describe how powerful figures hide large amounts of money and provide more details on the owners of the property over the years.
In 2008, Chaim Schochet, a Miami investor of Optima International, bought the empty building from Motorola for $16.75 million, Politico reported.
Optima International was buying many properties across the Midwest at the time, promising jobs and economic growth.
According to prosecutors, the purchased properties were used to hide a Ukrainian oligarch’s stolen money.
After Ukraine’s 2014 revolution, investigators said Ihor Kolomoisky, a Ukrainian banking tycoon, was overseeing a large Ponzi scheme totaling at least $5.5 billion, Politico reported.
Prosecutors say Kolomoisky used Ukraine’s largest retail bank, PrivatBank, to offshore the stolen money into the United States.
They theorized that Mordechai Korf and Uri Laber, who oversaw the Optima company’s American operations, were linked to Kolomoisky’s operations.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) said funds taken from PrivatBank went through multiple shell companies and offshore accounts before going to Optima International.
The funds were then allegedly used for assets around the Midwest.
The DOJ alleged Kolomoisky of laundering money. He claimed he bought the properties in the United States with his own money.
Charlie Eldredge, head of the Harvard Economic Development Corporation, said Schochet was not focused on the Harvard plant he purchased.
Property taxes and electrical bills continued to remain unpaid years after the purchase.
In 2016, Xiao Hua Gong, a Chinese-Canadian businessman, bought the building in an online auction from Optima for $9.3 million — with Optima losing $7 million on the deal, Politico reported.
Later, electricity to the factory was cut off and it remained unused and unmaintained.
Gong expressed his intention to transform the building into a smartphone manufacturing base, Politico reported.
A year after Gong purchased the building, Canadian authorities charged him with fraud and, along with New Zealand authorities, accused him of running a transnational money laundering scheme.
Last month, a Las Vegas company bought the former Motorola building. That sale was facilitated by the U.S. Marshals Service, which was tasked with selling the property after Gong was charged.
CORRECTION: Motorola operated the newly-opened plant for a few years until it shut down in 2003.