The Wall Street Journal, citing sources familiar with the situation, reported that the Air Force was investigating a $1 billion mystery land purchase near a major Air Force base in California. However, after eight months, the Air Force has not been able to identify the investors.
According to the WSJ, a mysterious group called Flannery Associates bought up 52,000 acres in California. This included areas near Travis Air Force Base. The purchase sparked concerns about foreign influence, which led to an investigation by the Air Force Foreign Investment Risk Review Office. Flannery claims to be a majority-owned American company, with only 3% invested capital coming from Ireland or Britain. However, local authorities, legislators and federal agencies are continuing to investigate the opaque firm.
An attorney for the company told the WSJ that any speculation that Flannery’s purchases were motivated by proximity to Travis Air Force Base is unfounded.
The outlet, citing county records and officials, reported that Flannery had become the largest landowner of Solano County in the past five years.
According to the WSJ, Flannery said that Solano County was “owned by a group families who are looking to diversify from equities to real assets including agricultural land” in the Western United States.
The outlet reported that “we don’t know Flannery and their extensive purchase does not make any sense to anyone in the area,” said Democratic California Rep. John Garamendi. Garamendi is the member of the Readiness group on the House Armed Services Committee whose district includes an area where Flannery has purchased land. The fact that they are buying land up to the Travis fence raises serious questions.
Garamendi, along with Democratic California Rep. Mike Thompson whose district was also involved, asked the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to open an investigation into the land purchases, according to the WSJ. CFIUS is a group of advisors from several federal agencies that have the authority to review and stop foreign acquisitions that are deemed to be threatening to national safety.
The WSJ, citing correspondence, reported that the Department of Agriculture also is investigating Flannery’s investor.
According to the WSJ, several of the parcels Flannery claimed as his own include wind turbines. The majority are located in parts of Solano County that have been set aside for agricultural purposes. Twenty parcels surround Travis AFB. This base is known as the “Gateway to the Pacific” and houses a unit which plays a key role in the facilitation of global U.S. Military transport.
Travis’ commander, along with other Air Force officers, “are aware of multiple land purchases close to the base and actively work internally and externally,” a WSJ spokesperson said.
Bill Emlen, the county administrator for Solano County, told The Wall Street Journal that county officials in Solano have also become concerned but they haven’t been able identify Flannery’s owners.
Mitch Mashburn, county supervisor said: “I can’t see how that land could turn a profit and make it worth nearly a billion dollars of investment.” He noted that Flannery had not attempted to engage local authorities in development.
The Daily Caller News Foundation did not receive a response from the Air Force or Department of Defense in a timely manner. Flannery Associates LLC was not available for comment.