A July 24 article in the Daily Journal was a bit of an oddity from what we have seen in recent economic development stories. The article discusses a complaint filed in a United States district court related to plans to build a silicon plant in Tishomingo County by a company called Rima Holding.
The company in question is Mississippi Silicon, which is primarily owned by the company Rima Holding. Rima Holding is owned by Rima Industrial, or a Brazilian family known as the Vicintins.
Here is a little backstory on the parent company: Rima Industrial, its President and CEO, and others connected with Rima have been criminally indicted in a Brazilian court that the company and others were involved in "falsification, counterfeiting (material and ideological) of financial documentation unlawfully used in the transportation and marketing of charcoal, in such manner that all the coal produced from illegal deforestation, and extracted from native forest, was transported and marketed as if it were originating from planted forest with the knowledge and support of the directors and managers of steel industry beneficiaries" as well as "the practice of environmental crimes, crimes against the public trust, money laundering and conspiracy to commit crimes."
The challenge filed in a United States district court argues that that Rima has unlawfully evaded federal anti-dumping laws. This would mean that Rima had sold metals in the United States at unfairly low prices while imposing high duties on its imports. It goes on to say that the company made false statements to intentionally conceal Rima's relationship with other companies. The criminal complaints include mail and wire fraud in falsifying documents submitted to federal officials so they could hide their relationship with its American associates.
This now gets us to Mississippi.
The Mississippi Development Authority granted over $21 million for construction and job training funding and another $3.5 million from Tishomingo County for infrastructure improvements to benefit the project for Mississippi Silicon - which is owned by Rima. This is all for the objective of creating approximately 200 jobs; that's roughly $121,750 per job.
The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), which has been under scrutiny of late, allegedly expedited issuances of environmental permits to speed up construction of the Mississippi Silicon site which has suffered from a lack of funding for nearly three years. Officials within MDEQ, eager to push the paperwork through, feared having an extended open public comment period which would have allowed issues to be investigated and discussed. In fact, there was allegedly some celebration by stakeholders that MDEQ was able to approve the plant's permits in record time. Additionally, the connections between MDEQ and out-of-state consultants is so tight that text messages were reported to have been sent between the MDEQ regulator and a consultant for the Rima-owned project.
Once again, Governor Phil Bryant finds himself in a predicament.
Phil Bryant has taken on business dealings with an indicted on felonious charges, but we have no confirmation that Bryant was unaware these deals were taking place. If Bryant was unaware of this criminal indictment and the connections to Mississippi, how could these developments have gone unnoticed when simple research would inform him of the story?
Let's bear in mind that Phil Bryant has now given over $21 million in state funds to a company and persons under indictment for cheating on their taxes, cutting down precious rain forests so they can build coal mines, defrauding the federal government, and laundering money through overseas bank accounts. If this is what it takes to get over $21 million from Phil Bryant, it would behoove Bryant to explain what someone must do to not get millions of dollars from honest, hardworking Mississippi taxpayers.
The taxpayers of Mississippi need an explanation from Phil Bryant as to why, on his watch, he has allowed our state to be associated with possible criminal activity.