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Trump plan to send National Guard to border in motion but short on details



President Donald Trump‘s plan to deploy National Guard troops to the U.S. border with Mexico is in motion, with deployments coming as soon as Wednesday night, but otherwise, the administration has few details about the action.

A senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, reiterated much of what the administration had already announced about the plan but did not disclose how much it would cost or how long the mission would last.

When asked if there was a plan in place, a senior administration official said the discussion was by no means new.

“There have been ongoing conversations between DHS, DoD and the border states in regard to the mission that we will be supporting,” the official said. “We are not going to DoD and saying we need X number of people; we are going to DoD and saying we need to fulfill this mission requirement, and DoD is working to identify and task that out.”

The official also sought to head off any potential legal arguments against the plan.

“The best lawyers in the world are working on this and there is a lot of statutory language over a long period of time governing the National Guard and the issue of border security,” the official said. “And lots of different options are available in terms of lawful and appropriate ways to utilize the National Guard and other state and federal resources to secure the border.”

Trump has been pushing for more stringent border security measures since he signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill last month. He had been seeking $25 billion to build a wall on America’s border with Mexico, but the bill included $1.6 billion for limited border security measures.

Members of his administration worked to respond quickly to the president’s demands.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced Wednesday that her department, along with the Pentagon and border states’ governors, would work together to deploy National Guard forces at the border.

“Border security is national security. It’s a foundational element to the very security of our systems, of our citizens, and of our homeland,” she said. “The president is committed to securing our border and using all the tools that he has available to him.”

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Nielsen also said that the White House had put together legislation on border security.

“The administration has drafted legislation and we will be asking Congress again for the legal authority and resources to address this crisis,” she said during a press briefing at the White House. “Based on conversations with congressional leadership, I am optimistic.”

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India’s rich are not the only ones fleeing Covid crisis



Tycoons and Bollywood stars may be among the most high profile residents fleeing India’s shores on private jets as the coronavirus crisis escalates — but they are by no means the only ones, according to private jet charter company JetSetGo.

The situation in India has become so dire that even upper-middle class families are pooling their resources to make an escape, its co-founder and CEO Kanika Tekriwal told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia.”

The South Asian country, battling a devastating surge in the virus, recorded 412,262 new cases on Thursday, taking its total caseload to more than 28 million.

“To say that only wealthy Indians are leaving India on private jets would be wrong,” Tekriwal said Thursday from Maldives.

“In the last 10 days, what we have really seen is anyone who can put together the resources and the means to pool in money for a private jet, or to pool in money just to get out of the country, getting out.”

They’re just people who are putting together money to get out of the country. I think it’s them who fear Covid the most.

Kanika Tekriwal

co-founder and CEO, JetSetGo

Tekriwal said JetSetGo has seen a 900% surge in bookings in recent weeks — with some 70% to 80% coming from the upper middle class, instead of their regular ultra high net worth customers. The majority of them are fleeing to Maldives, which currently offers quarantine at a secluded resort for passengers arriving from India, or Dubai, which allows entry from business purposes.

“They’re just people who are putting together money to get out of the country. I think it’s them who fear Covid the most because they’re not the ultra-rich or the most accessible to medical care,” she said.

Crowds of people are seen shopping during a weekly market at Kandivali.

SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

JetSetGo has not increased its rates in response to the surging demand, Tekriwal said adding: “That would be opportunistic and wrong.”

But at $18,000 to $20,000 for an eight-seater jet to Maldives, or $31,000 for a six-seater jet to Dubai, the journey does not come cheap — even for India’s upper-middle class, who earn around $15,000 plus per year.

However, Tekriwal said the situation has become so out of control that, in some cases, the price of a private jet flight can be less than hospitalization fees.

That’s what most of my customers have been telling me: ‘We’re okay with spending six months’ of salary or our savings on escaping the country.

Kanika Tekriwal

co-founder and CEO, JetSetGo

Hospitalization costs about $2,500 a night, she said. “It’s what hospital rooms are going at. So even if you’ve got two family members in hospital for 14 days, you’re looking at double the price of flying to Dubai.”

“That’s what most of my customers have been telling me: ‘We’re okay with spending six months’ of salary or our savings on escaping the country rather than being in half a hospital bed and not knowing how much we’re going to be paying or if we’re even going to be getting a hospital bed.

Tekriwal added that passengers who test positive for Covid-19 are not accepted on its regular flights. However, the company does offer a separate domestic and international air ambulance service.

Still, a private jet doesn’t guarantee escape from the virus.

Despite enforcing new safety measures since last March — including mandatory testing, regular sanitization of aircrafts and no interaction between passengers and crew — Tekriwal said 30% of her staff have continued to test positive for the virus.

“What really hurts me most is that these teams come in, come out there, work with people to get them from point A to point B safely. And when they do test positive, they’re taking the virus back home to their families, to their young children, and to their parents, which is quite disturbing,” she said.

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$100 million New Jersey deli has Macao investors who are hard to find



The office building on Avenida Da Praia Grande in Macao, China, the address for multiple entities listed as investors in Hometown International, the owner of a single New Jersey deli.

Catarina Domingues | CNBC

You can buy an actual sandwich at that mystery New Jersey deli — but good luck finding some of the biggest investors in the $100 million company that owns only that one eatery.

CNBC tried — hard — without success to locate a group of four investment entities purportedly based in Macao who comprise the largest shareholder group in deli owner Hometown International.

One of those investors — cryptically named VCH Limited — also collects $25,000 per month from Hometown International for a consulting agreement related to efforts by the money-losing sandwich seller to merge with a private entity.

E-Waste, a shell company with multiple ties to Hometown International, likewise is being positioned for such a transaction, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

While Hometown International operates a real Italian deli in Paulsboro, New Jersey — albeit a modest one with less than $37,000 in combined sales in the past two years — E-Waste has no actual business operations.

Your Hometown Deli in Paulsboro, N.J.

Google Earth

Despite that fact, the market capitalization of both companies has topped $100 million in recent weeks, due to a seemingly inexplicable rise in the prices of their thinly traded stocks since last year, when overseas investors began taking stakes in the companies.

The biggest single owner in both over-the-counter-traded companies is a Macao entity called Global Equity Limited, which holds 42 million common shares and warrants in Hometown International.

Global Equity also is the largest shareholder, by far, in a third company called Med Spa Vacations, whose sole corporate officer, John Rollo, is the president of E-Waste.

An SEC filing shows that Hometown International in February loaned Med Spa Vacations $150,000 at an interest rate of 6%. Med Spa Vacations says in filings that it is, like E-Waste, a shell company with no ongoing operations that likewise is seeking to combine with a private entity.

Three other entities registered in Macao — VCH Limited, IPC-Trading Company and RTO Limited — each hold 10.5 million shares and warrants in the deli owner.

Filings state that VCH Limited, IPC-Trading Company, RTO Limited and Global Equity Limited are based in the same downtown office building in Macao, a special administrative region of China and a major gambling mecca located less than 40 miles from Hong Kong.

Mystery in Macao

Except for VCH, whose listed address is on the fifth floor of that office building, the other entities are on the first floor, according to their filings in Macao’s Commercial Registry Office.

But a reporter found no actual offices of the entities at the building, or any other sign of them.

Instead, the reporter found the offices of an accounting company and a related corporate services firm that seem to be acting as mail drops for the investors, and possibly providing other functions.

Those other physical companies at the building are connected to one of Macao’s biggest and most prestigious law firms.

Likewise, nowhere to be found at the address were the individuals who are identified in SEC filings as their managers and controllers of their stock holdings.

Those individuals also do not show up in a search of SEC filings for any other company besides Hometown International, E-Waste or Med Spa Vacations.

The owners of Global Equity, whose registration filings say it began operations in 2016, are listed as two men, Michael Tyldesley and Ibrahima Thiam.

Tyldesley also is listed as managing director of VCH, which was created in May 2017.

IPC-Trading’s owners are listed as Thiam and someone named Lan Moi Lilia. The listed owner of RTO Ltd. is a person named Nathalie Tina Pasaywon.

Filings show that RTO was created on the same day in May 2016 as Global Equity.

IPC-Trading began operations four months earlier.

The office building on Avenida Da Praia Grande in Macao, China, the address for multiple entities listed as investors in Hometown International, the owner of a single New Jersey deli.

Catarina Domingues | CNBC

The Paulsboro enigma

Hometown Deli, Paulsboro, N.J.

Mike Calia | CNBC

Last Friday, Hometown International, in an extraordinary SEC filing, disavowed its market capitalization, saying that neither its revenues nor assets warranted such a high stock price. E-Waste issued an identical disavowal of its own stock price three days later.

Hometown International’s lawyer did not return a request for comment from CNBC for this article.

Not all of Hometown International’s owners are a mystery — or as much of a mystery — as the ones in Macao.

The investor with perhaps the biggest public profile, Paul Morina, is CEO and president of Hometown International. He holds a whopping 30.5 million common shares and warrants in the company.

Morina is renowned in New Jersey high school wrestling circles as coach of the Paulsboro High School team, which frequently wins state titles.

He is also principal at Paulsboro High, whose other administrators include Christine Lindemuth, the only other executive officer of Hometown International. Lindenmuth owns no shares of the company, according to the latest SEC filings.

Morina’s brother Carmel Morina is the elected sheriff of Gloucester County, whose environs include Paulsboro, a small town located just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia.

Paul Morina has not responded to repeated requests to comment by CNBC for the past three weeks.

Coker connections

Hometown International has three major shareholders based in Hong Kong.

One of those, Maso Capital Partners, last year created a Nasdaq-traded special purpose acquisition company whose board members include Hometown International Chairman Coker Jr., who is also based in Hong Kong.

Coker’s own corporate interests include a financially troubled hotel in Macao — The 13 — which initially had marketed itself as the most luxurious hotel property in the world.

The hotel, whose initial investors included Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital Advisors, Fidelity International and Omega Advisors, has been closed to guests since February 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Maso Capital’s leaders include Manoj Jain, a former managing director at the asset manager previously known as Och-Ziff.

Jain holds sole voting and investment power for the two other Hometown International investors in Hong Kong. Those investors are corporate arms of the investment funds of two American universities, Duke and Vanderbilt.

Jain controls more than 52 million common shares and warrants for Hometown International through the Hong Kong entities.

Last week, Jain became the first person affiliated with the deli owner to publicly comment in the weeks since it gained notoriety for its bizarre stock valuation.

Jain told CNBC in a statement then that he was “very concerned” about “serious allegations” surrounding Coker’s father, Peter Coker Sr., and others affiliated with the elder Coker’s North Carolina company.

His comment came after CNBC documented the messy legal and regulatory issues involving Coker Sr. — who is a key investor in Hometown International — and people connected to Coker Sr., in addition to Hometown International’s accounting firm and the company’s first lawyer.

Coker Sr.’s firm Tryon Capital was being paid $15,000 per month by Hometown International and $2,500 per month by E-Waste for consulting work before those deals were terminated last month.

An SEC filing shows that Tryon Capital in February began leasing office space to the third company, Med Spa Vacations, which also that month entered into a one-year consulting agreement that pays Tryon Capital $2,500 per month.

A Coker Sr.-controlled company called Hometown Global Services is the second largest shareholder, after Global Equity Ltd., in Med Spa Vacations. In its annual report filed in March, Med Spa Vacations said it had no revenue for 2020, ended the year with no cash, and had a loss of more than $46,000 for that year.

Unlike Jain, the Macao investors have kept mum in the midst of the controversies over Coker Sr. and Hometown International.

A visit to the Macao offices

On Wednesday, a reporter visited their legal address at 759 Avenida Da Praia Grande, a 15-story building called Lun Pong.

The building, located in Macao’s central business area, is surrounded by architecture dating to the period when Macao was a colony of Portugal, and is five minutes away from Senado Square, the city’s focal point, and part of the UNESCO Historic Centre of Macao World Heritage Site.

The office building on Avenida Da Praia Grande in Macao, China, the address for multiple entities listed as investors in Hometown International, the owner of a single New Jersey deli.

Catarina Domingues | CNBC

The building’s lower five floors are owned by Rui Jose da Cunha, a founding partner at C&C Lawyers and Notaries — one of Macao’s top legal firms — which has its offices there.

None of the Hometown International investors or any of their managers or owners are listed by name on the directory in the building’s lobby.

But a company called Gestores de Projetos Limitada — or Project Managers Limited in Portuguese — is listed as a tenant of the first floor.

That same floor — whose walls feature Chinese calligraphy and a painting of the Ruins of St. Paul’s, a Catholic religious complex in Macao — is the legal address for all of the Hometown International investors in the city with the exception of VCH.

Gestores de Projetos Limitada, also known as GEP, provides accounting services to small- and medium-sized business in Macao.

“Whether you need to outsource your payroll tasks or to get an expert opinion on an investment opportunity in Macao, we’re able to assist you in a timely and cost-effective manner,” GEP’s website says.

“We also work closely with one of the biggest law firms in Macao to assure your company stays compliant with the laws of Macao and to assist you in a wide array of services, including company incorporation or appointment and removal of directors,” the site says.

When the reporter asked a GEP employee about Global Equity Limited, that person said GEP provides “services to this company,” indicating that Global Equity has an address in GEP’s office.

The employee then called a partner in GEP, Rui Pedro Cunha, who told CNBC he was not familiar with the names of the entities known to be Hometown International investors.

Cunha said GEP services companies that want an address in Macao. Those client companies get mail delivered to GEP, which then forwards it on to the companies, he said.

“Usually, we do that in the cases of companies that are using our accounting services,” said Cunha, whose father is the owner of the building’s bottom five floors and the C&C law firm.

Cunha said that he would check to see if the Hometown International investors were among GEP’s clients.

Cunha later emailed CNBC, saying, “I cannot confirm which company is (or isn’t) a client of GEP, but if GEP is handling mail for a company and receives mail for them, GEP will be sure to forward it.”

CNBC then replied, asking him to forward requests to the Hometown International investors and associated people that they contact a reporter so that they could answer questions for this article, and comment for it.

On the building’s fifth floor — the purported location of the investor VCH — there is another company called C&C Secretariado Limitada, or C&C Corporate Services Limited.

That company provides auditing and accounting services, in addition to domiciliation and administration services to companies that have no physical presence in Macao.

A person at that firm declined to comment to CNBC

Correction: An earlier version misspelled Michael Tyldesley’s last name.

— Catarina Domingues reported in Macao for CNBC.

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‘This virus is not going away’



Moderna CEO, Stephane Bancel attends 2019 Forbes Healthcare Summit at the Jazz at Lincoln Center on December 05, 2019 in New York City.

Steven Ferdman | Getty Images

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said Thursday the company expects more Covid-19 variants will emerge in coming months as the Southern Hemisphere enters its fall and winter seasons.

Bancel, speaking to investors on a first-quarter earnings call, said people will likely need to get booster shots of its two-dose Covid-19 vaccine as the virus circulates globally.

“New variants of concern continue to emerge around the world. And we believe that over the next six months, as the Southern Hemisphere enters the fall and winter, we could see more variants of concern emerge,” Bancel said. The Southern Hemisphere includes Africa, Australia, most of South America and parts of Asia. “We believe booster shots will be needed as we believe the virus is not going away.”

The CEO’s comments come a day after the company announced a booster shot of its vaccine generated a promising immune response against the B.1.351 and P.1 variants first identified in South Africa and Brazil, respectively. The variants have since spread to other countries, including the U.S.

The data was preliminary and had not yet been reviewed by peers.

Moderna’s vaccine requires two doses given four weeks apart. Like Pfizer‘s and Johnson & Johnson‘s, the shot is highly effective against Covid, though company executives and officials now say they expect that strong protection to wane over time. Pfizer’s vaccine is also a two-dose regimen while the J&J immunization is just one jab.

Earlier Thursday, Moderna said sales of its successful vaccine helped drive its first quarterly profit ever.

Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine generated $1.7 billion in sales, according to its earnings report. The company also raised its 2021 sales forecast for its vaccine to $19.2 billion, up from its previous forecast of $18.4 billion. Bancel said the company is “actively engaged” in discussions and agreements for 2022 with all of the governments it is currently supplying.

Earlier this week, rival Pfizer also raised its vaccine sale forecast, predicting full-year sales of $26 billion.

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