by Andrew Walden
Fraud, bribery and 23 Hawaii archaeological sites? Yes, HCDA is at work in Kalaeloa again.
The Hawaii Community Development Authority board overseeing the Kalaeloa Community Development District March 1 voted to enter into negotiations with the Aloha Solar Energy Fund II for construction of a 5-megawatt solar farm on 44 acres of land across Coral Sea Road from Kalaeloa Beach Park.
A Group 70 survey prepared for HCDA in 2012 reports “Parcel 13073-E” contains 23 Hawaiian archaeological sites, encompassing 146 features.
In written testimony to the HCDA February 28, John Bond, president of the nonprofit Kanehili Cultural Hui says “this site is one of the most culturally and historically rich sites KCH members have ever seen. By just walking a few yards in any direction off the bulldozed roads was massive evidence of an ancient Hawaiian cultural habitation of all kinds, including trails, heiaus, (and) burial sites….”
Subcontractors for a previous solar developer, Aloha Solar Energy Fund I / Sunetric, were ordered to ‘cease and desist’ (pgs 7-16) in 2012 after members of the Kapolei Hawaiian Civic Club caught them bulldozing nearly a kilometer of 20-30-foot wide pathways into the property. (pg 2)
Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire
The new developer, Aloha Solar Energy Fund II (ASEF2) hasn’t even started yet—but they already have a record. ASEF2 is owned by the Environmental Chemical Corporation (ECC). The current editor of Maui Time, Anthony Pignataro, tells the story in a May 17, 2000 Orange County Weekly article:
ECC is part of a mini-corporate empire set up 20 years ago by Pritam Sabharwal in Lexington, Kentucky. Newspaper accounts chronicle a rich and colorful history of run-ins with federal environmental regulators.
In 1980, Sabharwal formed his first company, Environmental Health Research and Testing (EHRT). Taking advantage of federal Small Business Administration (SBA) set-asides for minorities just starting out, Sabharwal was able to secure more than $31 million in government contracts before 1990.
Everything seemed fine until 1993, when Sabharwal tried to give an $18,000 bribe to a federal Environmental Protection Agency official in exchange for information on his competitors' bids for a local contract. Sabharwal later entered into a plea agreement to pay a $1 million fine, and EHRT was barred from federal contracts.
But Sabharwal himself wasn't out yet. Since the mid-1980s, he had been incorporating new companies on a regular basis and appointing family members to run them. In 1985, he formed ECC and turned it over to his son Paul. In 1989, he spun off Sab International Technology Enterprises (SITE) and tapped his son Shawn to run it.
Sabharwal later secured SBA minority start-up grants for both ECC and SITE, even though the money from all the firms went into the same accounts, making them essentially one company.
Federal auditors suspected something was amiss as early as 1993, but seven years passed before a federal grand jury indicted Sabharwal and five family members on May 30, 2000, on 12 counts of fraud, racketeering, bribery and conspiracy. The main charge: defrauding the federal government out of $150 million in SBA start-up funds.
Pritam Sabharwal reacted by fleeing to his native India, while the rest of his family pleaded innocent of all charges, most of which were eventually thrown out. On March 9, 2001, the Sabharwal patriarch returned to the U.S. and pleaded guilty to hiding company records and lying about his billing practices to EPA auditors from 1993 to 1995. He agreed to pay a $2 million fine, serve six months in jail and pay the $1 million fine from 1993 that he had simply ignored.
With a history like that, it should come of little surprise that one of ECC’s first moves was to pick up where ASEF1 left off--“hire” the Kapolei Hawaiian Civic Club as a “consultant.” (pg 3 and 52)