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Manteno residents plan to amend lawsuit against China electric-vehicle battery maker

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(The Center Square) – The non-profit Concerned Citizens of Manteno is suing Gotion, a Chinese electric vehicle battery maker, and the Village of Manteno. The plaintiffs will be in court later this month to amend their complaint.

In September, Gotion joined state and local officials in Kankakee County to announce the company’s plans to bring a $2 billion electric vehicle battery gigafactory to Manteno. The announcement said the company will create 2,600 jobs.

Part of that announcement included $536 million in tax credits from the state of Illinois.

Attorney Robby Dube said they are amending their complaint against the project because Gotion switched out the old LLC that owned the property to a new LLC.

“Three days before we filed our complaint the LLC [Transform Manteno IL LLC] had deeded it to a different LLC [South Spruce LLC]. After we filed, we were contacted by the old LLC’s lawyers and they told us who the new property owners were,” said Dube.

Dube’s suspicion is that Transform Manteno IL LLC held the property as a holding company.

“Gotion doesn’t want to own that property directly. They want to have an intermediary LLC who can own it. They traded this LLC so Gotion can rent the property from this LLC that doesn’t seem to have any other assets or resources,” said Dube.

South Spruce LLC got the two parcels of property for $10 each, according to the deed.

The Center Square reached out to an attorney with Transform Manteno IL LLC to inquire about the sale price of the land and their correspondence with Dube. They did not immediately respond for comment.

“I would have loved to have my house deeded to me for $10,” said Dube.

Dube said Gotion may be avoiding ownership of the property because of tax reasons, liability reasons or even concerns about potential legislation banning ownership of domestic businesses by foreign adversaries.

“Gotion’s whole argument is, ‘Well we are an American company because they are incorporated in America.’ But their parent company is incorporated in China and we believe we have the documents to show it is a [Chinese Communist Party-controlled] entity. But if the legislation is broad enough, and I think it needs to be in order to protect American interests, they could get snagged in that legislation,” said Dube.

Dube said the Concerned Citizens of Manteno believe Gotion’s ties to its parent company represents a possible threat to the American people, an avenue the attorneys are looking to explore in the lawsuit.

Amanda Piker is the originator of the “No Gotion In Illinois” Facebook page that has led a movement to prevent the planned Gotion plant from opening in Manteno. She said a seismograph is located on the west edge of village limits that collects data regarding “quarry blasts.” The plaintiffs plan to amend their complaint to include that information.

“There’s clay balls, which is the wording they [the Manteno Police] use in the report, left the quarry property and entered the roof of the Kmart building and caused a significant amount of damage,” said Piker.

Piker said the location of the planned Gotion plant is right where these “clay balls” destroyed the roof of the retailer.

“If there was debris that left the quarry due to a blast and entered the roof … if there were lithium batteries under that roof, how volatile is that?” she said.

Piker said there is a 2019 Manteno police report with pictures that show the quarry blasts caused significant damage and that additional information is being entered into the complaint.

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