Is It Time To Re­view The Caribbean Cit­i­zen­ship Pro­gram?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By David Jes­sop

The news that all cit­i­zens of St. Kitts-Ne­vis wish­ing to travel to Canada will from now on re­quire a visa, and that sub­se­quently the St. Kitts gov­ern­ment an­nounced it would re­call a num­ber of pass­ports, ought to cause pause for thought across the re­gion about eco­nom­i­cally valu­able, but rep­u­ta­tion­ally risky, cit­i­zen­ship-by-in­vest­ment schemes.

Ac­cord­ing to a no­tice is­sued by the Cana­dian High Com­mis­sion in Bar­ba­dos on Novem­ber 22, Canada has taken this decision due to its ‘con­cerns about the is­suance of pass­ports’ and ‘the iden­tity man­age­ment prac­tices’ un­der­taken by the St. Kitts au­thor­i­ties. It was do­ing so, it said, in or­der to ‘pro­tect the safety and se­cu­rity of Cana­di­ans and the in­tegrity of the Cana­dian im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem.’

More ex­plic­itly, the Cana­dian High Com­mis­sioner, Richard Han­ley, said the new re­quire­ment will pre­vent “those who are inad­mis­si­ble or pose a risk to our coun­try” from trav­el­ling to Canada.

In re­sponse, the St. Kitts gov­ern­ment sought to down­play the decision. In a ra­dio broad­cast, the For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter, Pa­trice Nis­bett, said: “Coun­tries re­view and change their poli­cies rou­tinely in or­der to pro­tect their in­ter­ests and their peo­ple and so do we.

“Canada has im­por­tant se­cu­rity con­cerns; the gov­ern­ment rec­og­nizes this and the gov­ern­ment of St. Kitts-Ne­vis will do all in its power to re­spect and ac­com­mo­date the con­cerns of so im­por­tant an ally.”

Since then, St. Kitts’s Prime Min­is­ter, Den­zil Dou­glas, has an­nounced a pro­gram of re­call­ing and re-is­su­ing cer­tain pass­ports.

In an ear­lier in­ci­dent in May, also in relation to St. Kitts, the US Trea­sury is­sued an ad­vi­sory no­tice ex­press­ing con­cern that Ira­nian na­tion­als con­tin­ued to ob­tain pass­ports through the scheme’s ‘lax con­trols’ in or­der ‘to en­gage in il­licit fi­nan­cial ac­tiv­ity.’ At the time, David Co­hen, the US Trea­sury’s Un­der Sec­re­tary for Ter­ror­ism and Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence, told the Wall Street Jour­nal: “Th­ese mis­lead­ing iden­tity doc­u­ments heighten the risk that fi­nan­cial crime and sanc­tions eva­sion go un­de­tected.”

Re­spond­ing then, Mr. Dou­glas said that his gov­ern­ment had set up a spe­cial ad­vi­sory board to bet­ter mon­i­tor its pro­gram and that no new pass­ports had been is­sued to Ira­ni­ans in the past year, beyond some ap­pli­ca­tions that had al­ready been pro­cessed in the sys­tem.

Both de­vel­op­ments re­flect a grow­ing con­cern in North Amer­ica and Europe about who may be buy­ing Caribbean pass­ports un­der cit­i­zen­ship-by-in­vest­ment pro­grams and in par­tic­u­lar the process by which their iden­tity is checked.

There is of course noth­ing wrong with cit­i­zen­ship-by-in­vest­ment schemes, a point ac­cepted in North Amer­ica and Europe where coun­tries rou­tinely op­er­ate their own pro­grams. In their case, how­ever, cit­i­zen­ship and a pass­port are only granted in re­turn for a pay­ment or in­vest­ment of around US $1.5m, and only then after var­i­ous checks, a some­times lengthy pe­riod of res­i­dence, and the abil­ity of the ap­pli­cant to meet other re­quire­ments as a cit­i­zen. This is in con­trast to some of the Caribbean schemes where pass­ports are is­sued in re­turn for a non-res­i­den­tial real es­tate in­vest­ment of US$400,000 or a do­na­tion of US$250,000.

In the Caribbean, the rev­enue-rais­ing po­ten­tial of such schemes has be­come of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to some of the re­gion’s smaller heav­ily in­debted na­tions. St Kitts, Antigua, Do­minica and Gre­nada have such schemes and St. Lu­cia is con­sid­er­ing the pos­si­bil­ity. St. Vincent has ruled it out while some over­seas ter­ri­to­ries have be­gun to ex­plore their op­tions.

Among those typ­i­cally the most in­ter­ested in cit­i­zen­ship pro­grams are wealthy Chi­nese and Rus­sian en­trepreneurs, and cit­i­zens from the Mid­dle East, the for­mer Soviet Republics and Africa, un­set­tled by in­sta­bil­ity and who, for per­sonal or po­lit­i­cal rea­sons, have an in­ter­est in hold­ing al­ter­na­tive cit­i­zen­ship, or re­sid­ing else­where.

But it is clear that be­ing able to of­fer cit­i­zen­ship with­out a res­i­dency re­quire­ment is likely to come un­der in­creas­ing in­ter­na­tional scru­tiny with

What ef­fects will the sale of Caribbean cit­i­zen­ships

have on our economies in the long run.

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