EU urged to sus­pend Eastern Caribbean coun­tries’ visa-waivers

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - ---Cu­ra­cao Chron­i­cle

Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional, a global anti-cor­rup­tion or­gan­i­sa­tion, has urged the Euro­pean Union to re­view its visa-free agree­ments with those Caribbean ju­ris­dic­tions that op­er­ate Cit­i­zen­ship By In­vest­ment (CBI) pro­grammes. In a re­cent re­port Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional said, “In light of the risks of ad­mit­ting the cor­rupt and the crim­i­nal, the Euro­pean Union must re­view its visa-free agree­ments with these Caribbean ju­ris­dic­tions and en­cour­age gov­ern­ments to set high due dili­gence and in­tegrity stan­dards. Ul­ti­mately, if the EU is not con­fi­dent in the abil­ity of these schemes to iden­tify and re­ject high-risk ap­pli­cants, it should con­sider fol­low­ing Canada's lead by sus­pend­ing the visa waiver to golden visa schemes out­side the EU.”

In the Eastern Caribbean, An­tigua and Bar­buda, Do­minica, Gre­nada, Saint Lu­cia and St Kitts and Ne­vis all run Cit­i­zen­ship By In­vest­ment pro­grammes where for­eign na­tion­als can pay as lit­tle as US$100,000 for cit­i­zen­ship, or in­vest in real es­tate. Cit­i­zen­ship can be granted within 90 days. There are no re­quire­ments to re­side in these coun­tries, with the ex­cep­tion of An­tigua and Bar­buda, which has a five-day res­i­dence re­quire­ment, and ap­pli­cants do not even need to pick up their pass­ports in per­son.

These pass­ports give for­eign na­tion­als ac­cess to the EU Schen­gen Area and the UK with­out hav­ing to ap­ply for a visa or un­dergo any en­hanced checks by au­thor­i­ties in EU mem­ber states.

Ac­cord­ing to Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional, re­cent events raise red flags re­gard­ing the due dili­gence process in some of these coun­tries: “The opac­ity of these pro­grammes com­pounds the risks. Caribbean coun­tries pub­lish lim­ited in­for­ma­tion about due dili­gence checks car­ried out dur­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion process. There is also lim­ited in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions re­ceived and re­jected. None of the coun­tries pub­lish the names of in­di­vid­u­als granted cit­i­zen­ship, thus pre­vent­ing pub­lic scru­tiny.

"As the pro­grammes be­come a fun­da­men­tal part of the econ­omy in these coun­tries, there may be a greater de­sire to at­tract more ap­pli­cants and con­se­quently more funds, in­creas­ing com­pe­ti­tion in such a way that it pro­duces a race to the bot­tom. Weak due dili­gence pro­cesses and lax con­trol can re­sult in se­cu­rity and rep­u­ta­tional risks not only to the coun­tries run­ning these pro­grammes, but also to all coun­tries and re­gions with which they have visa-free agree­ments, in­clud­ing the Euro­pean Union.”

The Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment (OECD) last week re­leased a list of 21 coun­tries flagged as op­er­at­ing cit­i­zen­ship schemes that po­ten­tially pose a high-risk to the in­tegrity of the OECD/G20 Com­mon Re­port­ing Stan­dards. The CRS re­quires fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions to re­port fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion of ac­count hold­ers who are cit­i­zens of OECD mem­ber coun­tries in an ef­fort to fight tax eva­sion.

All five Eastern Caribbean coun­tries that op­er­ate Cit­i­zen­ship By In­vest­ment pro­grammes were listed. Ac­cord­ing to the OECD, these CBI schemes can be po­ten­tially mis-used to hide ap­pli­cants' as­sets off­shore by es­cap­ing re­port­ing un­der the CRS and, in par­tic­u­lar, the IDs or other doc­u­men­ta­tion, such as pass­ports, ob­tained through these schemes can po­ten­tially be used to mis­rep­re­sent an in­di­vid­ual's ju­ris­dic­tion of tax res­i­dence and en­dan­ger the proper op­er­a­tion of the CRS due dili­gence pro­ce­dures.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.