By Clive Bacchus
ST JOHN’S, Antigua (WINN) -- The Antigua and Barbuda government has expressed confidence that it can defeat an opposition court challenge to 800 passports issued under its citizenship by investment programme (CIP) since taking office in June 2014.
Leader of the Opposition Harold Lovell
Leader of the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) Harold Lovell told Parliament that the passports were illegal, as the government failed to appoint a board of directors to oversee the operations of the CIP.
"In the absence of the properly constituted authority to oversee the CIP programme, all the transactions that have taken place over the past year are null and void," Lovell claimed.
"They don't want to hear that, but I'm telling you, Madam President, all of those transactions are illegal, they will probably come back to parliament, and then say, whatever was done, they'll make it legal..." Lovell said, while claiming that the UPP would take the matter to court.
He also accused the government of failing to comply with a rule under Antigua and Barbuda law that requires government to give semi-annual reports on the CIP.
“You have instead the Cabinet doing as they like, failing to account; under the Citizenship by Investment Act, twice yearly there is to be an accounting to Parliament," Lovell charged.
"They have been in office for going on two years, and up to now they have not come to say to us how much money has been placed in the National Development Fund."
In an interview with Antigua and Barbuda's Observer Radio, Attorney General Steadroy "Cutie" Benjamin dismissed the opposition challenge that the government was in breach of the law.
"His legal opinion is of no merit, and if he wants to challenge it, let him do so, but I can tell you one thing though, the UPP government has a record of being unsuccessful in the court, over 85 percent they have lost ..." Benjamin said, while predicting another loss for the UPP.
“We are satisfied, that in fact, even though the Board has not yet been established, the activities of the unit are consistent with the law," he said.
He acknowledged that the Board was not established but argued that it was merely to recommend to the minister and Cabinet and its recommendations could be rejected.
Benjamin contended that, since the CIP was established in 2013, the CIP Unit was the body that supervised the processing of applications.
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network