By Clive Bacchus
BASSETERRE, St Kitts (WINN) -- Former national security minister in the Denzil Douglas led-administration, now a member of activist group Operation Rescue, Dwyer Astaphan has challenged Douglas to commission an independent audit of the billion-dollar St Kitts and Nevis citizenship by investment (CBI) programme.
“The programme itself is not transparent,” Astaphan insisted.
“The SIDF [Sugar Industry Diversification Fund], which stands on a good concept, but is in a bad place in terms of implementation, and by that I mean the operation should be under a government ministry, and the funds should be in a government account," he told WINN FM.
Former National Security Minister Dwyer Astaphan has challenged St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr Denzil Douglas to have the country's citizenship by investment programme independently audited
"Some time ago, Mr Ballentyne who was heading up the Unit, said he had been asked by a minister as to how many passports had been processed through there, and he -- and properly so -- advised the minister to consult the prime minister. The members of Cabinet are not, as a matter of course, formally notified and kept up to date on the programme. At least I can say that from my time there,” Astaphan explained.
The CBI has generated millions of dollars and is currently the main driver of the local economy but Astaphan, who is also listed as a broker in the programme, has charged that people with criminal records are still getting St Kitts and Nevis passports in contravention of existing rules.
“With the number of names, and the list seems to grow everyday, of persons of questionable integrity, who have been granted not just passports but diplomatic passports, the question must be asked,” he said, making reference to concerns expressed last year by the Canadian government and a recent United States Treasury Department advisory stating that the programme had lax controls.
“Surely the people of this country have good reason to question the integrity of the process, and the only way to address that is to be transparent with the people and have an audit of it, and show the people of the country what you have done or what you have not done. You have people who apply for citizenship. People who have criminal records and they succeed. You have people who are on banned lists and watch lists and they too succeed,” Astaphan charged.
The government has pointed out that it has no control over a person’s conduct after they are granted citizenship, but Astaphan maintained that there are people who do not meet existing criteria who are granted citizenship.
“Roger Ver was granted citizenship on February 13, 2014. Roger Ver was sentenced to 10 months... in a Federal prison in the United States in October 2012,” Astphan said, when asked by WINN FM if he has evidence of breaches of the regulations.
“Paul Bilzerian, I can’t say for sure when he was granted citizenship, but in 1989 he was given a federal government prison sentence of four years and a fine of 1.5 million dollars, and served another stint in prison on securities fraud and conspiracy to defraud the government of millions. So those are two examples,” the former national security minister said.
“The individuals Hosseinpour, Nayebi and Malekotipour, the Iranian people who have been on the list; now I understand Mr Malekotipour did not get his citizenship in February of this year, or at all. I think the information coming out of the Federal government and elsewhere may have stopped that. But Hosseinpour and Nayebi and Farsoudeh, another one, have citizenship and they have been on these lists for some time,” he charged.
“It’s not just a criminal, but if your name is mentioned on a banned list by the United States Treasury Department or the European Union or some other institution, government or agency out there, then surely you carry around a red flag in so far as your application for citizenship of this country is concerned," Astaphan said.
"Most importantly… it is the good name of the country that has to be preserved, because along with the good name is the national security. Now in the law, it states that somebody who has a criminal record or is the subject of a criminal investigation, or is a potential national security risk to our country or any other country, or is involved in any activity likely to cause disrepute to our country, shall not be approved. Now that is at the application process. Now if somebody has been given citizenship and he or she fits into any of those categories, then something is wrong,” Astaphan asserted.
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network