By Clive Bacchus
BASSETERRE, St Kitts (WINN) -- Former national security minister Dwyer Astaphan has questioned whether it is legal to accept the virtual currency Bitcoins as payment from someone applying for St Kitts and Nevis citizenship through the citizenship by investment programme.
“The Bitcoin thing is not an official currency. I don’t know that our constitution or our laws allow Bitcoin to be a currency to be used in any dealing to do with anything of St Kitts and Nevis,” he told WINN FM in a telephone interview this week.
“It is being advertised that you could make your payments in relation to St Kitts and Nevis citizenship, I suppose maybe buying real estate or whatever, by Bitcoin. What does the government has to say about this? What involvement has the government had? What education programme has the government engaged in, so that the public of this country will know what Bitcoin is, and to see how Bitcoin being used as an item of exchange in this system, is acceptable. What does the Central Bank of the OECS have to say? These are very, very serious things.”
Astaphan, a veteran cabinet minister in the Dr Denzil Douglas administration, resigned from office just before the 2010 general election. He has since opposed and campaigned on an individual basis and through an activist group Operation Rescue against the leadership of Douglas.
“I’m not condemning Bitcoin. Bitcoin is new to the whole world. Certainly I’m no expert on it, but surely one has to understand the implications of it, one of which, not the least of which, is the possibility that people can use it not just to evade tax, but to launder money, proceeds of crime, terrorism, that sort of thing. Because they now find themselves under the radar, governments cannot scrutinize, and they are away from the international financial system,” Astaphan said.
Roger Ver (Photo: CN Technode)
Media outlets like Forbes
have published stories that ex-US national and millionaire investor Roger Ver, the founder of Passports for Bitcoin.com, is offering to accept Bitcoins for citizenship by investment applicants to St Kitts and Nevis.
“He’s known as Bitcoin Jesus in the world of cyber-currencies. Though he can’t promise you heaven, he is offering a haven: a condo in the Caribbean that comes with a new passport and almost zero taxes.
“Meet Roger Ver, ex-US citizen, ex-convict, millionaire investor, self-described libertarian and founder of Passports for Bitcoin.com,” the Bloomberg article states.
“Specifically, that’s the right to live in the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis, two sun-kissed islands a three-hour flight from Miami. St Kitts has run an invest-and-become-a-citizen program since 1984, making it the oldest of its kind, says the country’s website.”
“Is Bitcoin Real Money?” Bloomberg asks.
“Plunk down $400,000 for real estate and you get a passport that allows visa-free travel to 120 countries.
There are no taxes on personal income or capital gains and the islands’ restrictive disclosure laws offer shelter from outside scrutiny, according to the Tax Justice Network, a think tank that studies secrecy jurisdictions.”
Ver’s website, in English, Russian and Chinese, offers a way to purchase a piece of that paradise with Bitcoins. He says it will help people who are hemmed in by government restrictions on cash transactions.
Astaphan recently challenged Douglas
to commission an independent audit of the billion-dollar citizenship by investment programme.
“The programme itself is not transparent,” Astaphan claimed.
“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 pointed out.
“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 said.
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Republished with permission of West Indies News Network