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Letter: Grenada's citizenship by investment program: Deja vu all over again!
Published on March 12, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

Faced with a serious economic crisis and the inability to deliver on the many campaign promises made to the electorate by the NNP, the Keith Mitchell administration is struggling to meet its financial obligations and pay wages. The administration is bankrupt and in need of hard cash. It is therefore looking at any and every source to provide much needed hard cash.

A few weeks ago, while attending the CELAC summit in Havana, Cuba, Mitchell defying protocol announced that Grenada will make an application to join ALBA. The primary reason for Grenada joining ALBA is to enable his administration to obtain easy money; however, with Venezuela in economic, social and political turmoil that possibility seems remote.

Prior to the announcement that Grenada will join ALBA , the government passed the citizen by investment legislation. Under this piece of legislation persons can obtain Grenadian citizenship if they invest in excess $500,000 in the country.

Mount Cinnamon Resort owned by Peter de Savary is the only authorized real estate option under the program. A number of agents, including NTL international, were also appointed. It is alleged that the wife of foreign minister Nicholas Steele plays an integral role in this program.

The NNP regime of 1995-2008 also implemented a similar program. This program, however, was heavily criticised after this administration sold Grenadian passports to many questionable characters including international crooks and conmen. The program was rife with corruption and shrouded in secrecy.

One would have expected that after the experiences of that period the NNP would have learnt their lesson and be extremely transparent and accountable with the new citizenship by investment program. This however seems not to be the case. The Canadian government imposed visa restrictions on Grenadian nationals as a result of the corruption of the first program.

Apart from Grenada, a number of Caribbean countries, including St Kitts and Nevis and Dominica, have similar programs. The government of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves in St Vincent and the Grenadines has shied away from such a program. Only recently a Vincentian diplomat in America was relieved from his post after allegations surfaced that he was involved in a scam in relation to “green cards”.

Having passed legislation to tighten loopholes that existed in the first program that saw Eric Reistiener, Van Brink and other international crooks and conmen acquiring Grenadian diplomatic passports, the government of Grenada through foreign minister Nicholas Steele has taken a "backward" and "ill advised" decision in parliament.

Section 15 of the new act made provision for the minister to provide a report on a prescribed date with prescribed information on applications made, granted or refused. The report shall then be provided to parliament. The information contained in the report shall include the following:

a. The names, addresses and nationalities of the applicants and any dependents included in the application.
b. The amount of the investment
c. The name of approved projects
d The aggregate amount in the National Transformation Fund, and any other information as the minister may legislate.

Government bragged about being transparent and accountable yet, one year after passing a new law to modernise the citizenship by investment law, the NNP has amended the act, following a bill tabled in parliament by the minister of foreign affairs Nicholas Steele on March 7, 2014. The original bill was passed in August 2013.

The amended act indicates that the names, addresses and nationalities of persons who have applied for Grenadian citizenship through the citizenship by investment program will no longer be made public as was provided by the original act. The house of representatives amended the legislation deleting the section that calls for transparency. Minister Steele presented the bill, saying that the NNP administration found it necessary to do so. He failed to provide any clarification or justification for the backward action on the part of government This “backward” and “vulgar " action by the administration come on the heels of the said government repealing sections 6, 16 and 25 of the misguided electronics crimes bill. It appears that this administration has a blight for doing "doltishness".

What is extremely interesting is the timing in which NNP administration chose to amend the citizen by investment act. It came following a trip by the foreign minister to the South American continent. One begs to ask why now and what motivated the minister to table this amendment in parliament? Did minister Steele on this trip to South America have contact with "questionable characters" like drug lords or citizens from rogue states and organizations like Iran and Hezbollah respectively. It is a well established fact that Iran and Hezbollah have intelligence agents and terror sleeper cells in South America, including Venezuela. The presence of the St George's University in Grenada will make a very 'soft target' for these extremist elements.

At a time when the intelligent community is battling global terrorism, why would a small Caribbean country with a very porous border amend an act to allow persons to acquire its passports without public knowledge? Where is the due diligence? The public can play a very importance role in that process given the necessary facts and details on the individual who applies for citizenship.

Minister Steele and the NNP administration of Keith Mitchell are treading on very dangerous ground. The citizens of Grenada will be the victims of any fallout as a result of this amendment since ministers normally benefit from diplomatic immunity.

The people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique should not sit idly by and allow the NNP administration to pass and amend laws against their interest. It is time to take a serious stance against this 'mad and mama pool administration' which seems to lack sensible leadership and direction.

Minister Steele appears to have a free hand to do as he very well pleases given the circumstances under which he became a candidate for the NNP in the last general elections. Personal preferences should never take precedence over national interest. How is it a minister can see fit to table a bill in parliament to amend an existing law without any justification or clarification and not a single MP, including the prime minister, asked a question? Something smells rotten and fallacious here. It's unbelievable that, after attracting crooks and conmen under the previous citizens by investment program, some of the same players remain mute on such a very damaging piece of legislation.

Are our MPs so backward in their thinking or are they so intimidated by the minister of foreign affairs Nicholas Steele and Prime Minister Mitchell that they are afraid to speak? It appears that the affairs of state are been managed by fifteen clones. The mainstream media is a total waste of time so it doesn't make any sense asking the media to investigate this issue. Certainly this NNP administration and Grenada is going the wrong way. Folks be prepared for the drama to come. Grenada the island of conflict.

Grenadian Class
 
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Comments:

Jimmy:

But Leslie, you're giving readers the whole picture. You omit to mention that in 2012 as Minister of Finance Mr Burke, the present leader of the NDC party, began the implementation of the same citizen by investment program and the sale of passport. Many say it was stopped only because NDC supporters inside and outside the government, such as Miss Ferguson, didn't like it and expressed opposition. True or not true?


Brian:

Not really sure if your argument holds any validity. The EU just gave approval for visa-free travel to 16 countries, one of which included Grenada. If the EU has granted visa-free travel, that far outweighs the value given by the issues put forward by the Canadian government. At this point I don't believe the Grenadian government has any choice but to be as resourceful as possible in how it generates revenue. Investors won't likely want to have their names published and therefore to ensure the highest interest, they had to amend the policy. Not really sure what issue the citizens will have when their choice is potential employment generated through foreign direct investment or having the government go completely bankrupt.

Grenadianclass:

There is nothing wrong with a. proper legislated and well implemented citizen by investment program. The problem is the NNP has a very poor track record as it relates to such program. Every citizen has a right to be for or against any issue that may affect them. The Europena Union granting free visa travel to Grenada has more to do with boosting their tourism . That don't mean that they are not concern with Grenada selling its passport to rogue elements. Furthermore the EU has the security and intelligent apparatus to effectively monitor any individual who enters their border.

Brian I am totally against your statement that investors my not want their " names " published Well I would believe that these investors have things to hide and may invest in the bottom of the ocean. What doltish ness is that with all due respect to you. You argument don't hold water. This program can't solve Grenada's economic problems. What kinda credible investor won't want their Brand to be known , their name to be revealed to their customers. Grenadians may be unemployed and hungry but we are a proud people who want to be respected in the international community. Grenadians don't want to be at the mercy of men who lived a dirty life and trying to leave behind a legacy. Publish the names , addresses and nationalities of ALL those who want our passport. There is NO excuse for doing otherwise. If it smell like Corruption then it is Corruption. !!!!!!!

Minister Steele is a first timer in the politics and he already start on a stain foot. Jimmy and Brian whosoever you guys or Gals may be deal with the real issues for what it's worth. It is wrong to hide the name of people who applies for Grenadian passport. What is the use of a passport .? how is it possible to hide the name of the people who applies for a Grenadian passport when these individuals may have to cross borders. The CIA and FBI will be monitoring these individuals closely !I assumed that Restiener didn't want his name publish . Today he is in a US federal prison. Let's hope the minister of foreign affairs don't also end up in a federal prison.


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