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More problems predicted for St Kitts-Nevis passport program
Published on May 28, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Ken Richards

BASSETERRE, St Kitts (WINN) -- Former government minister Dwyer Astaphan has warned of local repercussions from the American advisory on the St Kitts and Nevis citizenship-by-investment program.

The US advisory accuses the Denzil Douglas administration of continuing to sell the Federation’s passports to Iranians after declaring publicly last year that it would no longer do so.

The United States has expressed concern that some Iranians are using St Kitts and Nevis passports to help evade sanctions on Iran imposed by the United States and the European Union.

Former government minister Dwyer Astaphan
Astaphan claimed that certain accounts in Basseterre are being watched and could eventually be frozen.

“It’s a very, very serious thing and one doesn’t enjoy saying this, but it’s difficult to avoid coming to the conclusion that this going to get more and more serious, and people are going to go to jail. I can tell you right now that certain accounts in this Federation and certain accounts connected to this Federation are being watched very closely… and no amount of downplaying or distraction or deflection is going to water down the seriousness of this,” Astaphan said, speaking on this weekend’s edition of WINN FM’s The Bigger Picture.

“This was a wonderful program that could’ve continued, and hopefully will continue, but it cannot continue with the present players. When I tell you… that there are accounts that are being watched and targeted now for freezing, and the names attached to those accounts will shock certain people, but they don’t shock me. I’m telling you this is a very serious thing.”

The opposition leader in the Federal Parliament Mark Brantley has meanwhile suggested that the citizenship-by-investment program should be much more selective in the kind of clientele it goes after.

Deputy premier and leader of the federal opposition Mark Brantley
“My sense is that we ought to immediately put a total ban on some countries and citizens of some countries accessing this passport, and we know where they’re hot spots, trouble spots, and there’s no need I feel for St Kitts-Nevis to go after that particular market,” he told The Bigger Picture.

“We can continue with the program, which is a program that has existed since 1984, and only now we’re realizing these types of problems, it means the control, the due diligence, the exercise of restraint has been abandoned and that is my concern. Sad as it is, I’m hopeful we can get past this, and get past it quickly. I feel that the signs were there that this was the road down which we were headed,” he continued.

Brantley said it was a time to take a “sober” look at the programme.

“Reevaluate where we are, and come up with clear guidelines and penalties for people, not just the applicants but also service providers who breach those guidelines. I think this a time when we need to take some self-introspection and ensure that we get past this, because this has real, real damaging potential for all of us,” he said.

The government is trying to do its best under trying circumstances, according to former Nevis deputy premier Hensley Daniel.

Former Nevis deputy premier Hensley Daniel
“If you issue a passport to somebody and, up to the point of when they were issued the passport, you had done all your due diligence and checks and then gave the passport, and then the person begins to get involved in illegal activities; if people use our passport of nefarious activity then the passport can be revoked,” he said, telling WINN FM that he believed the government was doing as much as it could.

“[It] pays as careful attention as it can to the due diligence and to making sure that the persons who get the passports and are in fact bonafide and clean…enough to get the passport. All that is required is for s to pay attention to what it says and to make the necessary changes, and tighten the screws in terms of being able to issue passports,” Daniel said.

However, Astaphan argued that the Douglas administration is responsible for plunging the economic citizenship program into the current problems it is experiencing.

“The cosmetics and the distractions and all the rhetoric are not going to help this problem. Dr Douglas is at the heart of this problem, and he will have to be removed from government and those around him, in order to restore the credibility of this program. Now I’m not saying that it’s destroyed and I’m praying that it is not, but too many bad eggs have passed through it, and the prime minister cannot say he was not warned, and indeed the prime minister cannot say he did not know, because he is the one who signs every citizenship certificate,” Astaphan said.

Republished with permission of West Indies News Network
Reads: 9850

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