By Ken Richards
BASSETERRE, St Kitts (WINN) -- One of the companies involved in the St Kitts and Nevis citizenship by investment programme should lose its licence based on a warning from the programme’s Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU). That is according to former national security minister Dwyer Astaphan, following the Unit’s assertion that it has never accepted the virtual currency Bitcoins and doesn’t intend to, as payment for economic citizenship.
The CIU said in a June 24 statement that any company found to be engaged in the practice in association with Basseterre’s programme will have its licence revoked.
Online promoter PassportsForBitcoin.com advertises that potential economic citizens can purchase their St Kitts-Nevis citizenship completely with Bitcoins.
An article on the website has the company, International Investments & Consulting Limited, listing the many benefits of having St Kitts and Nevis citizenship.
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
Astaphan claims that the company has said that it has conducted about 100 Bitcoins for St Kitts and Nevis passports transactions to date.
While WINN FM hasn’t been able to confirm this independently, online information from Passportsforbitcoins.com explains that International Investments and Consulting Limited is accepting Bitcoins for the required property investment and all fees associated with acquiring St Kitts and Nevis citizenship.
It adds that testimonials for the service have come from the “Bitcoin Jesus” Roger Ver and well-known venture capitalist Dan Blizerian.
WINN FM asked Astaphan whether he expects International Investments and Consulting to lose its licence in connection with the economic citizenship programme.
He does not think it will.
“The company has been advertising this for some time… one of the principle characters in that company, although he is not an official of the company, not a director, not a shareholder to my knowledge, is very close to [Prime Minister] Dr Douglas. The location of the operation, the nature of the operation, all of these things could not be a reality, unless they would be known to the minister for finance, and the minister responsible for the passport programme. The government at the very top must have known what was going on at International Investments and Consulting Ltd. So for me, the press release, I have to take it somewhat cynically, because they know,” Astaphan said.
The former minister says, however, that Bitcoin transactions may be taking place internationally while US dollars are what reach Kittitian shores.
He says too that the CIU may not have the capability to determine whether companies are going the Bitcoin route on Kittitian citizenship because it doesn’t handle the funds coming out of the programme.
“Whatever currency you all transact the sale and purchase with, is not going to be known by the CIU… The documents will say, ‘The receipt whereof the vendor hereby acknowledges, four hundred and forty thousand, four hundred and fifty thousand, six hundred thousand US dollars.’ These things can happen offshore. The fees paid to the government here, administrative fees, due diligence fees, certificate of citizenship fees, passport fees, stamp duties… that sort of thing, the government will obviously insist on accepting those in cash, but for me it’s going to be difficult to see them wiping out Bitcoin on the outside,” he explained.
“The problem with it… Bitcoin is intended to avoid the world financial and banking system, which the libertarians believe is oppressive to them and intrusive, but it also provides a haven for dirty money to be laundered,” Astaphan said.
Astaphan says he is concerned too about international media reports suggesting that terrorist groups are very interested in using Bitcoins.
He feels that St Kitts and Nevis should stay as far away from Bitcoins as possible.
“Particularly because we are small, we are extremely vulnerable, and you know the old saying, ‘If they sneeze in Washington, we don’t just catch a cold here, we catch pneumonia.’ A programme can continue and do very well without having to take chances. I’m not saying that there is no room in the world today and going forward for a Bitcoin or a facsimile of it, but there has to be some accountability and some transparency, otherwise we will get into trouble,” the former minister said.
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network