By Caribbean News Now contributor
SHANGHAI, China — According to Emmanuel Nanthan, head of the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) in Dominica, its rapid improvements in processing-efficiency and public perception in the market, coupled with a simultaneous decline in St Kitts and Nevis’ reputation, in part due to an adverse US government advisory, means that Dominica is now the premium brand in the Caribbean.
Interviewed during the 2017 China Offshore Conference in Shanghai, Nanthan said, “With all due respect to my friends and colleagues at the St Kitts and Nevis CIU, they are no longer the platinum brand in the Caribbean; Dominica is,” Investment Migration Insider reported.
While it was true St Kitts and Nevis had a respected and popular citizenship by investment program for many years, Nanthan suggested that the introduction of the Hurricane Relief Fund reduced donation option, which was intended to increase interest in the St Kitts and Nevis CIP, is having the opposite effect.
“In recent weeks, several international marketing agents have told me they are doing more Dominica applications than ever before, even with the lowered cost of St Kitts, because the Caribbean media’s negative reaction to the Hurricane Relief Fund has harmed St Kitts’ reputation. Dominica now has a better reputation, and applicants appear willing to pay a premium for it,” he explained.
After implementing a drastic 50 percent reduction in its required donation for economic citizenship last month, which prompted Antigua and Barbuda to go even lower, the St Kitts and Nevis CIU now says it “remains resolute in protecting the high standards associated with the federation’s citizenship by investment (CBI) programme” and “will not engage in a race to the bottom”.
The St Kitts and Nevis’ CBI programme presently has three distinct citizenship options: the real estate product priced at US$400,000, the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) option at US$250,000, and the recently introduced Hurricane Relief Fund (HRF) option where investors can make a non-refundable contribution of US$150,000.
The Hurricane Relief Fund option, which was introduced last month, will be available for a period of six months, although St Kitts and Nevis has never satisfactorily explained who they expect to make a donation of $250,000 when the same benefit is available at $150,000.
Chief executive officer of the CIU, Les Khan, stated that there is a consensus among international marketing agents that there has been “consistent excellence and professionalism associated with the platinum brand of the St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship programme: the oldest and best programme in the Caribbean.”
Khan earlier reported an increase in the level of interest in all three CBI offerings of St Kitts and Nevis, as well as the signing on of five additional international marketing agents to promote the federation’s CBI programme.
Opposition leader Dr Denzil Douglas has claimed that the new citizenship option is “a watered down CBI initiative that has not been ratified by Parliament”.
He said in statement that “it raises legitimate serious questions as to the validity of the citizenship and the passport that will be derived from it”.
While Khan recently highlighted a number of different steps in the due diligence process conducted by the CIU, he made no reference to the ongoing difficulties that may be experienced by holders of St Kitts and Nevis passports in conducting financial transactions in the US as a result of a still extant US Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) advisory.
Specifically, FinCEN believes that illicit actors are abusing the St Kitts and Nevis programme to acquire citizenship in order to mask their identity and geographic background for the purpose of evading US or international sanctions or engaging in other financial crime.
In particular, FinCEN advised that US financial institutions should conduct risk-based customer due diligence to mitigate the risk that a customer is disguising his or her identity with an St Kitts and Nevis passport in order to evade sanctions or engage in other financial crime.