By Caribbean News Now contributor
BASSETERRE, St Kitts — Copies of letters, emails and other documents in the possession of Caribbean News Now reveal that Savory & Partners, a Dubai-based citizenship by investment (CBI) agent with a claimed 200-year British pedigree, has seemingly been diverting investors from the St Kitts and Nevis government’s Hurricane Relief/Sustainable Growth Funds into a real estate development.
As reported previously, a letter purportedly sent by the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) of St Kitts and Nevis to a local authorised agent has been denied by both the CIU and the local agent, leading (if true) to the inescapable conclusion that it has been forged, probably using a genuine letter as a template.
The letter states that “the application via real estate option” in a development for a specified individual “has been approved in principle for Citizenship by Investment”.
The letter goes on to say that “payment of US$150,000 must be made within six months”. However, the minimum amount required by law under the real estate option is an investment of $200,000, not $150,000 as stated in the letter.
The local citizenship agents concerned told Caribbean News Now that the firm “has never received such a letter from the unit and has never forwarded such a letter to anyone”.
Furthermore, according to Les Khan, CEO of the CIU, the letter does not conform to the Unit’s customary format and content. This prompts the question: who did the forgery; the remaining candidates being either Savory & Partners, the foreign agents for the application in question, or the local developer, or indeed both. Neither has yet responded to requests for comment.
According to the terms set out in the relevant documents signed by the applicant and the developer, the client is told he is purchasing a share in an approved development for an amount equivalent to the then CIP government “donation” option, but agrees immediately to transfer this interest back to the developer.
In other words, the applicant receives nothing of tangible value in return for his purported real estate investment except for St Kitts and Nevis citizenship, as would be the case if the applicant had instead made the optional contribution to the country’s Hurricane Relief Fund or Sustainable Growth Fund. However, under this scheme, others pocket the money instead of the government, without giving anything of concrete value in return.
Agents involved in this deceit can make upwards of US$100,000 per application, compared to the customary government commission of US$15,000, to the detriment of the people of St Kitts and Nevis.
Former St Kitts and Nevis prime minister, Dr Denzil Douglas, first raised the alarm over these questionable activities at a press conference last month.
Other Caribbean islands have been plagued by similar skullduggery. AAA Associates and Bluemina CBI consultants have been similarly promoting these dubious schemes.
With regard to the allegedly forged documents, Khan has stated that the matter is under investigation by the CIU.
However, since Caribbean News Now has also been provided with copies of text messages said to be from Khan to another citizenship firm encouraging the similar diversion of funds from the donation option into real estate projects of questionable feasibility, it would seem to be unrealistic to rely on the CIU to investigate itself. Indee,d Khan’s text messages are explicit, insisting agents follow his recommendation as to choice of developer when engaging in such activity.
Earlier this month Khan told Investment Migration Insider, an industry newsletter, that “Our real estate option is really taking off now […] It’s become a viable option and it’s now almost on par with the Sustainable Growth Fund […]”
In the meantime, Caribbean News Now also has copies of emails and written proposals from Savory & Partners sent within just the past few days to other potential clients offering St Kitts and Nevis citizenship at investment amounts far below what the CIU has confirmed are the legal requirements.
In addition, as reported earlier, a number of advertisements have been appearing on social media in the Middle East offering St Kitts and Nevis citizenship at investment amounts substantially below the legally mandated minimums.
It seems clear that the specific incident involving Savory and the other similar proposals and/or completed citizenship applications potentially give rise to criminal offences under the laws of St Kitts and Nevis as well as other jurisdiction. This is not the only example of forged letters in the possession of Caribbean News Now relating to other developers and agents, not just in Dubai.
There is, however, no word as to whether or not the matter will be referred to local police for investigation.
Further, since the available evidence suggests that the funds in question were or are to be transferred in US dollars through the US banking system, all parties involved should be concerned about their potential exposure to US federal investigation and possible money laundering charges, notwithstanding the claim by Savory on its website that its “British management team maintains a strict code of conduct based on professionalism, transparency and efficiency”.
All parties concerned have been asked for clarification or comment and any responses will be reported accordingly in due course.