By Youri Kemp
Caribbean News Now associate editor
BASSETERRE, St Kitts — The St Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) released a statement last week assuring investors in its economic citizenship programme that they have nothing to fear that their economic passports may be revoked at any time in the near or medium term and that the programme is sound and operating well above board.
The SKN government through the CIU appears to be responding to reports made in Caribbean News Now and also Gulf News in the United Arab Emirates about the integrity of the programme and how it has been subjected to fraudulent schemes that have not been adequately resolved.
In an article published on February 9, 2019, titled: “Caribbean citizenship dreams in jeopardy?”, a Gulf News report went into great detail to outline the nature of the scam.
“A candidate is required to donate $150,000 to the government once his application is approved under the HRF scheme. Unknown to him, the agent requests the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) to switch to the real estate option.
“Hoping this would inject the much-needed cash into their realty sector, CIU readily accepts the change and issues a letter demanding the stipulated $75,000 government fee. At this juncture, the agent enters into a secret pact with a developer. As part of the deal, he splits the client’s money ($150,000) with the developer, who is still left with a sizeable amount in kickbacks after having paid $75,000 towards special government real estate fees.
“The developer doesn’t have to build anything since no one is following up to see if he does. As for the applicant, he doesn’t get anything of tangible value in return for his purported real estate investment except for St Kitts and Nevis Citizenship as would be the case if he had remained with the HRF option.
“The government gets its fee ($75,000), but it’s half of what it could have got under the HRF scheme. Worse, it never gets to know if the applicant gave $200,000 to the developer as specified under the programme.
“As a result, hardly any money ends up in real estate projects many of which are stalled because of lack of funds.”
This prompted former prime minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Dr Denzil Douglas, in an article published in Gulf News on February 16, 2019, titled “Ex-PM of St Kitts-Nevis warns those who underpaid for citizenship scheme” to go on record stating that passports acquired through fraudulent means will be revoked if he comes to power, citing similar irregularities in the programme.
All of which has prompted the St Kitts and Nevis government of Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris to respond to the claims made by Douglas on citizenship revocation:
“The government refutes such concerns and wishes to make it clear to all current and prospective citizens of St Kitts and Nevis that any citizenship granted by the government under the Citizenship by Investment Programme is only granted after a full and rigorous vetting and due diligence process of the applicant. Once the applicant satisfies the stringent legal and due diligence requirements then and only then would that applicant be granted citizenship,” adding that “there is no current or future policy of the government of St Kitts and Nevis which will in any way negatively impact the citizenship granted to applicants.”
The opposition St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party did not respond substantively to a request for comment on the ability of the current government to bind a future administration as to its policy in this respect.
Caribbean News Now has been following the citizenship by investment issues in depth in St Kitts and Nevis for the last several months.
Despite calls for clarification as to how the programme’s funds are being used, along with questions asked in relation to the obviously stalled projects that some of these funds are said to be used for, there remains no credible in-depth and substantive answer as to why these inconsistencies persist in the St Kitts and Nevis citizenship by investment programme from the government in general or from the CIU and the policy statement on the matter seems just to reiterate in varying degrees, “We good!”