By Ken Richards
BASSETERRE, St Kitts (WINN) — Attorney General Vincent Byron says a probe into alleged irregularities affecting the St Kitts and Nevis citizenship by investment (CBI) program is ongoing but has already yielded results.
In February, a Gulf News report in Dubai had indicated that the fate of hundreds of residents in the Middle East seeking passports of Caribbean nations including St Kitts and Nevis hangs in the balance, amid allegations of fraud in the economic citizenship schemes run by these countries.
The report referred to some immigration firms circumventing legal requirements or forged government documents to process citizenship applications.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Byron said the government in Basseterre had moved to deal with the problem said to be affecting the St Kitts and Nevis CBI program.
“There were complaints that some agents had been embarking on tampering with a document emanating from the CBI Unit. And it was of grave concern because while we have subsequently requested of the police, and I’m glad that assistant commissioner Mitchell is here, was invited to embark on a thorough investigation. The last report received that some 40 people had been interviewed and we await the final report from the police in relation to that and other matters related to any infringement on official documents coming from the CBI Unit, he said.
The attorney general confirmed that action had already been taken against three marketing agents.
He did not, however, identify the three.
They are said to have infringed the rules established concerning the program.
“We have subsequently in the interim had to suspend one international marketing agent, two others have also been taken down and no longer work on the program but we are very concerned that while we are confident that the program that we have done the necessary restructuring to improve as it were the confidence that our partners have in our passport. We now employ some six risk management firms who are employed in checking the bona fide applicant in different parts of the world to ensure that those who apply to become economic citizens are people of good repute and will not cause any problems, for instance that we don’t harbour any terrorists or others who are at conflict with the law in any other state,” he said.
Continued policing of the program is a priority, Byron told reporters.
“We have to monitor and are concerned that the success of the program will and may have been involved in having us want to some who are stakeholders cut corners, and we will ensure that whatever is being done we will police this and will ensure we maintain the integrity of the program as we go forward,” he said.
The government is awaiting the final report from the police on their findings of the investigation.
In February, Sam Bayat, CEO of Bayat Group, said agents were abusing CBI schemes by offering citizenship at way below government-sanctioned rates through real estate trickery.
He mentioned St Kitts, Dominica and Saint Lucia, adding that all applications processed under these CBI schemes over the past four years are under the scanner.
Bayat said those that didn’t follow the process might be cancelled, and the applicants could lose their investments or have their citizenship revoked.
The Bayat Group is described as a boutique law firm specialising in business immigration, economic citizenship and corporate immigration over 25 years.
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network