The warning from Harold Lovell came soon after news broke that an Antiguan and Barbudan passport, obtained by a female Chinese investor, had been revoked. The revocation order was, reportedly, made on the grounds that she lied on her application form about never being denied a US Visa.
Lovell cautioned the ruling administration that unless the vetting process is improved, the initiative, which has been helping government to meet its financial obligations, could be shot “to hell.”
“I would have thought that something like the issuance of a US Visa and whether the person would have been denied is something I believe, government-to-government, would be verifiable,” the UPP leader said.
He added, “If it is that they asked the US government for the information, and from what I have been made to understand they did not await the results from the US government but went and issued the passport. I think this would violate the very first principle to ensure you have done your due diligence.”
Government’s Chief of Staff Lionel “Max” Hurst admitted that the Chinese investor, whose name has not been disclosed to the media, was granted the passport even though the due diligence process had not yet been completed.
He said Antigua & Barbuda cannot always wait for the US to respond or for “a perfect coordination of all information at the same time.”
Hurst firmly defended the government’s decision to approve the travel document and accept the investment funds – a sum which has not been disclosed – but which could not have been, under the CIP Act, less than US $250,000.
He said that, regardless of the order in which things occurred, the end result was the same, being that the woman is not a citizen and no longer possesses the country’s passport. She also had to forfeit the sum paid, Hurst added.
“Those who work in the system know exactly how it is done. Antigua & Barbuda is exercising great wisdom in how it is done. Our critics would not see it that way no matter what we say but one in 500 and something passports is not an indication that something is wrong,” he stressed.