Questions have frequently been asked about the programme in St. Kitts and Nevis, especially by nationals and residents who have expressed concerns about the possibilities ofpersons taking advantage of the programme who are from volatile, terrorism-prone and violence-plagued parts of the world such as the Middle-East. Some of these nationals have been attracted by the ease at which they can get a second passport with visa-free access to nearly 130 countries and territories for $US 250,000.
The government has always given the assurance that persons applying for citizenship under the programme are vigorously screened with background checks before they can be accepted.
A press release from the Communications Unit of the Office of the Prime Minister dated July 29, 2013, states that the Government is to “undertake further comprehensive reviews of the Programme with the primary objective being to safeguard its integrity whilst at the same time actively contributing to the prevention of transnational organised crime and/or other illicit acts which threaten the safety and security of the global citizenry the vast majority of whom continue to embrace and pursue peace and security.”
Adding his voice to the decision made by the Government, former senior minister in the Denzil-Douglas led administration, has raised a number of questions about the programme and has said that the prime minister needs to be transparent with nationals about the programme.
“The Citizenship by Investment Programme is one area which has brought considerable revenues to the country but at the same time it is that programme that is perhaps the most in-transparent and for which the country has no accountability from the government,” said Dr. Timothy Harris, former Minister of Foreign Affairs.
“We do not know as citizens or residents how many passports have been issued to foreign nationals neither do we know from which part of the globe they come from,” he said.
“What we do know and from what we can assert is that they are being marketed in jurisdictions which basically are very challenged—the Middle-East in which there is a lot of violence and so on…these are the people who want the security of a passport and even without coming to a country to see if they like it, they are prepared to pay for it as they would pay for sugar or rice or any other commodity,” he added.
Dr. Harris has called for the prime minister to come clean with the programme and to tell the nation the real reason for the recent suspension of the two countries.
“We demand that he should tell us how many jurisdictions have now become problematic for the programme. We need to know the level of exposure we have and therefore I am calling on the prime minister to say how many citizens from Iran and Afghanistan have received passports over the last five years from St. Kitts and Nevis and give us year by year.
“I am further calling on the prime minister to say whether officials from Canada and the USA have expressed significant concern over the due diligence of the programme and the transparency of it in relation to our citizenship by investment.
“The third matter I am concerned about and would like the public to be aware of is to ask the prime minister specifically whether in the last twelve months there has been a major incident involving someone using a diplomatic passport of St. Kitts and Nevis and getting entry into North America and what are the consequences of that,” Harris said. “I want to know if recently in Canada, a man was stopped with a St. Kitts-Nevis passport and it created problems and it reached the Office of the Prime Minister in Canada.”
“I believe if he were to answer us honestly in relation to these things then we’ll begin to get closer to why the suspension of the citizenship programme with respect to those nationals,” he added.
A CNN reporter who tried to find information about the number of applicants accepted under the citizenship-by-Investment Programme was told that it “is confidential information that the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) does not provide to the public.” This is what was reported in the CNN article entitled, “World’s overlooked countries to buy second citizenship, residency”.
Henley and Partners, a Zurich-based consultancy group specializing in global residence and citizenship planning has been advisors to the St. Kitts & Nevis Government for their Citizenship by Investment programme for some years now.