There’s a tax-exempt company called ‘Carib International Consultancy Services Limited’ (CIC). Its office is located in the Ursula Amory Building at the corner of Central and New Streets in Basseterre.
It claims to be the world’s “leading law firm specialized in St.Kitts & Nevis Citizenship by Investment” and to “have successfully completed more than 200 citizenship applicants for St. Kitts & Nevis…..” Based on my estimate, this means that over the last four years, at an average fee of US$50,000.00 per applicant, CIC (either by itself or in collaboration with another, or others) would’ve collected upwards of US$10 million (or about EC$27 million) in fees for St. Kitts & Nevis citizenship applications alone, and all tax free, for a loss of about EC$2.3 million to the Treasury of this country.
The original name of CIC was ‘Simin Consultancy Services Ltd.‘(Simin). It was registered in St.Kitts in early 2010 with the objective of providing legal services and consultancy, business development and project management, financial consultancy and general consultancy, general trading, etc.
The sole subscriber to the Company’s incorporation documents was another tax-exempt company named ‘Caribbean Governance Consultants, Inc.’(CGC) whose address is, like CIC, the Ursula Amory Building at the corner of Central and New Streets in Basseterre. Same building, same space, and it seems that they share personnel.
The day after Simin was registered, a Mr. Sirous Motevassel became its Sole Director, and CGC was appointed as its Secretary. There may be at least one other person behind the scenes with a significant, perhaps even the major, interest in the CIC.
Towards the end of 2010, Simin changed its name to ‘Carib International Consultancy Services Limited’.
CGC was formed in late 2007. It’s owned by Mr. Wendell Lawrence who is mentioned later. And like CIC, it pays no taxes, and its clients don’t have to pay VAT. Its objectives are to engage in the business of management consultancy, financial consultancy, corporate governance consultancy, corporate services, corporate events planning, training, public sector management, governance and advisory services, and economic analysis.
By now everybody in our Federation should know the name Henley & Partners (Henley), the firm which, in 2007, was given by our Government the worldwide exclusive authority to represent and promote the St.Kitts & Nevis Citizenship by Investment Program for five years. And I’m told that the deal has been, or is to be, renewed for further five years.
Henley operates out of a St.Kitts office which is located, yes, in the said Ursula Amory Building at the corner of Central and New Streets in Basseterre. Same building, same space as CIC and CGC. And, allegedly, the same personnel.
Henley has a partner in St.Kitts & Nevis: Mr. Wendell Lawrence.
In the deal with the Government, in addition to collecting fees directly from citizenship applicants who engage its services, Henley also collects 10% of all moneys paid by SIDF applicants, regardless to which service providers those applicants choose.
Here’s a breakdown:
- SIDF contribution……………………..US$250,000.00
- Government Administrative Fee…US$50,000.00
- Henley & Partners’ 10% cut……… US$25,000.00
- Balance to SIDF……………………….. US$175,000.00
In effect, it appears that Henley collects nearly 15% of all of the money destined for the SIDF. This is more than outrageous, if you ask me. That’s the people’s money. And Henley is alleged to have funded the ‘It’s Working’ campaign of Denzil Douglas’ Party in the general elections of January, 2010. It’s working, indeed. But for how much longer?
Denzil Douglas, the Prime Minister of St.Kitts & Nevis, exercises control over the SIDF.
Mr. Wendell Lawrence is a consultant. He’s also: (a) the immediate past Financial Secretary to the Government of St.Kitts & Nevis; (b) present Financial Adviser to the said Government ; (c) an ambassador plenipotentiary for St. Kitts & Nevis; (d) a member of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission; (e) a member of the Board of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank; (f) a member of a number of Government or Government-related Boards ; (g) the brother of the wife of Dr. Douglas’ brother; (h) the owner of CGC; ( i ) a partner in Henley ; and (j) his company, CGC, is the Secretary of CIC.
Mr. Lawrence provides his private consultancy services from the said Ursula Amory Building at the corner of Central and New Streets, in Basseterre, where it seems, he’s also part of the personnel-sharing arrangement with CIC, CGC and Henley.
Further, I’m told that an individual who was employed in the Ministry of Finance when Mr. Lawrence served as Financial Secretary has been ‘seconded’ to him in his services as Financial Adviser, and that she remains on the payroll of the Government. I hope that it isn’t so. Worse yet because the lady is named as a contact person on the website of at least one of the three above-mentioned firms.
I’m also told that the Government pays part of the rent for the office space shared by Mr. Lawrence (in his capacity as Financial Adviser to the Government and in his capacity as a consultant), CIC, CGC and Henley. I also hope that it isn’t so.
In any event, what we have here seems to be a very cozy and happy arrangement. Or maybe a mess?
The Prime Minister has described Mr. Lawrence as “the architect of the modern economy of St.Kitts & Nevis”. The two men are as close as two peas in a pod. Without seeking to accuse Mr. Lawrence( or anyone else) of wrongdoing, I’ll say that it’s difficult to envisage a situation in which an individual could be more exposed to the risk of conflict of interest and insider trading activity than he is. The very fact that he’s wearing all of these caps is, in and of itself, troubling
Now, CIC also has a Dubai address, which is Suite 305,Sama Tower, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, P.O. Box 24528, United Arab Emirates. Suite 305, Sama Tower.
Mr. Motevassel is reported to be a lawyer for, and a partner in, Henley at its Dubai Office, although the Henley website doesn’t list him as one of its contacts in Dubai. He’s said to be fluent in English, Arabic and Parsi (a language spoken in Iran).I presume that he’s CIC’s lawyer and manager in Dubai. And I’m told that there may be at least one St. Kitts & Nevis lawyer connected to CIC.
I ‘m told that CGC connects to Dubai through, and under the auspices of, CIC, which would mean that, effectively, the two companies may be sharing the same human and office resources, not only at the Ursula Amory Building in Basseterre, but also in Suite 305, Suma Tower in Dubai.
Further, I’m told that the new St.Kitts & Nevis Consulate is located in CIC’s office premises in Suite 305, Suma Tower. If this is the case, here’s a hypothetical scenario: on Monday 2nd April, 2012, CIC, acting in collaboration with CGC, presents a citizenship application to the St.Kitts & Nevis Consul in Dubai. The legal work, the registered agent’s work and escrow agent’s work, the three of which could attract as much as US$75,000.00 per applicant, maybe even more, as well as the processing of the application by the Government of St.Kitts & Nevis operating through its Consulate in Dubai, are all done in the same building, on the same floor, in the same office space, maybe even in the same room, at Suite 305, Sama Tower, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai. And once the due diligence is successfully completed, the passports for successful applicants through CIC-CGC would be distributed there and then by the Consul in Dubai on behalf of the Government.
Very cozy. And, the coziness remains, even if the Consulate is situated elsewhere in Dubai, given the parties involved.
We need to know who owns Suite 305 at Sama Tower, and about the rental and other arrangements for both the Consulate and the Consul. Where does the Consul reside? Who owns the home? What is the rent? Who is paying it?
What we do know is that the Consul is Ms. Alex Woodley who is the girlfriend of the Prime Minister, the mother of his two children, and the owner of Lex Consulting of Bronx, New York.
By the way, an important role that a Consul plays is to make and explore trade and other connections. And Ms. Woodley, being who she is, would be ideal for that insofar as the Prime Minister is concerned. Maybe not ideal for the rest of the country, but ideal for him.
On the radio this week, he responded to a caller who questioned Ms. Woodley’s qualification and suggested nepotism. Dr. Douglas defended the appointment, but he failed to convince. Meanwhile, he made a mess of himself by mentioning the appointment of Mr. Lenworth Harris (the brother of Agriculture Minister, Dr. Timothy Harris) to the post of Manager of the Development Bank. This was a most unfortunate , cheap, bitchy, cannibalistic and desperate shot by Dr. Douglas, especially given the fact that Lenworth Harris : (a) holds a B.Sc. in Management, an M.B.A., an A.C.C.A .and an F.C.C.A.; (b) possesses many years of experience in banking, accounting, management and finance; and (c) on his own steam appears eminently qualified to justify his appointment.
I must confess that I’m having difficulty resisting the thought that setting up Ms. Woodley in Dubai is part of Dr. Douglas’ post-prime-minister relocation plan for himself and his family. He has made a number of trips to Dubai over the years, and he finds it very much to his liking in a number of ways. Maybe he even has property and has bank accounts there, either in his own name or otherwise. Maybe Suite 305 in the Sama Tower is his. Maybe not. Maybe it’s owned by CIC, or CGC, or Lex Consulting or some other entity well known to him. Or maybe not.
It won’t be long before all is revealed, because the world is watching with keen interest.
Now, CIC seems to enjoy special ‘privileges’ under the laws of St.Kitts & Nevis. For example, it is said to have a standard agreement between itself and its clients under the Citizenship by Investment Program. The minimum investment for the real estate option under the law is US$400,000.00. However, in that alleged agreement, CIC is listing real estate at a specific development located in the Prime Minister’s Constituency at US$212,000.00 (which is not only well below the real estate option minimum, but also below the US$250,000.00 SIDF option minimum). And the agreement does not even specify the size of the real estate to be purchased in exchange for citizenship. Was this proposal approved by the Cabinet?
Then there’s a firm called ‘Best Citizenships’(BC),located at Business Center Bach, Bachstrasse 1, CH-9606, Butschwil, Switzerland. Information on this firm can be found on a website at the head of which is the flag of St.Kitts & Nevis with the coat of arms liberally thrown in for good measure, and with the words below it “authorized by the St.Kitts & Nevis Government”. Does the Cabinet know about BC?
BC states that it works with Henley, and that “the Government of St.Kitts has recently issued a warning not to engage other unauthorized agents or companies with the citizenship program”. Interesting.
BC also offers a “fast track option, at an additional fee of US$30,000.00 to US$50,000.00” which gets you the citizenship in three months. Curiously, the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) has advised that there is no such “fast track option”.
BC claims that with a St. Kitts & Nevis passport you’re free to “take up residency in any of the 15 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries”, and that it’s “ easy to obtain a 10-year visa for the USA”. I wonder what our CARICOM sisters and brothers, and Uncle Sam, have to say about that.
Who is BC? Who owns it? Again, you’ll soon find out. Meanwhile, you may have noticed a common human thread in these entities.
Squeaky clean, or nepotistic debacle?