So they began a desperate search for a life line.
And in 2006, they found it : a potentially limitless stash of cash which they could use freely to accomplish their goals, and which, they were convinced, would never have to enter the Consolidated Fund or any other Government account, or to come under the scrutiny of the Director of Audit, or to be exposed to the Government’s creditors.
When ordinary citizens have stashes of cash that they keep away from their creditors, they often get into trouble with the government. And when governments do it, they eventually get into trouble with the people.
This stash of cash was the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation(SIDF), which was established on 15th September,2006, as a foundation.
For a contribution of US$250,000.00 that would be put into a bank account, and subject to due diligence checks, a foreigner would become a citizen of St.Kitts & Nevis.
The procedure which was put in place by the Government is as follows: not later than 90 days after notification of approval in principle has been given, the applicant must show that he or she has deposited US$250,000.00 (referred to as a contribution to the SIDF) to a designated escrow account, then the Government will proceed to issue a Certificate of Citizenship, upon receipt of which the applicant will apply for his or her St.Kitts & Nevis passport.
Despite this established procedure, however, I’m told that a firm has been allowed to operate its own escrow account, and despite the existence of standard application forms, that it has its own forms. If this information is true, then there can be some major problems here with regard to accountability, transparency and integrity.
I’m also told that a special arrangement is in place for issuing diplomatic passports, and that a group of over 20 individuals was recently identified carrying such passports. Is somebody selling diplomatic passports? If so, who, why and for what in return? Is there a diplomatic passport sub-option inside the SIDF Option, or is it separate? Why, why, why? What’s going on here? Is everything in this country for sale?
These reports justify inquiry. Could this be a giant can of worms waiting to be uncovered?
Section 69 of the Constitution of St. Kitts & Nevis states that “all revenue or other moneys raised or received by the Government (not being revenues or other moneys that are payable, by or under any law, into some other fund of the Government established for a specific purpose) shall be paid into and form a Consolidated Fund”. The emphasis is mine.
The section is straightforward. The question is: who raises or receives the money?
The application is made to the Government, and the process is administered, the final decision made, and the triggering of the US$250,000.00 payment effected, all by the Government. The Government can shut down the program tomorrow morning, and neither the SIDF nor anybody else can do anything about it. The Government can even have the SIDF shut down.
If the Government raises the money, then it has to receive the money. And if the Government receives the money, it matters little or not at all who raised it. Either way, any money raised or received by the Government has to go to the Consolidated Fund or to some other Government fund or account.
That said, there’s little doubt in my mind that the US$250,000.00 paid by each applicant is money raised by the Government. And every penny of the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been taken in since 2007 should’ve been, and still should be, accounted for by the Government; and it should’ve been used as public money over the years: to help bring down the Government’s debt, to fund some necessary programs, and to bring relief to human and corporate citizens alike.
That way, creditors might not have been forced to take a haircut, or at least such a big haircut; a lot of the trauma suffered and to be suffered for years to come by the people and businesses in this country and by overseas investors in Government paper might have been avoided; and the Government’s and the country’s credibility might‘ve been preserved, or at least, less damaged.
The people, and the creditors, of this country have been given a raw deal, as have the institutions of the world with which we’ve come into contact as a result of our debt restructuring. And I know that a number of creditors are aware that they’ve been given a raw deal, but they see St.Kitts & Nevis as a small country with extremely limited resources, and so they chose, severely bitten, to cooperate and move on.
The Prime Minister has insisted that the SIDF is, in law and in fact, independent of Government, and that its Councilors act in their own deliberate judgment. So let them refuse to do his bidding, and we’ll see how independent they are.
The SIDF was founded by the National Bank Trust Company. Do you think it was someone on the Trust Company’s Board of Directors, or even on the Bank’s Board, who came up with the idea to register the SIDF? Not at all.
The Trust Company has the power to hire and fire Councilors. And like National Insurance, it’s 100% owned by the National Bank, and the Government owns 51% of the Bank. So the Government, for all practical purposes, controls all three companies, and, by extension, the SIDF.
Check the just-released financial statements of the SIDF from 2007-2010, and you’ll see an item in the notes referred to as “Related Party Transactions” stating that “parties are considered to be related of one party has the ability to control the other party or exercise significant influence over the other party in making financial and operational decisions” then it goes on to list transactions between the SIDF and the Bank and the Government which it regards as related parties.
So much for the independence of the SIDF?
And who controls the Government? The Prime Minister does, with the support and co-operation of the second, third, fourth and fifth most powerful persons in the country, not one of them being a Cabinet member.
If you don’t believe me, then ask him after he settles down from his trip to London where he went boating down the River Thames in the Queen’s convoy, offering toasts to her, and enjoying her Jubilee celebrations, all at great expense to a people already suffering gravely from the excesses of a ruler who seems to be more at home in lands far away than in the land of his birth, and in the lap of luxury than in the trenches with the people.
Dr. Kennedy Simmonds had been criticized and condemned as being callous for travelling to London, allegedly to watch tennis at Wimbledon, in June,1994, when his dear friend and colleague, Dr. Billy Herbert, Mrs. Herbert, and others had gone missing at sea. And now, in June, 2012, Dr. Douglas has gone to the same London to be with the Queen, while not just several, but tens of thousands of Kittitians and Nevisians are drowning in debt, deprivation and degradation.
It’s to be noted that only 13 months after Dr. Simmonds’ trip, he was out of power. We can only hope that history will repeat itself, but even faster this time around, Dear Jesus, Dear Jehovah, Dear Yahweh, Dear Jah, and Dear Allah.
In the Prime Minister’s first three terms in office it was mostly foreign creditors and the National Bank that kept him going, but for the last 4 years or so, it’s been the Bank and, increasingly, the SIDF that have been keeping him afloat, the SIDF (with its easy and essentially liability-free supply of large dollars)being his last shred of hope for survival as the leader of this country. All other options have disappeared, and all other bridges burnt; and if the money goes into the Consolidated Fund or another Government account, he’s finished.
He has already managed to suck over $150 million out of it between 2007 and 2010 in interest-free loans, low-interest loans (with signs of delinquency already appearing), grants for budget support(where else could this happen?), donations, fees, etc., and we don’t know how much more he sucked out in 2011 and thus far in 2012.
In addition, corporate friends have pulled in nearly $22 million in marketing fees between 2007 and 2010, and as much as $7 million in one case, $23 million in another, and as much as $50 million in service provider fees.
When in January,2010, they said “It’s Working”, they meant it. It really was working….for them!
But there’s nothing at all wrong with people making big money, once there’s a level playing field. And as I’ve said before, I support the concept of the non-real estate option of economic citizenship. But the money generated by it has to be the Government’s money, and the program must be conducted with full transparency and accountability, free of insider trading and conflict of interest, and conducted in full view of the Director of Audit, the people of this nation, and the Government’s, creditors.
The SIDF is a waste of the people’s money; indeed, it’s a dangerous political weapon and very much in the wrong hands.
And, anyway, it’s not a prerequisite to a successful non-real estate option in our economic citizenship program. People want the passport, and once the program is bona fide, they’ll have no problem if their money ends up in the Consolidated Fund or some other Government account, which is where it needs to be.
The wild, wild west politics and leadership need to be brought to an end.