ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Saturday November 29, 2014, CMC – The Antigua and Barbuda government is being cautioned that the twin-island nation could face repercussions if the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) continues under its current structure.
The initiative allows individuals and their families to obtain citizenship in the twin isle state once they make substantial investments to approved locally-based projects or through hefty donations to the National Development Fund.
“That is courting danger,” Opposition Leader Baldwin Spencer said.
“Courting danger from the point of view that what is happening with St Kitts and its CIP programme is for the precise reason that questions have now been raised and that the Canadians have taken steps to require citizens of St Kitts and Nevis to have visas in order to visit Canada and they specifically mentioned the reason; and the reason was the openness, the lack of transparency and accountability to who gets these passports that would have caused that situation to develop and that is one of the reasons why we had put those provisions in our legislation.”
In an exclusive interview with the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), Spencer, who demitted office as the country’s third prime minister in June, shepherded the CIP initiative in 2013 and was met with strong resistance from then opposition Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP).
However since taking office, the Gaston Browne administration has had a sudden change of heart and has since made amendments to the CIP.
“It was so fundamental an issue (and) what has happened since the elections? One of the first things that they did when they came to parliament – not to abolish the CIP but to use it as what they consider now to be, in a way, their savoir and they proceeded to what they call “strengthening” the CIP and give it a greater “opportunity” to be more competitive as they put it,” Spencer told CMC.
Spencer expressed concern that the changes have affected the transparency of the citizenship process.
“What they’ve done, by these amendments is to create a situation where there’s lack of transparency, lack of accountability and there is no proper reporting mechanisms and disclosure of information in relation to that. Their argument is that you have to do this in order to make the jurisdiction more attractive.
“In other words, not to disclose who gets these passports, not to provide information, not even to parliament,” he said.
According to Browne, under the current structure, the government will not be publicizing the names of the people granted citizenship under the initiative. This is of particular concern to Spencer who argues that under other circumstances, the names of people applying for citizenship by naturalization are publicized in local newspapers and other platform.
“It’s just like when you giving citizenship by naturalization. It has to be published in the newspapers,” Spencer told CMC.
“The whole question of disclosure is important and we felt that Antigua and Barbuda would be in a position to market a programme and do very well even with those provisions enshrined in the law.
“At least what we (the previous government) decided was that there has to be a full report submitted to parliament every six months providing all the relevant information – the names etc – so that at least there would be parliamentary oversight so you know what’s going on. The record is there so you can check,” he added.
There are three investment options under the current CIP structure: A contribution to the National Development Fund (NDF) of a minimum non-refundable amount of US$200,000; an investment of at least US$400,000 into one of the approved real estate projects and to be held for a minimum period of five years and an investment of a minimum of US$1,500,000 directly into an eligible business as a sole investor or a joint investment involving at least 2 persons in an eligible business totaling at least US$5,000,000 and each of those persons individually invests at least US$400,000.