BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Feb 25 2016 – The Citizenship By Investment (CBI) Programmes, which are now operating in five Eastern Caribbean countries, could be viewed as both a blessing and a challenge.
The persistent decline in foreign direct investment caused by the world financial crisis has been cited by at least one country as the grounds for deciding to initiate a CBI programme.
But the President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr. Warren Smith, told Caribbean News Service (CNS), “the challenge for small countries in this business is the complexities of the due diligence that’s required to ensure that you don’t become part and parcel of international criminal networks. Small countries don’t have as easy access to the types of investigatory and due diligence mechanisms that larger countries would have.
“It doesn’t mean however that it is not possible for countries of our size to be able to develop relationships that would enable them to be able to access that information,” Dr. Smith said.
The programmes in the Caribbean have set off alarm bells in the United States because there is concern that Iranian nationals could be buying citizenship and using these passports to travel to the US or make investments which violate US sanctions. This forced St Kitts to exclude Iranians from purchasing citizenship under its programme.
The UK has similar concerns because the citizens of Dominica, being a Commonwealth country, get special privileges in the UK.
The sale of citizenship has also put in jeopardy the ability of citizens of these Caribbean countries to travel to over 100 countries without having to get a visa.
Dr. Smith still believes that Citizenship By Investment is a legitimate activity for Caribbean countries to be involved in.
And he said the CDB has had informal discussions with some of its Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs) who are either currently active in or are desirous of getting involved in this kind of business.
“The nature of the discussions has been along the lines of technical assistance to help them to get an understanding of what they need to do; what are the critical factors that they need to address; what are the mechanisms and the linkages that they need to develop in order for them to be able to operate effectively in that space without getting themselves into difficulties as has happened from time to time in some of our countries,” Dr. Smith said.