Dominica’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Dr. Vince Henderson, has said the island Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP) is managed properly and it has raised about $124-million within the last six months.
Henderson has been on various radio programs in recent days and has been discussing the island’s CIP, which has been under some levels of scrutiny in recent times.
Late last year the issuing of a Dominican diplomatic passport to former Nigerian minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who currently under investigation in Britain, prompted the opposition to ask questions over Dominican passports being given to people who appear to be questionable.
The opposition cited the example of Francesco Corallo, who was on Interpol’s most wanted list and who the government had sought to make its permanent envoy to the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome; NG Lap Seng, who is accused of international racketeering and money laundering; Rudolph King and Timothy Cornwall who were jailed for fraud while they served as Labour Party appointed ambassadors of Dominica; Italian aristocrat, Paolo Zampolli, a ranking diplomat at Dominica’s United Nations Mission in New York while awaiting trial on allegations of stealing over US$4-million in brokerage commissions from a real estate firm.
But Henderson said the program is being managed properly and money is being raised.
“We have managed the program in a manner that is responsible and this is why the program is so successful, from July 2015 to January 2016 we had over $124-million in the economic citizenship account …” he said.
He stated the account is subject to scrutiny by the Director of Audit and is published as part of the records of the government and is available to everybody including the Leader of the Opposition who is Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.
“We’ve been operating the program since 1993, it has gone through several changes, we’ve strengthened it like nobody else,” Henderson stressed. “It is the first time that there are laws, regulations, governing how the program should be run.”
He pointed out that the program is being managed so well that over the past 24 months Dominica has expanded the number of countries to which it has visa-free access.
“It is because of their confidence in the governance of the country and everything to do with the operation of the government, especially those things that one would think would undermine border security,” Henderson stated.
He noted the integrity of the program must be maintained.
“Yes, citizenship is the property of Dominica,” he said. “The government, as trustees, must manage it properly, must ensure that we keep criminals away, undesirable people away from taking advantage of our citizenship. We must use it as a tool for attracting foreign direct investment and it must be managed properly, as it has been, but it has great potential to help to transform Dominica…”
He stated monies from the program first goes into a special account, then to the consolidated account “under the rules of the public service, under the Finance Control Management Act, under the authority of the financial secretary..”
“We have to ensure that we utilize those resources properly to help develop Dominica and we have been doing that,” Henderson remarked.
He stated that funds from the program have gone into many social programs including sending people overseas who need medical attention.
“We have used it to help the farmers, the fishermen after Erika, we’ve used it for small businesses, over $4-million last year went into small businesses from that program and another $5-million have been targetted for the National Employment Program,” he revealed. “These monies are being used to help Dominicans and, therefore, we have to manage and protect that program.”