The latest US government Human Rights Report released on Tuesday, March 30, has cited Dominica’s Citizenship by Investment Program (CBI) and that of two other Caribbean islands in its “Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government” section.
The report raised concerns over what it said are allegations of corruption from local media and citizens against the governments and their CBI programs. The other two territories mentioned were Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis.
The Human Rights report is published annually and covers internationally recognized individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements.
With respect to Dominica, the document said, “The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government implemented the law inconsistently.”
It added that, “According to civil society representatives and members of the political opposition, officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.”
The report continued, “Corruption: Local media and opposition leadership continued to raise allegations of corruption within the government, including in the Citizenship by Investment program.”
When asked for comment, Head of the CBI Unit Emmanuel Nanthan would only indicate to Dominica News Online that since the report’s concerns were based on allegations from “Dominica’s opposition” and not specific grievances about the program, there was nothing to comment on.
The opposition United Workers Party (UWP) and other civil society voices have for years been critical of the government’s handling of the CBI program, accusing it of a lack of transparency and widespread corruption.
The CBI program in Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda offers second citizenship to individuals and families at a minimum economic contribution of US $100,000. St. Kitts’s minimum amount is US$150,000.
In October 2020, responding to questions from the leader of the opposition in parliament, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit revealed that for the fiscal years 2017- 2020, 5, 814 applications had been approved under the CBI program, bringing in a total of over $1.2 billion dollars. 1,673 were approved in 2017-2018, and 1,926 in 2018-2019. The highest number was in 2019-2020 with 2,215 approvals.
For Antigua, the US report stated that its citizenship investment program was a critical source of government revenue, but its lack of transparency fueled citizen concerns regarding oversight and corruption, while similar comments are seen for St Kitts.
“Citizens expressed concern about the lack of financial oversight of revenues generated by the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program. The government introduced security measures in 2018 to make the CBI process more transparent, and it began vetting investors. The government did not publicize the number of passports issued through CBI or the nationalities of the passport holders,” the report said about St. Kitts.
Lack of transparency was not mentioned for Grenada and St. Lucia’s citizenship investment programs.