Proper Vetting Needed For Economic Citizenship

St. John’s Antigua- Minister of National Security Dr Errol Cort said close attention must be paid to the due diligence aspect of an economic citizenship initiative for Antigua & Barbuda.

“We want to ensure that if we go ahead with this programme that persons who hold passports from Antigua & Barbuda are reputable, credible persons in the international community. We recognize that if we don’t put a lot of emphasis in that area it could bring the country into international disrepute,” Dr Cort said in an interview with OBSERVER Media yesterday.

Dr Cort heads the ministry that would be directly involved in processes that would authorize passports for economic citizens on-island. He added, “However we do it, the system has to be very tight.”

The minister recommended that government deal with a “reputable” vetting agency that will have the capacity to adequately vet the programme on the country’s behalf.

This was also the view of the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) Taskforce in their report endorsing economic citizenship as an ideal option for the twin-island.

In the report, obtained by OBSERVER Media last month, a key component of the CIP Taskforce’s recommendation was a strong due diligence process.

The report stated, “The country should therefore leverage the experience of experienced agencies by outsourcing this process to specialized firms.” It recommended agencies such as Kroll, Ernst and Young and Bishops Services Inc investigate potential economic citizens.

In an interview on the Big Issues last month, Prime Minister of St Vincent & the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, said in his view small Caribbean countries would not have the capacity to adequately scrutinize foreign investors attempting to become economic citizens.

“If one is asking whether these small countries would have the capacity to effectively do the due diligence I would say no. How these things are handled is that the country would engage reputable competent agencies to carry out the process on their behalf,” Dr Cort responded.

“Once you have a real tight due diligence process to minimize the possibility of these untoward characters slipping through the net, then that would be acceptable,” he continued.

The minister revealed that in attempts to clarify and strengthen the due diligence process the government plans to dialogue with its main partners in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada to ensure that they are “on-board and comfortable” with Antigua & Barbuda’s terms of economic citizenship.

The government will also seek to enlist Interpol and other checks and balances agencies internationally to further safeguard from undesirables receiving Antiguan & Barbudan passports.