Antigua St. John’s – Antigua & Barbuda is to receive assistance from the United States, Canada and Britain with its Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP).
But Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sandra Joseph – a member of the task force set up to look into the programme said the national passport is not under scrutiny.
She said the three states all have versions of the programme and representatives have given assurances that the decision to go the route of such an initiative rests with each sovereign country.
“They in fact have no questions, no qualms, no concerns about Antigua & Barbuda participating in and developing such a programme,” she told the media. “Antigua & Barbuda’s passport has not been, has never been and is not under scrutiny.”
Canada has been on alert in the wake of an upsurge in the number of Caribbean people applying for citizenship, particularly from St. Vincent & the Grenadines on the basis of domestic violence and discrimination due to sexual orientation.
Joseph said citizens here do not have to fear such a backlash from the programme.
“Our partners have assured us that we do not have that kind of profile and so we are not under that type of scrutiny … however what was made clear is that we in Antigua & Barbuda perhaps will be put under more scrutiny once we implement this programme,” she said.
Joseph did state that the development partners are concerned about the source of the potential clients.
However, she said: “We are convinced and we are sure that the quality of our scrutiny into the persons who are applying for the programme would indeed weed out and get rid of the undesirables.”
During the first consultation on the CIP held with the media on Friday, Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer was asked about the possibility of most residents saying “no” to the programme.
He responded by stating that “the taste of the pudding is in the eating.”
“In the final analysis one has to lead as a government,” he said.
“One has to take certain factors into consideration in terms of overall development, and while it is true that we may have a cross section of interests in the country that may be sending a signal that they may have serious difficulties with it, that in itself does not prevent the government, having weighed the situation, from subjecting this matter to the kind of examination that you would need to at the level of parliament.”
The head of government was confident that Antigua & Barbuda will be successful despite established CIP’s in the Caribbean states of Dominica and St. Kitts & Nevis. The latter introduced its programme in 1984.
It was noted that the national passport offers visa free travel to over 130 countries.
“We are satisfied the Antigua & Barbuda has certain qualities, certain attractions…but, we are satisfied that should Antigua & Barbuda adopt this programme, we are not going to have any problems at all,” PM Spencer said.
Lt. Col. Edward Croft of the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy another task force member outlined the process of due diligence that would be conducted.
He said experienced international firms that already provide such services to developed countries will be used.
“These firms would have already been examined by the task force and we are satisfied they, along with others, have met their particular requirements and we would utilize their particular expertise in the process of ensuring that the scrutiny is maintained and the highest international standards are met for the issuance,” he said.
The firms include Kroll, Ernst and Young, Bishops Services Incorporated, IPSA International and Risk Advisory Group.