Sometimes, we feel like we are beating a dead horse when it comes to the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP). The selling of the nation’s citizenship and passports does not sit well with us. Aside for the nationalist pride that causes us to dislike the programme, the risks of something going wrong seem greater than the payback.
While we have been criticized for our stance, and the Government has highlighted examples where the CIP fund has provided necessary relief to the economic challenges, the latest news surrounding the Sweet Homes project has the possibility of becoming a complete disaster if allegations of tarnished reputations are true and we continue down that road.
Last week, former finance minister Harold Lovell suggested that a leading figure in the Sweet Homes deal was not exactly a shining example of people whom this country would like to be associated or do business with.
He further advised that government cut its association with the principal of the Ajman housing project; which has on offer Antigua& Barbuda passports bundled with the purchase of a condo in the United Arab Emirates.
Recently, the prime minister has had to defend the programme, on more than one occasion, after it was pointed out to him that the passport was being thrown into the housing deal as an incentive, like overstocked merchandise at a fire sale.
He claimed mis–knowledge and miscommunication and announced that Sweet Homes would be asked to amend its advertising.
However, the fiasco is far from ended. In parliament, yesterday, the prime minister was again forced to address the issue of the suitability of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) outfit to market the CIP and be a supplier of possible citizens.
As has become the norm, he started out by blaming the previous administration for introducing the company to this country. “We first engaged them when they sought to implement the provisions of a MOA which they had with the UPP administration,” Browne said.
He added that the former administration did some due diligence, as in the files were some police records. The PM told parliament that his administration went on to do further due diligence by requiring up-to-date police clearance certificates of the principals of the Sweet Homes deal.
He intoned, “Out of an abundance of caution, as there is some information in the public domain to suggest that these individuals have been involved in criminal activities, I have mandated the CIP unit to forward their information to the US Embassy in Barbados to do further due diligence on these individuals.
OBSERVER has made no secret of the way we feel about CIP. We have missed no opportunity to express our reservation about it. At the same time, we are not unaware of the need for this country to acquire huge amounts of cash to run the economic mill, however, we do not believe in acquiring wealth at the expense of the national reputation.
PM Browne told the highest institution in the land that he aims to ensure that the individuals are of the highest integrity and ”should further due diligence confirm there is anything untoward in these individuals, which make them unsuitable to serve as suppliers to the NDF programme, we will discontinue the arrangement.
The mistakes that have been made here are so glaring that we wonder how they could have been left unchallenged and undiscovered for the almost 12 months the programme has been in operation.
Has anybody ever heard of a police clearance certificate being the document used to indicate whether someone has committed crimes in a country? The certificate could only speak to the country in which one is currently domiciled. What about all the other place in which one has lived and operated businesses?
The prime minister has said he would be enlisting the aid of the Americans in finding out about the past of the gentlemen in question, as they have ways and means of doing so.
Here, again, something is wrong. No self-respecting independent country relies on another to ensure the security of its borders and the integrity of its passport. In this matter of due diligence we ought to be able, for a reasonable fee, employ some people to look out for our best interest.
Is it unreasonable for us to expect that our government would spend $5,000 or $10,000 for an independent, professional due diligence report on individuals that are being considered as suppliers of citizens, to the tune of tens of millions of US dollars? Plus, we would think that the processing fees would cover that kind of report and be part of the process.