By Kadeem Joseph
A Citizenship by Investment Board member has said while the nation is striving to ensure the continued momentum of the local programme, officials are monitoring “threats on the horizon” from international bodies
Ambassador Colin Murdoch disclosed that the European Union (EU) is among those considering action.
“We are looking closely at actions that are taken and actions being contemplated by the EU and also by the OECD – Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development – so we are monitoring those things,” he said.
Citizenship by Investment programmes have raised the ire of several international agencies and resulted in several countries with such schemes being black/grey listed by the EU, meaning that they are seen as possible tax havens, or facilitate terrorism financing or money laundering.
In June 2017, Canada imposed visa restrictions on Antigua and Barbuda citing that the country’s travel document “no longer meets Canada’s criteria for visa exemption”.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has subsequently said his government would consider lifting visa requirements for citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, subject to “significant improvements” to the country’s CIP scheme.
While Murdoch did not give details of these looming threats, he explained that officials continue to inform international organisations and concerned countries about security standards employed by the CIP and improve levels of training as they seek to address the issues that arise.
“So, these are issues that we have been addressing and which we will continue to have to address. And I think the enforcement of professional standards is one of the most important things that we can do to give assurance and comfort to those who are paying attention,” the ambassador explained.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive of the Investment Migration Council (IMC), Bruno L’ecuyer, is underscoring the need for government officials to understand international standards within the industry.
Among the areas of concern are the understanding of generic KYC (Know Your Customer), due diligence and its various forms, how to identify politically exposed individuals, the nature of anti-money laundering regulations and terrorism financing.
“Antigua is demonstrably a good country that is doing things in the OECD standard,” he added.
L’ecuyer said concerns in the EU about the CIP industry are politically driven and often revolve around the issues of money laundering and terrorism financing.
“Now, the members of the IMC don’t identify at all with the way some of these politicians in Brussels are labelling the industry, because for the most part, 99.9 per cent of these clients are entrepreneurs and normal people that have worked hard in their lives, and they simply want to have better travel opportunities. They want a better quality of life,” he said.
Meanwhile, group public relations director at Henley & Partners Paddy Blewer said that there has been an increased demand for products such as the Antigua and Barbuda CIP due to increased demand for travel options.
“What we are seeing is an increase in the demand for investment migration products across the board but certainly for the Antigua and Barbuda programme because it gives the investors optionality,” he said.
Blewer said the advent of Covid-19 is driving investors to realise that they need multiple options.