The Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) has rejected claims made by online bloggers Kenneth Rijock and Monte Friesner that it had approved citizenship for, or granted a passport to, an alleged Syrian national.
On May 21st in a post on Kenneth Rijock’s Financial Crime Blog, it was reported that the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is struggling to create a new covert financial pipeline to defeat and evade US sanctions, is apparently building one in Antigua and Barbuda with the able assistance of Syrian agents.
The article was accompanied by a photograph of an Antiguan and Barbudan passport bearing the name and image of an individual named Mohamad Ayad Ghazal.
According to the online report, Ghazal is the Director of Operations for Syria’s national railway system, even though he is operating from and is a resident of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
It was also reported that the passport holder used forged documents to support his application in Antigua and that the passport was among those listed as stolen by local authorities, but later showed up as a government issued document.
But according to the CIU, these claims are nothing more than gossip, unsubstantiated and malicious speculation spread by two convicted money launderers, Rijock and Friesner, who they accused of carrying out a campaign designed to damage CIP programmes in the Caribbean.
The CIU went on further to state that it has not approved citizenship or the grant of a passport to a person by the name of Mohamad Ayad Ghazal, nor does it have any record of his applying for citizenship, and that the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has recalled all passports and are issuing new e-passports containing all the biometric data of the holders, with effect from June 1st.
The Unit reaffirms
that its multi-layered due diligence processes, with leading due diligence
service providers and intergovernmental law enforcement agencies, remains resilient.