CIU probes Iranian connection as passport audit continues

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The Cabinet of Antigua & Barbuda has ordered a re-examination, by the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU), of the applications of 19 passport holders who acquired Antigua & Barbuda citizenship through investment, on the suspicion that there was “political interference” in the decision to have them processed.

According to the Minister of Economic Investment Asot Michael, the review of the already approved applications of 17 Iranians and two Yemenis has begun.

Speaking at Thursday’s post-Cabinet press conference, Michael said that a source had made contact with himself and Prime Minister Gaston Browne while the two were in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) on government business “three weeks ago”.

“There was a very reputable businessman who was given a contract by the former administration to develop the entire port and to have exclusivity of the management for the port. He brought to light certain evidence about these Iranian passports,” Michael said.

“We have no evidence that there were any nefarious activities or that any of these applicants were involved in any terrorist or money laundering activities,” but “out of an abundance of caution” the application files are to be vetted through Caricom’s Joint Regional Communication Centre (JRCC) – something Michael claims was not protocol at the time they were made to the CIU – to reaffirm that the applicants are scrupulous individuals.

“Any evidence that the CIU will provide – it will be turned over to the police for investigation,” the minister said, adding that the probe was “not a case of this government going on any political witch-hunt” but simply a reaction to “evidence” that there may have been “intervention on their behalf by high-ranking United Progressive Party officials”.

He claimed that the 19 persons applied for citizenship under the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) “prior to June of 2014” when the present Browne administration came into office. Michael did not specify when the applications were approved.

OBSERVER media made calls to the deputy chief executive officer (CEO) of the CIU, Thomas Anthony but they were not answered.

More in today’s Daily Observer.

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