PM says CIP needs stronger vetting processes

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Prime Minister Gaston Browne has admitted that evolving crime has created a major weakness in the background investigative process for applicants of Antigua & Barbuda’s citizenship, under the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP).
His statement comes just days after US authorities cracked down on an alleged cybercrime mastermind, Alexandre Cazes, who recently obtained Antigua and Barbuda’s passport under the CIP.
Twenty-five-year-old Cazes who killed himself earlier this month while awaiting extradition from Thailand to the US to face criminal charges, allegedly operated the world’s largest criminal marketplace for cybercrime on his site called Alpha Bay.
Browne told reporters in Dominica on Friday, that given the weaknesses in the vetting process, more has to be done to strengthen the system.
“He only got Antiguan citizenship a few months ago and he never committed any crime in Antigua and Barbuda. In any event, I understand that they were cybercrimes and those are not the easiest crimes to detect. I believe there would have been some failure in the due diligence as a result of the nature of the crime,” he said.
Cazes, who, along with his wife obtained citizenship by investing US $400,000 in real estate in Antigua in February this year, allegedly ran a website which the US Department of Justice said was used to sell deadly illegal drugs, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms, and toxic chemicals throughout the world.
The prime minister added, “In fact, the [online] payments [to his site] were made using bitcoins and not the usual currency systems that are backed by governments so it was one of those unusual situations. Clearly, we have to build our capacity to monitor cybercrimes. But, I believe that due to the very nature of the crime, it is one of the very reasons it was not picked up.”
Browne however, said he is not worried by the development with the investor’s arrest as he dismissed it as a “collateral issue”.
“I do not see any significant consequences for Antigua & Barbuda or for the CIP programme. First of all, you have to understand that the very nature of the CIP programme is that you will have one or two of these issues from time to time but it does not necessarily say that there is anything fundamentally wrong with the programme,” he said.

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