US urges regional governments to issue citizenship only to bona fide applicants
BASSETERRE - Do not issue citizenship to foreigners unless you are confident beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual is a bona fide applicant.
That pointed advice to Caribbean nations with citizenship by investment programmes came from the United States through its Bridgetown, Barbados, embassy.
In a statement last week the US Embassy explained that, while it does not approve or disapprove individual aspects of the programmes, it would like to see participating countries ensuring that the identity of individuals is fully validated, and that the applicant lacks ties to transnational criminal or terrorist organizations.
It’s advice Basseterre can’t afford to ignore, having had a FINCEN US Treasury Department advisory slapped on the federation under the then Douglas-led Labour Party administration.
That advisory in May 2014 made reference to “illicit actors” using St Kitts and Nevis economic citizenship passports to bypass sanctions imposed on Iran.
In their latest look at citizenship programmes around the region, the Americans acknowledged the potential economic benefits for the countries involved.
The US also conceded that it is the sovereign right of all countries to choose whether or not to engage in such a programme.
However, it emphasized that all countries have an inherent responsibility to their citizens and the international community to review fully all applicants who seek a nation’s citizenship.
Since taking office in February last year, the Team Unity government has revamped Basseterre’s citizenship by investment programme to make it more efficient and compliant with expected international standards.
The government boasts of not having had the kinds of citizenship scandals that plagued its predecessor, including those that saw Canada revoke its visa waiver to holders of St Kitts and Nevis passport holders.
Observers say despite this Basseterre can’t afford to ignore the latest warning from the United States on CIP programmes that remain controversial at best.
By Ken Richards