Dominica may have sold thousands more ‘golden passports’ than it disclosed, analysis suggests


The Guardian – The Caribbean island of Dominica may have sold thousands more “golden passports” than its government has publicly disclosed, according to analysis that raises questions about the transparency and governance of its $1bn (£822m) citizenship by investment scheme.

An investigation by the Guardian and 14 other international news organisations, in partnership with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, has conducted the first detailed examination of the identities and numbers of individuals who paid for Dominican citizenship.

By scouring libraries and archives for copies of the government’s Dominica Official Gazette, which is only available on paper and has not been digitised, reporting partners found 7,700 names declared in public records since 2007.

New citizens were named in the gazette up to December 2018 and no names have been published since.

Analysis of government budget data suggests as many as 19,000 individuals may have obtained citizenship between 2016 and 2022. Most passports were sold after 2015, when the EU introduced visa-fee travel for Dominican citizens, sparking a jump in sales from hundreds a year to thousands.

The figures include some individuals naturalised via marriage or immigration, but the vast majority are thought to have paid for citizenship.

Adding 19,000 new citizens would place Dominica among the biggest sellers of second nationalities, alongside Turkey and the Caribbean island of St Kitts, according to government declarations collated by Dr Kristin Surak, an associate professor of political sociology at the London School of Economics.

Dominica golden passport buyers can either pay $100,000 a head in a non-refundable donation to the government, or invest $200,000 in a local business.

The scheme accounts for more than half of government revenues and has been key to funding jobs, housing, health and education.

Dominica’s government did not respond directly to detailed requests for comment on the numbers of people who obtained citizenship by investment.

The prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, defended the scheme in two press conferences held after being approached by the Guardian and other publications for comment, describing the background checks on passport applicants as “robust”, with candidates undergoing “layers of due diligence”.

Thomson Fontaine, the leader of the opposition Union Workers party, is a former International Monetary Fund economist who has campaigned for years for greater accountability on the scheme.

He responded to the latest concerns, saying: “The problem is that there is an absolute lack of transparency in the way passports are granted and the checks that are carried out on applicants.

“Some people who have received passports are nowhere to be found officially. There is no transparency about how passports are obtained. The accounts presented by the CBI are incomplete.”

The investigation’s estimate of the number of passports sold come from analysis of Dominica’s official budget documents. Dominica charges “naturalisation certificate fees” for every successful golden passport application. The fee was reduced in October 2017 from $750 to $250 per applicant.

The budgets appear to have reported naturalisation certificate fee income from the 2016/17 financial year, in a line item labelled as “certificate of naturalization (CBI)”.

The documents show nearly 8m East Caribbean dollars (£2.4m) in fees in the 2016/17 and 2017/18 financial years, a figure that suggests 3,961 people naturalised during those two years alone, if the budget figures are correct.

This is more than twice the 1,664 names published in the official gazettes for the period.

Between 2016 and 2022 the reported naturalisation fees add up to 16m East Caribbean dollars, a figure that, when taking into account the fee reduction, suggests 19,000 people became naturalised citizens in that period.

The official budgets also show that sales of passports surged after 2015 when Dominica, along with a number of other Caribbean countries, was granted visa-free travel to most EU member states for up to 90 days a year.

The UK followed suit later.

The UK withdrew visa-free travel for citizens of Dominica and a number of other states which sell citizenship last year, citing national security concerns. However, access to the EU remains unchanged.

Any government has the legal right to set its own standards on who becomes a citizen. Dominican passports are popular with Chinese, Russian and Iranian nationals, who often face restrictions when crossing borders, registering businesses or opening bank accounts in western countries.

Surak, the author of The Golden Passport, a book about the schemes, said: “In a lot of countries, the data are not as clearly reported as they should be. It can be challenging to get basic numbers and sometimes they don’t always add up.”

“It varies country to country, and it also varies over time,” she said, citing improvements in schemes operated by Malta, Grenada and St Lucia. “Compared to some other countries, Dominica leans toward the ‘having issues’ side of the spectrum.”







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  1. Roosevelt Skerritt in it like Porkston Browne. Two birds of a feather.

    Both of them dragging our countries into the ground

    • These investigators are inflating the Dominican CBI numbers and then proceeds to make outlandish allegations of corruption. Skeritt must be a genius to be able pull such a scam. This is just another political hatchet job by the opposition and its outside interfering team. Why Dominica? If the Dominica CBI program was doing poorly do you think that there would be all these investigations and allegations of corruption?

      • The reason behind all this is simple. If Dominica sale on passport decline they believe they will win the next General election.
        But it’s proven year after year elections after elections that this tactic mongering isnt working.

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