Antigua and Barbuda’s Foreign Affairs Minister E.P Chet Greene says the twin island state will fight to the end to protect its Citizenship by Investment Programme.
He was responding to question about the viability of the citizenship for sale model in light of European Union concerns.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne is among the first regional leaders to write to the European Union, requesting that it reconsider its intention to phase out the Citizenship by Investment Programs in the Caribbean.
The EU Parliament voted recently, to ask the Commission to formulate a strategy to eventually request that CBI programs be removed in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St Kitts and Nevis and all other countries allowing citizenship by investment.
In essence, these countries could be given an ultimatum by the EU, to end their Citizenship by Investment Program or face visa restrictions.
“I have taken the opportunity to write to them, to let them know the impact that they are about to inflict on our CIP programs and the impact on our economies,” Browne said on Saturday.
His letter also included, according to him, evidence that Antigua and Barbuda probably hold the most robust due diligence process before citizenship can be granted.
“Citizens from these countries who are trying to access citizenship under the program would have to get clearance from Interpol, a review of their financial background and a police report from their country of residence,” PM Browne added.
Browne believes that the CIP does not represent any risks to these countries as the EU would put it.
“As far as we are concerned, we are now collateral damage…” he said.
Browne said about 10% of the country’s revenue comes from the CIP while in other countries, their economies are almost absolutely reliant on their CIP.
“If they are successful in undermining our CIP, it will create problems for the OECS currency union countries. You can imagine the impact on these countries,” Browne added.
Meanwhile, Nuri Katz , the President for Apex Capital Partners; a licensed agent throughout the world for CIP said the latest news should be taken seriously, even as the actual process may be long in coming.
“They [the EU] have been talking about this for a long time. They haven’t made an official request yet of the countries. There may have been some unofficial approaches but the EU have not yet made that decision and that request may take quite a while,” he said.
According to the well-versed CIP agent, to achieve such a goal, the EU has to come up with a strategy that would have to go to the parliaments of all CIP countries.
“I think CIP countries should gather around the stakeholders in the industry and start making a strategy to try to work with the EU to fashion a response that will allow the CIP countries to maintain the programs and the visa-free travel to Europe,” he added.
Katz said the request, although it will take a while, must be taken seriously.
“I certainly think the CIP countries should worry about it. I believe that the EU is worried about how rigorous the due diligence is being done on candidates receiving citizenship. I’ve always said that the due diligence is the best known to man,” he added.
He said action must be taken “now” because it is [asking countries to stop their CIP] is on the horizon.
In 2014, when the island first entered into the CIP initiative, it reeled in a whopping $200 Million in just its first year, dipping to 67 million in just about one year. On average, the country yields about 100M every year.