The controversial practice in some Caribbean nations of “Citizenship by Investment” was in the global spotlight Sunday as CBS’ “60 Minutes” put the focus on what it called simply: “Passports for Sale.”
Steve Kroft, along with producers Graham Messick and Evie Salomon, interviewed Lennox Linton, a member of Parliament in Dominica, who talked about the option of getting a passport there for as little as $100,000.
“You don’t even have to come to Dominica to get the citizenship. You pay the money from wherever you are,” Linton said.
The show’s producers also spoke with international lawyer Sirous Motevassel, a Middle Easterner from Iran who lives in Dubai but travels on a CARICOM passport from St. Kitts and Nevis. The passport allows him entry to more than 100 countries without having to get special permission. Motevassel reiterated that the St. Kitts passport is available for a real estate investment of $250,000 or $400,000 cash and is a legal way to circumvent visa controls that some nations set up. In St. Kitts, the report said, 40 percent of the government’s revenue comes from selling passports.
Apart from Dominica and St. Kitts, Grenada, St. Lucia and Antigua also have adopted the program. Antigua & Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne told “60 Minutes” that the revenue from the country’s three-year-old program has kept the government from defaulting on its international loans and has turned the economy around.
He insisted that Antigua & Barbuda has the strictest citizenship-by-investment program in the Caribbean. In order to get and retain citizenship, you must travel to the country at least five days in five calendar years, pass a background check and shell out $250,000.
“We’re looking for high-net-worth individuals. People who are established business people, who are well-known. And to make sure that we get the crème de la crème,” Browne stated, while also admitting they have had applications from Syria. While the country is one of the areas in which they have had some concerns, it is not on a restricted list. Antigua also has sold citizenships to Iranians, Libyans and Pakistanis.
“60 Minutes” also reported that the sale of diplomatic passports is not part of the citizenship-by-investment program but goes on under the table in some cases, which has resulted in some crooked diplomats attaining them, especially in Dominica.
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