By Loshaun Dixon
Basseterre, St. Kitts-Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis Timothy Harris is confident that that the revamped Citizenship By Investment (CBI) program can protect it from criminally obtained money to obtain citizenship and is willing to sacrifice profitability in the program In order to ensure security in the process.
Dr. Harris responded to questions that tainted money had been used by Ren Biao to obtain a St. Kitts and Nevis Passport.
The Prime Minister said the improved due diligence now in the CBI allows for greater security to the program.
“Somebody who has matters before the court, somebody who has families in countries that are prohibited or considered pariahs in the world, those persons would be flagged and our risk based assessment would ensure that by and large unless they can surpass the relevant requirements that would flow through that those persons would not make the grade in terms of being able to access our citizenship,” he said.
Dr. Harris stated that by going through the layers of due diligence ensures that those who will receive citizenship are individuals that have no malicious intent.
“We are subjecting every applicant to almost four to five different layers of due diligence and support and when we get that again, the risk based system that we used that would allow us then to make a judgement whether to approve or deny, and then we have built in our system that at regular intervals, we will do a look back to see what has happened then and then take the requisite action,” he said.
The Prime Minister added that he was content to see the program sacrifice some profitability for increased security measures.
“In my view security must always triumph. We will not let ill-gotten gains be the determinant in terms of our policy prescription. I want to make the point that St Kitts and Nevis will never be under Team Unity a haven for criminals, we do not want them in our programme. We wish they were not part of our citizenry, the reality is that when they become citizens we have to deal with that reality and they form the pool of citizens, some who are well minded and some who are not so well committed to the patriotic good,” he declared.
The Prime Minister further described some of the vetting procedures that take place under the program.
“In our vetting process we look to see if these are politically exposed persons. Politically exposed persons are people with political contacts and relationships and generally they get a less favourable score when you are dealing with financial institutions,” he said, adding that the country the applicant is from is also a consideration.
“If they are from high risk countries such as Iran and North Korea, countries that are described as state sponsors of terrorism all these are matters that we take into account. We do a broad check of media and criminal databases, sanctions list…and make a determination whether they are serious or pending legal regulatory or political matters that would require consideration,” he said.
Dr. Harris stated that it was a complex business and that the government is looking to resolve the issues as best as possible.
“We are looking at making some changes in relation to that particular legal framework to ensure that when people get money put in escrow for the Citizenship by Investment programme it is only used for the particular purpose among clients offer different purposes to the extent we can through legal requirements and legislation to ensure that we safeguard people’s money so that the integrity of the programme do not become undermined as a result of the inaction or adverse action of those who are service providers or fall in any other category under the program,” he said.
He added that he is hopeful the time will come when the Federation could become more self-sufficient and less reliant in the CBI.
“I hope the time will come in the not too distant future where we can as a people reach that level of development that we can easily exit from this program,” he stated.
Dr. Harris added that although it has brought significant benefits to St. Kitts and Nevis the evolving market place means that there are significant downsides.
“We have to go back again to strengthen our tourism sector, our agricultural sector, our manufacturing sector, our education sector in terms of our ability to bring more of the kinds of institutions we have here,” he said.