BASSETERRE: The Government of St. Kitts & Nevis says it remains committed to working with regional and international allies in bringing changes to the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program amid concerns raised by the United States Treasury Department.
Last week, the U.S. warned financial institutions to be on the lookout for “certain foreign individuals” abusing the St. Kitts & Nevis CBI program.
An advisory issued by the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) said those individuals were seeking to obtain St. Kitts & Nevis passports under the program “for the purpose of engaging in illicit financial activity.
“Financial institutions can mitigate exposure to such risk through customer due diligence, including risk-based identity verification consistent with existing customer identification program requirements,” it said.
Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas said his administration “as a matter of government-to-government courtesy, had been advised of this discovery prior to the issuance of the Advisory and we are very pleased that these attempts by some economic citizens have been uncovered by the United States”.
Dr. Douglas said that St. Kitts & Nevis will establish an advisory board comprised of eminent citizens of the twin-island Federation from both public and private sectors, in order to protect and defend the country’s CBI program.
He said his government has long stressed a commitment to working with regional and international allies to halt the spread of international crime, and the matter of the CBI program is no exception in this regard.
“We are in the process of determining at this moment exactly what changes, if any, should be made to the program, and we will be sure to advise you accordingly as these decisions are arrived at,” said Douglas.
He said it was important to note that the advisory makes it clear that the United States Treasury Department does not wish the advisory to affect the maintenance of normal relationships between financial institutions in the United States and St. Kitts & Nevis more broadly.
FinCEN said the CBI program offers citizenship to a non-citizen who either invests in designated real estate with a value of at least US$400,000 or contributes US$250,000 to the St. Kitts & Nevis Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation.
“FinCEN believes that illicit actors are abusing this program to acquire St. Kitts & Nevis citizenship in order to mask their identity and geographic background for the purpose of evading U.S. or international sanctions or engaging in other financial crime,” said the advisory.
The advisory said FinCEN believes that several Iranian nationals designated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) have obtained passports issued through the CBI program.
Douglas said it is already a matter of established policy that St. Kitts & Nevis will revoke citizenship if someone engages in crime.
“This is a current policy,” he said. “And we will not hesitate to enforce it. It is in our nation’s interest to ensure there is continued confidence in our CBI program and so we will be certain to enhance our security measures as appropriate.”